I’ve interviewed countless parents in their worst moments. The anguish of those whose children are abducted is unlike anything I’ve seen as a journalist.
Their eyes reveal the terror of not knowing whether their child is hurt or even alive. This is on top of the oppressive grief I’ve felt around parents who have to bury their children. It’s not knowing that keeps tearing you apart.
Not knowing if your child is being tortured is the worst torture a parent can endure.
That’s precisely why the Trump administration has implemented a new policy of separating parents from their children at the border. This is the message they want to send to desperate people seeking asylum or fleeing to our country: We will take your children. They might end up with human traffickers. You may never see them again. They may end up in a government center or a foster home or “whatever.”
This is what Chief of Staff John Kelly calls a “tough deterrent.”
It’s unspeakably inhumane.
Laura St. John, legal director with The Florence Project in Arizona, told MSNBC host Chris Hayes last week that she has seen a 53-week-old infant in court without a parent. The ACLU’s Lee Gelernt told Hayes of a mother hearing her daughter crying out, “Mommy, Mommy, don’t let them take me away.”
The New York Times reported that from October 2017 to April 2018, 700 children, more than 100 of them younger than 4 years old, had been taken from their parents at the border.
You can only tear children away from their parents if you don’t see these children as truly human.
The Washington Post reports that the consequence of this new “100 percent” prosecution policy for anyone who crosses the border illegally is that children will be separated from their parents as the adults are charged with a crime, even if the adults are seeking asylum and present themselves at official ports of entry. They may have to wait days or longer to find out where their children have been taken.
When you actually talk to parents who have a missing child, you will be haunted by their faces. When I would interview parents marking an anniversary of when their child went missing, I would try to wait until I was back in my car before I broke down crying.
Migrants escaping desperate situations in their home countries do not love their children any less than American parents.
Reports that the Department of Health and Human Services “lost track” of 1,475 unaccompanied migrant children last year are fundamentally misleading. You can lose track of your child in a mall if you get distracted. You don’t “lose track” of that many children at such high risk for human trafficking. That happens through deliberate neglect. Perhaps most of these children are with relatives or adult sponsors looking out for their safety and interests. No one really knows.
Ivanka Trump, who was so moved by images of gassed Syrian children that she personally intervened with her father, needs to speak up now. Pro-lifers who vote singularly on the issue of protecting unborn children need to stand up for these children. Our government is deliberately committing a large-scale human rights violation against the most vulnerable and voiceless.
Republicans and Democrats should set aside partisan differences and simply allow themselves to feel what a parent experiences when their child is taken from them. Allow children to remain with their parents as they go through whatever legal process they face. Traumatized people don’t just go away. Discarded people don’t disappear. We will bear the consequences of policies of cruelty designed to dehumanize and terrorize for generations to come.
Our government wants us to accept horrors done in our name to the most vulnerable and innocent.
But it’s not the victims who lose their humanity when this happens.