Editorial: Stop ripping children from parents

  • A photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows the interior of its facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. Reporters taken on a tour of the facility were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos, the AP reported. VIA AP

Published: 6/19/2018 8:47:06 PM

The images of children in fenced cages are horrific. They are the holding areas used by federal officials to house children taken from their immigrant parents who authorities say tried to enter the country illegally.

Journalists who viewed one detention center in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday described a scene of hundreds of immigrant children in cages bounded by metal fences. Their accommodations are sparse: bottles of water, bags of chips, thin mattress pads and foil sheets used as blankets.

They include children detained separately from their parents who are being prosecuted under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings. Other children in the detention centers were caught crossing the border alone, not accompanied by a parent.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families during the six weeks in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new zero-tolerance policy. Adults awaiting prosecution for crossing the border illegally — including those seeking asylum because they fear returning to their home country — are sent to federal jails, while their children are taken to detention centers. They are separated under U.S. policy that prevents the children from being jailed because they are not charged with a crime.

“The previous administration wouldn’t prosecute illegal aliens who entered the country with children,” Sessions said last week. “It was de facto open borders.”

Neither the Obama nor George W. Bush administrations separated migrant children from their parents, and if families were detained at the border, they were held together.

Criticism of President Donald Trump’s policy escalated after Democrats on Father’s Day focused attention on what Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III called a “betrayal of American values.”

A growing number of Republicans echoed that view, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who appeared Sunday on the CBS show “Face the Nation.” She said the policy “is traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country.”

On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said he had changed his mind about sending a state National Guard helicopter and two military analysts to the border at the end of June. Baker said he would not allow any such National Guard deployments so long as the Trump administration continued its “cruel and inhumane” policy of separating migrant children from their families.

Former first lady Laura Bush, in a column published on Father’s Day by The Washington Post, wrote: “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

More than 7,600 mental health professionals nationwide as of Monday had signed a petition that cited decades of research and clinical experience to paint a bleak picture of the short- and long-term effects of separating children from their parents. “To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma,” it reads.

The petition goes on to condemn the Trump administration’s policy in the historical context “of separating children from their parents: during slave auctions; during the forced assimilation of American Indians; and during the Holocaust. … To try and argue that this policy of ripping children from their parents at the border is somehow different from the systematic traumatization of children during the times of slavery, forced assimilation, and the Holocaust is to disregard history.”

Trump early this week continued to frame his policy as a political issue. “I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault,” Trump repeated Monday. “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. Not on my watch.”

The real issue is Trump’s abandonment of the humanitarian values cherished by a vast majority of Americans. We call on lawmakers from both parties to take whatever steps are needed to halt the president’s inhumane policy — now.

Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy