Imagine being four years old, and traveling with your mother to a strange place where you don’t recognize anyone other than her. Nothing looks like home. The words you hear spoken aren’t familiar. Then you see people in uniforms forcibly pull your mother away — and she doesn’t return.
That scenario doesn’t begin to capture the fear and trauma children are enduring under the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy. It calls for criminally charging parents who come across the border without proper authorization, and separating them from the children they bring with them.
This apparently applies to those fleeing danger and seeking asylum as well as those trying to sneak across.
Previously, unauthorized immigrants were usually charged with civil violations and allowed to stay with their children while their cases were adjudicated.
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What’s happening now is another example of the administration using children as bait to tighten the vise on unauthorized immigration.
Congress can’t get it together to pass immigration reform, so the Trump administration is going to ramp up restrictions on its own.
Earlier this year Trump used the Dreamers. He said he’d agree to legal status for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought here as children — if Congress gave him money for his border wall. That deal fell apart.
Recently, Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, put children at the center of the immigration battle again when she said schools should be able to decide for themselves whether to notify immigration officials about students who are undocumented.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in a 1982 case entitles undocumented children to a public education, and DeVos has been pressured to walk back her statement.
This separation policy at the border, however, goes beyond a threat. It’s real and inhumane. The government has said about 700 children have been separated from their parents since Oct. 1.
That’s hundreds of children in greater danger of being physically abused and placed under enormous stress in settings that may be unhealthy.
Don’t take it from us. That comes from the American Psychological Association which represents more than 115,000 professionals. It called the new policy “needless and cruel,” and said the longer the children and parents are separated the more likely it is the children will develop anxiety and depression.
“Negative outcomes for children include psychological distress, academic difficulties and disruptions in their development,” the association said in a statement released last week.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a court injunction to end the policy claiming children can only be taken away from their parents if the parents are unfit or abusive.
And some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, are raising a ruckus. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, vented on social media Monday after he said he was prevented from entering a federal detention facility in Brownsville where children are being housed. He told CNN he saw children in cages in another facility in McAllen.
So, immediately, let’s open the doors of these facilities to policymakers, child advocacy groups and media, so we can all see firsthand how the children are being treated.
Then, let’s move quickly to reunite the children with their parents, and let’s end this shameful practice.
Using children for political gain is despicable.
Family values, anyone?