It's a truth universally acknowledged that children need their parents — to thrive, feel secure, and know who they are.
Which is why the Trump Administration's now rescinded policy to separate and detain children and parents illegally crossing the southern border has been especially cruel.
While it was crudely defended by the president and his minions as a "deterrent" to future migrants, it was an attempt to dehumanize immigrant children — to turn them into bargaining chips in the administration’s fight with congress over immigration reform — thereby making it possible to ignore their human rights.
Indeed, the right to remain with one’s parents is explicitly named in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S. has signed but never ratified. It further charges the state with the responsibility for ensuring this right is not violated.
In truth, we don't need an international agreement to tell us what we innately know to be true — that children and parents, whenever possible, should be together and that children have an inherent right to be raised by the people who created them.
It is unlikely that President Trump has heard of this document, but plenty of thoughtful people who have justifiably raised a furor over the administration's policy have demonstrated that they firmly believe its principles and will vigorously defend them — at least when the violation is obvious and the perpetrator is Donald Trump.
But in the United States, the rights of children, most especially their right to be raised by their biological parents, are violated daily, a practice enabled by the state. These offenses may seem pedestrian, yet they are dangerous and damaging to children. They occur in our homes, courts, and medical clinics, and they are met with deafening silence from adults otherwise apoplectic over the actions on our border.
Without the dramatic testimony of tiny children being torn from the arms of their mothers — but instead the staid filing of paperwork, the monotony of court proceedings, even the joyful gasps of a couple first laying eyes on a child bought and paid for — we fail to accept that willful, wrongful attacks on children and families that occur every day. Just consider our prevalent divorce rates, the single parenthood by choice movement, the normalization of surrogacy and the booming market for sperm and egg purchases. Dare I mention the horrific frequency of abortion. Yet it has taken a crisis at the border to shed light on the sobering reality that children and family life in America are not sacred, not cherished and not protected.
I believe this is what Fort Worth's Catholic Bishop Michael Olson was intimating when he called the separation of migrant children from their parents "a living metaphor for the destructive assaults upon family life in the name of individual rights."
Yet nearly half of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, usually resulting in the separation of children from one parent. This despite a bounty of research demonstrating "that children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being."
The children of single mothers tend to fare worse when it comes to school achievement, health, social and emotional development, and professional success.
And studies have shown that donor offspring, when compared to their adopted peers and those raised by their biological parents, are twice as likely to report problems with the law, more than twice as likely to struggle with substance abuse, and about 1.5 times as likely to suffer from depression or other mental health problems.
All of these practices that forcibly separate children from their parents have been normalized, even lauded. As a society, we no longer consider the ethics involved. No one asks, “is this good for the child?” Perhaps because when such separation fulfills the rights or desires of the involved adults, we don't even think to question it.
Children are not bargaining chips, nor are they commodities whether on the border or in the lab. The UN convention recognizes that every one of us has a mother and father, and whenever possible, we have a right to know them and be loved and nurtured by them.
If we want to protect children, we needn't look just to the border. The crisis is all around us.