Even as a writer and English teacher, it is difficult to find the correct words and put them in the correct order to express just how horrific the state of affairs is in America. How does one express their feelings when overcome with rage that is barely suppressed, sorrow that makes one physically ill, and utter disbelief?
Historically speaking, what is happening at our southern border is not new. We have seen it in the past with slave families split up on the auction blocks and babies ripped from the arms of their mothers and sold to other plantations. We saw it when Native American families were forced onto the Trail of Tears and then their children were taken from them by the government to be “re-educated” in an attempt to destroy Native American culture. We see that same government still stripping the Native American lands from them in order to gain access to oil; oil that continues to pollute important land and waterways in those same areas. We saw it during WWII when Japanese-American citizens were placed in internment camps. A history, I might add, that many textbooks leave out. We still see extreme prejudice today against people of color; the police are killing innocent black and brown citizens and getting away free. The government has failed its citizens in Puerto Rico, and as another hurricane season approaches, those same citizens are still without water, power, food, and homes nearly a year later. And Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water.
This is not a one-time issue, I’m afraid. The United States is rife with racial tension and white supremacy. This has always been obvious to citizens of color and to some white citizens, but after the election of Donald Trump, some white people are finally waking up to see that racism and white supremacy are alive and well in the US.
Tearing migrant children from their parents and separating them is not new to the US, and while people cry “this isn’t my America,” unfortunately our history says otherwise. One would like to think that this can’t still be America, but with the election of Donald Trump, a known racist, misogynist, cheat, liar, and overall scumbag, it has become devastatingly clear that people we wanted to believe did not exist, do. And they don’t just exist, they exist in large numbers and have come out in droves.
That said, returning to the issue of the migrant children, my heart breaks at the thought of parents and children who came here seeking asylum being torn apart after an already perilous journey. No loving parent wants to put their children in harms way, but when you are faced with shark infested waters at your back and a raging fire in front of you? Either way it is going to be dangerous, but you take the one that you believe you can pull through the most intact. And that’s what the decision these parents have been faced with.
There is no doubt that these children have faced incredible psychiatric trauma at the hands of the Trump administration. They can spout all the lies they want about how this existed before, but this is false. Furthermore, one can no longer trust the DHS website as on June 18, 2018 it was updated to include biased language and calls migrants and asylum seekers “illegal aliens,” demonstrating further evidence of what this administration thinks about people of color. No human being is illegal, and they do not “infest” this country as Trump has decided to say in a tweet. If that is the case, then with the exception of Native Americans, every single person in the United States has infested this country by way of our ancestors coming here.
Back to the children, however, last night was my breaking point when I learned that there were “tender age’ shelters set up for young children. I became physically ill at the idea of babies as young as the reported three months old being separated from their mothers while they are still breast-feeding. These are their formative years, and they are facing trauma unlike anything most of us will ever experience. They don’t know what is happening. They cannot communicate. Those that can are faced with “care takers” who likely do not speak their language, or do not speak it well. What of the children with medical needs? There are well-documented reports of a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome who was taken from her mother. Another of a boy with epilepsy who was taken from his family without his medication. What of the other children with special needs or medical conditions?
Furthermore, where are the girls? Why are only images of boys in these centers being shown? Is it because girls will elicit more sympathy from those still – inexplicably – on the fence? While boys are seen as harder and more dangers? Even when those boys are crying for their mothers and fathers? Or has something worse happened to them?
When I started writing this, it was early in the morning, and I had to take a break because I was distraught and became physically ill once again. As of coming back to this writing, Trump has signed an executive order halting the separation of families and their children, but this solve only part of the problem, and temporarily.
What of the children who have already been taken by the government? How will we reunify those children with their parents? How will they get the psychiatric help they need that this government caused and should be held accountable for? These parents do not know where their children are, and there seems to be no plan in place to reunite these families. Is there documentation on the children? How many will be forever lost to the system? How many things will be covered up? How long can this horror go on?
I will not listen to anyone who says “Yes, but.” There are no buts here. It is legal to seek asylum in another country. It is also only a misdemeanor to cross a border without proper authority. If you call yourself a Christian, then you cannot back the separation of families. If you call yourself pro-family, you cannot back the separation of families. If you call yourself pro-life, you cannot back the separation of families. It’s as simple as that. If you still say “yes, but,” then your problem is not just moral, but it you are racist, because I guarantee you would be up in arms if the borders were reversed and Canadians were entering the United States illegally.
We cannot back down. We must all stand strong until these children are reunited with their families and stand strong and continue to fight for them. We are a nation built on immigrants, and while we have a dark history, some of which we are still not past, we must be better than this. We cannot let this end our nation.
So call. Call your elected officials. Write to them. Flood their phone lines and mailboxes. Donate money if you can. Donate time if you can. Speak up when someone presents false information. Know your facts and present them. Call out those who are “yes, but”-ing the conversation. Call them out for their bigotry and inhumanity. Call out people who say they are “illegal” because no human being is illegal. If I can do this, you can, too. I know you can.