Barbara Rabinowitz and Marcelino Jose
One child taken in the U.S. sets off an alarm and law enforcement jumps into high gear and turns to citizens everywhere to be on the lookout. There’s a massive Amber Alert. Stealing a child is considered a crime, a felony, something that brings communities together in massive searches and triggers panic in the heart of every parent.
But when thousands of children are kidnapped, separated from their families and put in cages – this is left for underfunded organizations, intrepid reporters, a few concerned lawmakers and the relentless ACLU to sound the warning. Parents can’t find their kids and children, toddlers, even babies, are left abandoned by a system that has no concern for tracking these families, much less reuniting them – ever. These children are expected to fend for themselves, many of whom are too young to make known their needs – their basic need being their parents. And even the older children have no understanding of how such a thing could happen, how they could be suddenly parentless in a place they don’t know, surrounded by strangers.
As if the separation itself isn’t horrific enough, it’s obvious from the reporting that the children are not being properly cared for. Since 2017, seven children have died in federal custody under this administration. And how many more will there be since the CBP does not vaccinate children? Crowded, unsanitary conditions, where kids are weak from lack of nutrition, exercise, personal hygiene and positive familial interaction, make detention centers rife for large outbreaks of disease.
The only real crime committed by these jailed families is that they were born on the wrong side of a line on a map and that their skin is the wrong color. Children should not be pawns in some scheme where the president wants to prove that immigrants, when treated badly enough, will stop coming or go home where they and their children face death from gangs and corrupt governments, some of which U.S. meddling has made more treacherous.
How we treat the American immigrant is a reflection of how we value the nation’s ideals. We’re supposed to be exceptional as a people in our almost 250-year-old democratic experiment. Now we only seem to be exceptionally cruel.
After ACLU lawsuits, intensive media reporting and public outcry, the administration supposedly ordered an end to child separation in June 2018. Parents were frantic and children felt betrayed, abandoned. It was their heartbreaking stories that sparked indignation in the American people. But now we know that the policy continues, that children are still being ripped from their parents’ arms and placed not only in deplorable border shelters, but sent across the country to other shelters and foster homes where neither parent nor child knows the location of their loved ones.
Overcrowding is blamed for all horrors, but the overcrowding is being caused by the administration’s abject failure to do its job, to properly staff immigration facilities and ensure that at least some of the billions being spent are put toward humanitarian care. It’s obvious the money allocated is not freely flowing to doctors, counselors, teachers or immigration judges. It isn’t being used for water, food, soap, toothpaste, beds or non-aluminum blankets. However, on August 15, a federal appeals court ruled against the administration and ordered immigration authorities to provide adequate food, water, bedding, toothbrushes and soap to minors. It remains to be seen if this ruling will be obeyed. The real shame here is that basic humanitarian needs were not being met in the first place.
Now we’re abandoning even more children, little American citizens across the country, by dragging their parents out of their homes and cars, away from their workplaces and neighborhood schools. We are breaking up families for no reason. They are no threat. They pay their way with jobs and new businesses and often have called this country home for decades. They’re not a burden to taxpayers or to border security because they’re already here. Yes, deport criminals but don’t destroy families. Don’t leave more children without parents. We have done enough of this already.
First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I wasn’t Muslim.
Then they came for all Immigrants, especially Latin Americans, and I did not speak out—
Because I wasn’t an immigrant.
Then they came for the Journalists, and I did not speak out—
Because I wasn’t a journalist.
Then they came for All Minorities and I didn’t speak out—
Because I was white.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
Since we are here now at this historic moment, we are accountable for what the government does in our name. Regardless of our skin color, we must speak out against inflicting so much irrevocable harm on immigrant children who are no threat to this country. In fact, we should be welcoming these children for they are America’s future if we have any hope of saving our democracy, building communities and maintaining our competitive economy with an ever aging population. They are the ones who will fill the jobs of the future and salvage Social Security. They will be the ones who plant the crops, doctor the sick, start the new business, build the homes, provide the innovations needed to thrive – things their parents’ generation is already doing right now in this country.
If there was ever a time for a national amber alert, it is now before the children are lost forever in the malevolent bureaucracy that will destroy not only their lives, but extinguish the beacon this country once was to the world.
UnitedWeStay.org is an immigrant advocacy Los Angeles- based nonprofit founded in 2015 by Marcelino Jose. UWS is dedicated to telling the stories of immigrants and to gathering immigration news on a daily basis, the only organization of its kind to make expanding public awareness its utmost responsibility, believing that knowledge is the key to fighting injustice and upholding American ideals.