As Trump and his enablers gin up anti-immigrant rhetoric, labeling undocumented immigrants as law-breakers for crossing the border without papers, and lumping them together with violent criminals, it’s important for Americans to understand the bigger picture. U.S. citizens are not the victims of the humanitarian crisis on our border. The real victims are the people caught in the middle of terrible conflicts in which our country played a role. We have a responsibility to help them.
“They could be murderers and thieves and so much else,” Trump said of the parents whose children have been taken away from them at the border. “We want a safe country, and it starts with the borders. Thas the way it is.”
As when he called migrants ‘animals’, and tweeted that the United States was being ‘stolen’ by members of the migrant caravan, Trump is deliberately mischaracterizing these desperate families in order to play to nativist fear and resentment.
The mothers, fathers, little children and teenagers fleeing violence in Central America are not coming to ‘steal’ the United States. They are simply looking for a way to survive.
It was heartening to see the outpouring of support for the migrant caravan along its route in Mexico. Volunteer immigration attorneys flew from the United States to offer advice on seeking asylum. Church members, the Red Cross, and local citizens came out with food and clothing.
But when the migrants reached the U.S. border, they ran into the fan blades of Donald Trump’s alarmist hype.
On June 2, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group that organized the caravan, issued a statement confirming that at least nine caravan members who were seeking asylum in the United States had been separated from their children by US immigration officials.
“In most cases those children, as young as two years old, have been sent to and are now being detained in youth detention facilities in other states while their parents have been transferred to adult detention centers and prisons in California and Texas,” the group declared in a press release.
Maria, a mother currently detained in the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego – known as ‘the icebox’ for frigid temperatures that have taken a toll on migrants’ health – was among the parents from whom Pueblo Sin Fronteras has gathered statements. Maria was separated from her two-year-old and seven-year-old children in early May.
When an immigration officer came to take her children, she was holding her toddler, and objected that she could not let them go without her. “Can the little one walk?” she recalls the officer asking. Yes, she said. Her older child took the young one’s hand and started to walk out. As she described it, “Then they turned around to look and when they saw that I was not going after them they cried more and when they were out of sight I asked again where they had taken them. They only told me ‘to a shelter’ and that they would explain to me later and they took me back to the icebox.”
Devastated, Maria issued the following plea to the government of the United States: “Let it be clear that I brought them to protect them because I love them and what is happening to me hurts so much that there are times when I don’t know what to do.”
“Put yourselves in my place,” she added. “If you could feel the pain I feel as a mother, maybe you would understand that it isn’t necessary to separate children from their parents because we come fleeing from our countries.
The United States owes these people so much more. But even cold self-interest should dictate a more enlightened, humane approach. Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy makes the whole world less safe.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Trump’s Get-Tough Policies Will Make the Border Crisis Worse’.