Ripping Parents from Their Children and Then Losing Them Is Cruel and Inhuman

This should not be happening in the United States in the 21st century.

There are few issues where basic human morality overwhelms partisanship, where public policy motivations must take a backseat to essential decency. Forcibly ripping parents from their children such that they never see them again is one of those contemptible acts that should be beyond politics.

Even mass murderers who must perforce be kept separate from society still have the right to see and talk to their loved ones. The children of even abusers and unfit parents have the right to visit if they so choose. To do otherwise would be a monstrous betrayal of dignity.

And yet, the Trump Administration has put in place a policy to systematically tear children as young as 53 weeks old away from their parents, often for years without recourse, for the crime of crossing a border to give them a better life. The president’s own chief of staff John Kelly admitted that this is being done not out of necessity, but as yet an incredibly cruel deterrent to undocumented immigration:

Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.

It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.

Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?

I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

Some foster care for immigrant children was already occurring for various bureaucratic reasons, especially in unfortunate cases where children either crossed alone, or immigrants had committed violent felonies and faced deportation. But the Trump administration’s decision was one of actively intentional barbarism, arbitrarily treating the children of asylum seekers as if they had come to America without a parent at all, and prosecuting to the fullest extent every illegal immigration case whether warranted or no:

The new policy is aimed mostly at those from Central American nations who arrive at the border seeking political asylum with their children.

Adults will still be able to apply for asylum under the new policy, but they could be detained while their cases are reviewed. Children will be handled as if they came to the U.S. without an adult

By prosecuting adults and then treating their children as unaccompanied minors at the border, families would be separated as children are placed in shelters or with family while their cases for asylum are considered.

The situation turns from merely shocking to clench-your-teeth-in-fury outrage at the news that the government is currently unable to locate at least 1,475 migrant children in their custody. Yes, the government has lost nearly 1,500 kids in their care. Some are reportedly ending up in the hands of human traffickers. Those who are not lost are frequently mistreated.

So there is no guarantee whatsoever that children forcibly ripped away from their parents in this manner will ever see them again. A mother can come to the United States seeking a better life with her 2-year-old child, and as a result of that decision never be able to see that child again and potentially have her baby daughter fall into the hands of criminal traffickers at the hands of the federal government, paid for by our tax dollars.

This is such an act of barbaric evil that President Trump lamely attempted to blame Democrats for the policies he just enacted. His tweet also seemed to try to offer to keep families united as a bargaining chip in exchange for his wall and other draconian immigration measures, much as he attempted to do with DACA as well. It’s a pattern: take cruel and inhumane actions, blame Democrats for them, and then offer to rescind them in exchange for slightly less odious but still abhorrent initiatives. And all of it for one reason alone: slowing the rate at which America becomes a non-white majority country, because Republicans have given up on the notion of winning the war of ideas in a racially diverse nation.

Ripping parents from their kids is cruel and inhuman. Doing it as a cold, intentional matter of public policy is worse. Doing it and then losing those children due to insouciance is incompetence meshed with barbarism. It is shocking and unacceptable, and the fact that it is happening in our names, in the United States in the 21st century, should fill every citizen with rage and revulsion.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.