Migrant children held in cages. Migrant children sitting on concrete floors with nothing but foil space blanketsto keep them warm. Breastfeeding infants ripped from their mothers’ arms. A zero-tolerance policy: all children will be separated from their parents at the border, whether or not they are asylum seekers, and both will be held in separate detention centers. Until bonds are posted by the parents. Until they can pay $700-$800 bucks for a DNA testto prove their own kids are their kids — money undocumented refugees can’t afford.
There are nearly 3,000 kids in detentionin the United States right now from the ages of 6-18. America is now building tent cities on two military basesto house migrant families found crossing the border. Unairconditioned, open-air tent cities. In Texas. Where temperatures can soar. Can you imagine that?
The government has no viable mechanismto reunite these kids with their parents in a timely manner either.
Barack Obama lifted his silence on the crisis when he said on Facebook, “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?”
This is the fundamental question we face as parent. Do we look at this situation, at these migrant families, and see the reflection of our own? In the cries of these children separated from their parents, do we hear the cries of our own sons and daughters?
If we choose not to, we are embracing a vision of America that can only lead to an us versus them mentality. If they are not us, they are a them, a nasty other, a someone else, dirty invaders with an inferior culture. We will mutter things like “learn to speak English” and then hit up Taco Bell on the way home, because hey, it’s Tuesday.
Here’s the deal. This doesn’t sound like America. This sounds like Poland, 1943. But this also sounds like our Japanese internment camps. The forced separation of parent and child harkens back to our disgusting policy of ripping American Indian kids from their parents in order to “kill the Indian to save the man.” And let’s not forget that these migrant children are mostly of indigenous blood.
Wait, maybe this does sound like America. Maybe it sounds exactly like America.
But not the America we want to believe in.
You can have a vision of two different Americas. You can have one in which you believe the words etched at the bottom of our great lady, the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, homeless, tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Or you can believe in the same xenophobic version of America embraced by such winners as the Know-Nothing Party and the KKK, groups who think that America has some pure (European-based) culture that needs to be preserved (from incursions by brown people). No, we can’t just “let them all in.” But we can embrace asylum for those stricken by gang violence and domestic abuse — two reasons Attorney General Jeff Sessions says we will now deny it, reversing a long-standing trend.
We can create domestic-worker programs to help farm jobs, at a time whenimmigration crackdown is causing crops to rot for lack of workers. We can stop incarcerating people whose only crime is wanting a better life for themselves and their children. As Waran Shire says in the poem “Home,”
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well …
We hesitate often at making this statement, but it’s true right now: if you are not with us, you are against us.
If you cannot see a child in a cage and see the face of your own, you need to search your soul.
If you refuse to imagine your own kid torn from your arms, with no hope of reunification, you need to examine your conscience.
If you cannnot hear heartbreak in “Since they took him away, I’ve not been able to sleep well,” your heart is stone.
If you cannot be enraged by sentences like, “The government requires parents and other family members to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for airfares to reunite the children from these shelters,” you need to look yourself hard in the mirror and wonder what the fuck you’d rather your tax dollars pay for: reunifying families or building more nukes.
You can care about migrant children or you can care about your own selfish little bubble. That’s it. That’s all. That’s as far as this goes. You can call yourself pro-life or you can call yourself pro-get-’em-born. You can love your neighbor as yourself or you can simply love yourself. You can lift the lamp or hide it under a bushel basket.
Luckily our outcry has worked: the Trump administration claims it will no longer separate children from parents, in a weak sauce statement that offers little hope for much actual change. The atrocities, like parents being forced to pay for DNA tests and airline flights, like kids lost in the system, still continue. Parents finally being reunited with their babies to find they are covered in lice, or a shell of who they were before they were ripped away. Unacceptable.
You will fight with us. Or you will fight against us. Luckily, as poet Elisa Chavez says in “Revenge,”
And your swastikas will not save you
… but rest assured,
anxious America …
We have always been
what makes America great.
Amen, sister. A-fucking-men