What People Need To Understand About That Little Girl

by Mary Beth Charles
John Moore / Getty

You have to be living under a rock if you don’t know by now that the little Honduran girl wearing a pink jacket, the little girl who became the face of Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy here in the U.S., was not separated from her mother at the border.

The left knows, the right definitely knows, Time Magazine knows, WE ALL KNOW. But all I keep seeing in my social media feed, day in and day out, are posts about how she wasn’t separated. Posts about how the media got it all wrong. Posts about how shameful it is that she’s being used to promote a false narrative.

Blah blah blah, bullshit. Yes, she was one of the few lucky children who remained with her mother. Tragically, she is only one of thousands of children who were brought to our border, 2,700+ of whom were separated from their families.

Which brings me to my point… the current zero-tolerance policy debate – specifically, the family separation policy – is not about this one individual little girl. It’s about the thousands more she represents, whose collective fear can be seen manifested in her face.

Her tears are symbolic of all the tears shed by thousands of children in the last two months. Why can’t people acknowledge what she represents, and move on from her individual story?

For zero-tolerance policy supporters, it’s because this is all the ammo they have. This is the one and only thing they can hold on to, to make themselves feel better about their position. It allows them to continue denying that’s there’s a human rights tragedy unfolding right under their noses. “Well, it didn’t happen to her, so…”

So, what? The fact that this little girl was lucky enough to remain with her mother somehow erases the tragedy of so many others who weren’t as lucky? Others who were forcibly or manipulatively removed from their parents, only to be relocated to chain-link pens?

Does her non-separation story absolve you from caring about the rest of the separated children? Children who have endured trauma and despair they may never get over, all at the hands of our leaders?

Look, you can advocate for closed borders all you want. But dismissing this type of treatment of children, or shifting the blame for it from our administration to their parents, or using this girl’s story to justify your lack of outrage, is sickening and disgraceful.

My message to all the nationalists out there: you and I were born into our U.S. citizenship, and most of us enjoy a tremendous amount of comfort and privilege that comes with it. Not because we did anything to deserve it, but because of pure, dumb luck.

Because of our good fortune, most of us have never known the danger, violence or fear that would motivate us to flee to another country simply to find safety for our children.

Were it not for luck-of-the-draw, any of us could be one of those desperate parents. And if you tell me, “Yes, but I’d immigrate the right way,” or, “Yes, but I’d follow the law,” nice try, people. (Actually, it’s not. It’s really a terrible try. You’re super out of touch here.)

When it comes to your child’s safety, when it comes to your child’s survival, you’d do anything. And you’d do it any. way. possible.

So move on from your perceived “win” here. Open your eyes to the torture this little girl represents. Imagine if *shudder* you were one of those terrified children who’d been removed from the only people who could give you comfort and stability and a sense of safety.

If you can’t – or refuse to – take a minute to imagine being in their shoes, just admit it. If your sense of nationalism runs deeper than your sense of human decency, OWN IT. But don’t point to this little girl’s story as justification for your heartlessness.