As the firestorm of indignation erupts around the country regarding family separation, the American public is reeling amid reports of the horrors and casualties of the practice.
Of the 2,300 children torn away from their mothers and fathers at the border, eight of them are on Long Island, staying at a federally approved shelter run by the nonprofit agency, MercyFirst, Newsday reported. The children are living in a group home and attending school at MercyFirst’s campus in Syosset. Aged 6 to 12, they come from Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
“Kids are very resilient but it doesn’t take much for a kid to start crying and miss his mom,” Gerard McCaffery, president and CEO of MercyFirst, told Newsday.
President Trump’s answer to children and parents being detained separately in jail-like conditions is to detain them together, instead. In a feat of absurd posturing, Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, mandating children be imprisoned with their families in U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities until their cases are resolved.
“The Trump Administration ripped thousands of crying children from their parents’ arms, kept them in cages, and shipped them thousands of miles across the country. We don’t need an absurd EO that keeps kids locked up and continues to criminalize asylum-seekers, we need the President to simply end his “zero tolerance” policy and show the moral decency not to imprison children or lock up families in ICE prisons,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).
New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand recently co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act, which would prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from separating children from their parents when they arrive at the U.S. border.
In a recording obtained by ProPublica, the sobbing and screaming of children detained at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility brings home the intensity of the suffering and utter desperation. One of the children can be heard pleading for her aunt, having memorized her phone number.
As ProPublica wrote of a CBP agent on the recording:
The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. “Well, we have an orchestra here,” he jokes. “What’s missing is a conductor.”
Some have been claiming these immigrant families are committing crimes just by seeking asylum at the border, but, in fact, they are abiding by federal and international law (laws that were previously adhered to by Presidents of both parties) that protects asylum seekers. For many immigrants fleeing war-torn and violence-ridden homes, especially those from Central America, staying or returning to their home countries is essentially a death sentence.
But, the Trump administration has blatantly chosen to exploit this state of affairs for its own agenda. Attorney General Jeff Sessions callously proclaimed in May the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy that will criminally prosecute anyone who crosses the border unauthorized, including if it means ripping apart children and their families.
Only time will tell whether the outrage — now international in scope — will push lawmakers or the White House to act with their conscience to restore human rights and dignity to those seeking refuge from violence and persecution.