by Rob English
If I could tell the government how to spend my taxes, I would ask that every dollar be used to find and return the children that the US Border Patrol agents took from their mothers since 2017 and lost them.
They are many. According to immigrant aid society HIAS, “In the summer of 2018, between 3,000 and 4,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy against those seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Years later, hundreds of families still remain separated, and some parents may never see their children again. Even families who have been reunited suffer from ongoing legal issues, as well as the psychological distress caused by the ordeal. And although the policy of zero tolerance is no longer in effect and rates have decreased, these separations do still occur due to the U.S.’ widespread use of detention.”
NBC News reported recently that more than 650 children separated from their families in 2018 have not yet been located as of November 2020, and of them more than 100 are under age five.
It remains to be seen how newly inaugurated President Biden will address the issues of border security and immigration, but in the meantime, I hope the pace of reuniting families can be accelerated. The children must not only be found and reunited with their families at US Government expense but also, they must be afforded the psychological treatments they will need to repair the damage done to their human development by the careless and cruel policy that caused it.
In June of 2018, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, told crowds in Washington D.C with reference to family separation, “I cannot think of an act that is more cruel and more inhumane than to rip the child from the arms of the mother.”
US Senator Heidi Heitkamp told Snopes.com, “The more we learn about childhood trauma, the clearer it becomes that the negative consequences of trauma can reverberate for a lifetime. There’s nothing more traumatic for a child than being separated from their parents, so we have to approach this challenge in a compassionate and humanitarian way.”
The family separation policy has made victims not just of the children, of course, but also of their entire families, especially their mothers. Imagine the complex range of emotions troubling the heart of immigrant mothers such as the woman who, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project, was told by border patrol agents that they were taking her daughter for a bath, only to never return the child!
Was there ever a mother who didn’t anguish at being separated from her baby?
Even intelligent animal species have strong maternal instincts. One of the most compelling images I’ve seen is one of a frantic cow running in vain after a pickup truck that was speeding away with her baby. (Cows don’t produce milk unless they have recently given birth, so providing cows’ milk for human consumption requires that newborn calves be taken from the mothers within hours. The mother cows suffer greatly with this policy, and as people realize this many turn to plant-based milk and plant-based cheese. From the Gospel of Matthew as I recall it, The King of Heaven said, “Truly, whatever you did for the least of these, you did it also for me”).
By this date, the children taken from their families at the border should already be reunited with them, because back in June 2018 Federal Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the children with their families within thirty days, and he ordered that children under five be reunited within fourteen days.
Nearly three years have passed since Judge Sabraw gave that order, yet hundreds of families and their children are still waiting for reunion and healing.
As I write my tax check to the US Treasury this Spring I’ll be thinking of those families and watching for good things from the new administration in Washington.
Rob English is a member of People for Animal Rights, a grassroots organization comprised entirely of volunteers.
Contact People for Animal Rights
P.O. Box 3333
Syracuse, NY 13220