I Ask My­self

Die Tren­nung von il­le­galen Mi­granten­fam­i­lien sollte der Ab­schreck­ung di­enen. Doch diese Art der Ein­wan­derungspoli­tik ist grausam und un­men­schlich.

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Amy Ar­getsinger on taking chil­dren from their par­ents

As Amer­i­cans re­coiled in hor­ror from the scenes along the Us-mex­ico bor­der, where thou­sands of sob­bing im­mi­grant chil­dren had been taken from their par­ents by the start of the sum­mer, politi­cians al­lied

Pres­i­dent Trump in­sisted that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. “Why, the de­ten­tion cen­ters are far nicer than what these peo­ple are used to in their im­pov­er­ished vil­lages,” the politi­cians ar­gued. “Look! They’re watch­ing movies and hav­ing warm meals. For these kids, it must seem like sum­mer camp.”

The point is not where they were stay­ing, though. It’s that their par­ents were not with them. Some­thing I learned a lit­tle too late as a mother is the rule of “no sur­prises.” I used to think that if I just man­aged to get out the door, my daugh­ter might not no­tice I was gone. But one night, it went ter­ri­bly wrong. When my daugh­ter re­al­ized I was about to leave, she shrieked and clung to me, then ran to her bed cry­ing, rather than play with a much-loved babysit­ter. Af­ter that, I re­al­ized that I needed to give my daugh­ter plenty of prepa­ra­tion if I was go­ing some­where, or our rou­tine was to be changed. Dis­rup­tion un­nerves a child.

Doc­tors and so­cial work­ers have told us how dev­as­tat­ing even a short-term sep­a­ra­tion from a par­ent can be for a child, es­pe­cially when it comes un­ex­pect­edly. We heard sto­ries of par­ents on the bor­der who were told that their chil­dren were being taken to an­other room for a bath or a meal — only to re­al­ize hours later that they were not com­ing back. We heard of a five-year-old girl sent a thou­sand miles away to a fos­ter home in Mary­land, where for days she re­fused to re­move the pull-up di­a­per her mother —now in an im­mi­gra­tion jail — had put on her in Mex­ico.

Soon enough, the ex­tent of the un­prece­dented and reck­less sep­a­ra­tion of par­ents and chil­dren be­came clear. The big con­cern many peo­ple had was the long-term im­pact such sep­a­ra­tions can have on chil­dren — anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, trust is­sues, cog­ni­tive de­lays that can con­tinue long af­ter a child has been re­u­nited with a par­ent.

Na­tional out­rage about these sep­a­ra­tions pushed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to end the pol­icy. Yet the story grew even worse. It was feared that re­unions would not hap­pen quickly — or at all. Chaos reigned. The young re­mained in US fos­ter homes or shel­ters, while their par­ents were de­ported back to their home coun­tries, not know­ing how to con­tact their kids. Every par­ent I know reads about this with fear and sym­pa­thy. It’s easy to imag­ine what these mi­grant par­ents have been go­ing through. But for their chil­dren, it must have seemed like the end of the world.

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