Ripped from the headlines—and from his mother’s arms

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“On Feb. 20, a young woman named Mirian arrived at the Texas border carrying her 18-month-old son. They had fled their home in Honduras through a cloud of tear gas, she told border agents, and needed protection from the political violence there.

“She had hoped she and her son would find refuge together. Instead, the agents ordered her to place her son in the back seat of a government vehicle, she said later in a sworn declaration to a federal court. They both cried as the boy was driven away.”

This New York Times report sounds like something out of Law and Order or some other ripped-from-the-headlines almost-true crime show. Unlike a television show, there’s no happy ending and the forces of the law look like the villains, not the heroes.

Mirian is one of hundreds of parents whose children were taken from them under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. That policy means jailing and prosecuting everyone who crosses the border without inspection by immigration authorities. The usual charge is unlawful entry, which is a misdemeanor. Sometimes parents are also charged with “smuggling” their children into the United States.

More than 700 children were taken from their parents from October to April, including more than 100 younger than 4 years old. Since the policy became official at the beginning of May, the rate of separations has increased.

Once the children are taken away, their parents do not know where they are. Parents are transferred from jail to jail. Children are moved from detention to a shelter, from one state to another. Sometimes parents are deported without even being told where their children are.

No law requires this inhumane treatment. This is a Trump administration policy, not a law. As NBC reports, the policy was different under Obama:

“In 2014, the Obama administration saw a surge of families and unaccompanied minors at the border and generally kept children with at least one parent at emergency shelters and family facilities. The Obama administration also initiated a program designed to allow families more freedom while awaiting deportation hearings. The Trump administration ended the program last summer.”

Trump’s zero tolerance policy is swamping federal courts near the border and costing millions to keep parents in jail. Alternatives to detention—such as ankle monitors—would allow parents and children to stay together.

Separating children from parents is cruel. As Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post,

“The cruelty is the whole point.

“It’s both a reflection of President Trump’s beliefs and those of his key advisers on immigration, and a practical tool they are using to reduce the number of immigrants coming to the United States. There won’t be a more humane set of policies coming out of this administration, because they have no interest in being humane.”

If you think this is wrong, that this is not who we should be as a country, call your Congress member and Senators and tell them.

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