The following words should remind us all of an outrage that demands immediate attention:
“My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age . . .”
That was written by the great abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass, former slave, in his powerful memoir, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” published in 1845.
His words should remind us of what happened at the U.S.-Mexican borders months ago when children were taken from their parents and placed in caged detention centers far and wide.
The perpetrators, in this case, were not slaveholders of yore. This modern separation scheme was devised by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump and White House advisor Stephen Miller, perhaps the most vociferous of the anti-immigrant bigots in the West Wing.
Their vicious policy puts themselves on par with those slave dealers who ordered blacks up on the auction block, who bought and sold separated family members as if they were cattle.
And this is how those cruel separations were rationalized, justified by both slaveholders and – now – by Trump & Co. For hundreds of years, slave owners de-humanized blacks who were snatched from Africa and elsewhere. They were treated as animals, as objects, as “the other” so they could be exploited to toil on white plantations. Some of the most sadistic owners, who frequently tortured and whipped slaves, sometimes to death, often used religion to justify their “mastery” over others.
In his “populist” rallies, Trump has de-humanized immigrants (especially Mexicans and Muslims), using words such as rapists, animals, drug smugglers, killers, users and deadbeats, thus tarring all immigrants with the same fear-mongering brush.
Trump warned of a “caravan” on its way to the border from Central America, and he couched the impending “invasion” in terms of “infestation” (cockroaches, rats, nasty intruders). He and his anti-immigrant minions decided to do something about it – something drastic to “send a message” back home that those trespassers had better think twice about seeking applications for immigration to this country – otherwise, their kids will be snatched away.
About 3,000 children were separated from mothers and/or fathers. Thanks to public outrage and a judge’s decision, reunification was ordered. However, many of the parents had been deported – without their children – and were not even given a fair hearing. Some were bamboozled into signing papers they didn’t even understand.
The most sickening aspect is there was absolutely no plan for reunification – no plan to track the whereabouts of deported parents and no plan to keep track of the children who were suddenly stranded alone, many of them under the age of 5.
Granted, we need a strict-but-fair immigration policy so everyone involved knows the rules and what’s expected. But has this Congress, this president, even attempted such reform? Of course not.
This Tweeter-in-Chief has lost all moral authority, not that he had much to begin with. His unspeakably cruel separation policy, which he first tried to blame on the Democrats, will go down in history as a national disgrace. We must not forget; we must demand reunification now for every child, no matter how much time or expense it takes. Republicans in Congress should stop enabling a president who has no clue about the U.S. Constitution or the Rule of Law. Their spineless inaction will come back to bite them. When will we stop being shocked (or pretending to be shocked) by Trump’s dangerous, erratic behavior?
Just imagine the more than 300 children, still detained somewhere, who are crying, lonely, dejected and wondering if they will ever see their mommies and daddies again. And imagine the parents, somewhere far away, longing for their abducted children forever lost to them.