Monday, June 04, 2018

Suffer The Little Children

Jeremy Stahl has written on the Trump administration's policy of separating asylum-seeking parents from their children at the US border.  The administration argues that there is no such formal policy, but a pair of speeches last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to herald the launch of a formal policy, calling it a “zero-tolerance” immigration measure. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions said. “It’s not our fault that somebody does that.” Kelly, now Trump’s chief of staff, stated again last month in an interview with NPR that the purpose of “family separation” is deterrence. “The name of the game to a large degree … a big name of the game is deterrence,” he said.
The current secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, did not provide a direct answer when asked by NPR if “family separation at the border … [was] meant to act as a deterrent,” explaining that it’s very common for adults to get separated from their children when they commit crimes. In testimony before Congress in April, Nielsen said, “When we separate, we separate because the law tells us to, and that is in the interest of the child.
Bolds are mine.

In the interest of the child?  Note that whether the parents trying to enter the United States without the necessary visas are viewed as criminals or not, the children certainly cannot be so regarded.  Yet this policy is designed to cause most damage to the children, not to their parents (however much they may also suffer).

This is because childhood abandonment must be one of the very worst experiences any child can have, and even more so if the child is forcibly wrenched from the parent.   What are the long-run psychological consequences of being abandoned in such a brutal way?  Even if the families are later reunited, the wound will be there and may not heal.

The headline of Stahl's article calls this policy "a moral and legal abomination," and that it is.  It applies the greatest punitive impact on those asylum-seekers who are wholly innocent of any wrong-doing:  the children.

It's irrelevant that the policy might have great deterrent power*.  So would shooting everyone without proper papers at all border entry points, and "civilized" countries should not consider such policies.  Authoritarian regimes, of course, might do just that, depending on the whims of the dictator.


*  The true long-term deterrents are a) supporting real democracy and safety in the source countries of the asylum-seekers and migrants and b) actively improving the economies of those countries to reduce poverty.  

Few people trek across vast distances while facing all sorts of dangers just for the chance to experience living in an alien country with a different culture and language.  Most are driven to that because of violence and/or poverty.