Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

A smiling neighbor here in genteel New England once informed my mother that she was "a desirable immigrant."

The same neighbor took a much dimmer view of my father, and explained that "we don't want your kind here."

I was six years old and I will never forget (nor forgive) that remark, though the man who uttered it is long dead.

My mother is a blond from Finland. My father, however, comes from Italy.  He arrived in New York after the war as an unaccompanied minor, sent to live with a paternal uncle. My mother first set foot in this country not as an immigrant, but as an exchange student. Her story is one about having a plan in life, and then having something else happen.

Both my parents are U.S. citizens, but they didn't start out that way.

If the American Dream has poster children, they are my parents. Mom and Dad not only managed to scramble aboard the new country carousel; they grabbed that brass ring like nobody's business.

The American Dream has never been about amassing a stack of money. It's about securing a good future for yourself and for future generations; a  future that affords your children choices and opportunities not available in many corners of the world.

Unless you live under a rock, you've heard ProPublica's horrifying recording of a group of jailed children crying for their parents, who have been separately detained by Customs and Border Patrol for the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry into the United States. Many of these parents wish to apply for asylum. They're fleeing unspeakable violence. They have undertaken a dangerous and uncertain journey, because they have no better option.

Their modest version of the American Dream involves, at least in the immediate future, working in a lousy job and not getting murdered.

The so-called Zero Tolerance policy that rips children from their mamas is a bridge too far.

Because I'm a very lucky beneficiary of the American Dream who happens to resemble my "desirable immigrant" mother, I feel a duty to use my privilege to condemn the dehumanization of today's immigrants. When people in power use words like "animals" and "infest," they rob these children of their humanity.

Because I'm a very lucky beneficiary of the American Dream, I've also got a dusty old law degree from a fancy pants school.

I've signed up to use it to help these kids with an organization called RAICES. (As of this writing, their website has crashed due to high traffic, and they're working to get it back up and running. Please consider joining me.)

I'm also researching other ways to help keep track of the imprisoned kids and help reunite parents detained at the border with their children before the government spirits them away to Lord knows where. RAICES is one of many non-profit groups working on this disgraceful crisis.

Even with many well meaning boots on the ground, some of the children will likely be separated from their parents permanently. If you read the HHS website, it's pretty clear they have no system for keeping track of the children and parents after separation. Thousands of children will be scarred for life by the trauma inflicted in the name of the American people.

Only fascists and weird religious cults believe in taking small children from their mothers.

Don't bother writing to me to say we need this for "deterrence." If you're all right with jailing preschoolers in prison camps, the politest thing I can suggest  is that you re-examine your entire existence.

And if you think this calamity is good for national security, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Kids abused at the hands of our government seem quite likely to grow into adults who hate us. That's common sense.

As is the fact that we the people should not tolerate child abuse in our name.

No comments:

Post a Comment