I’ve never liked that name, Homeland Security, with its haunting echo of “the Fatherland” the Nazi term for their home country during World War II. Now it seems the name has morphed into more than an echo.
In times past, standard practice had been to house women and children together in one facility and men in another. Now, however, children are being taken from their mothers (or from their fathers, if they arrive with only their male parent) and housed apart from the adult who loves them, sometimes in facilities hundreds of miles distant. The administration’s rationale is this: If potential immigrants know this will be their family’s fate, the practice will discourage them from coming.
Fleeing violence and death threats at home, immigrants now face the additional trauma of total separation upon arriving here. The Washington Post describes the case of a Congolese mother and her 7-year-old daughter:
“A U.S. asylum officer interviewed Ms. L, as the mother is called in a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, determined that she had a credible fear of harm if she were returned to Congo and stood a decent chance of ultimately being granted asylum. Despite that preliminary finding, officials decided that the right thing to do was to wrench S.S. [her daughter] from her mother, whereupon the mother ‘could hear her daughter in the next room frantically screaming that she wanted to remain with her mother,’ the lawsuit states.” (See the complete article here.)
The two of them could have been housed together in a family detention center, but instead the daughter has been placed in a facility in Chicago while her mother remains in a San Diego detention center.
This is heartlessness unleashed. And in today’s Trumpian universe, one wonders …Would this have happened if S.S. had been a blond, blue-eyed Norwegian child?
We need a word that expresses crushing sadness combine with flaming rage. That’s what I felt as I read about S.S. and her mother and thought of my own (yes, blond, blue-eyed) 7-year-old granddaughter. I know how devastated she would be. Little S.S. felt the same. No child—and no parent—deserves to be treated this way. What kind of country have we become?
Note: For an account of the experiences of fathers who have had children taken from them, click here.