I’m still following the case of the immigrant children being taken from their parents and imprisoned separately at the country’s southern border, as I’m sure most of you are.
The last time I wrote about this situation, I begged my readers to remember that many of these children are children of asylum-seekers following legal procedure for entering the country– that is, they are not themselves criminals, nor are their parents illegal aliens. I also reminded you that even if their parents were criminals, that still would be no excuse for Americans to treat prisoners inhumanely. Yet Senator Merkely, who toured the facility, reported that the children were being housed in overcrowded cages with no beds, no comfort or privacy at all.
My opinion about this situation hasn’t changed.
I hope that all my readers who were outraged last week are still outraged now. It’s a shocking situation. We’re told that nearly two thousand children have been taken away from their parents since May– some are babies that were torn away while they were breastfeeding. We’ve heard rumors that these children are not allowed to hug each other and the staff isn’t allowed to comfort them. Some of those children are in the cages that Merkely saw; some are in an abandoned Walmart with grotesque murals portraying the president on the walls. At least the Walmart prison has beds and schooling for the boys who live there. Some of the children have been put in foster care but are not allowed phone calls or any communication with their parents. And today, I’ve read that they’re opening up a “tent city” near El Paso to house still more immigrant children.
The tent city is designed to hold three hundred fifty migrant children, and those who run it say it can “expand or contract” to hold more. There are already about 100 children there. They are being kept outdoors, in a tent camp, in Texas, in the middle of summer, and the temperature is getting over 100 degrees every day. This camp was constructed so quickly that state representative Cesar Blanco is still trying to get a site tour to inspect it– nobody knows much about it except that it’s already up and running. Those who run it promise that the children will receive their vaccinations and will be there an average of 57 days.
People have protested that it’s normal for children to be taken into state custody if their parents are imprisoned, never mind that immigrant families were allowed to stay together in prison before and that the new policy makes Americans no safer. Besides this, the fact is, the children of American citizens who are taken away by the state go to foster care or group homes. They don’t go to special detention centers, let alone outdoor tent cities. These prisons are only for the children of Latino migrants, those who came to this country illegally and those who are here legally as asylum seekers under US Code 1158. They are there despite the fact that it’s likely to permanently damage their mental health and children of other kinds of criminals and non-criminals are not. They are here not for their protection but, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has specifically said, to “get this message out” and deter future Latino refugees. And that’s why it’s perfectly reasonable to bring up the topic of race, in this discussion.
There is another name for an outdoor prison where large numbers of prisoners of a minority race are concentrated together by the government without adequate care for their safety like this. Do you know what it is? It’s called a concentration camp. And before you cry “Godwin’s Law,” remember that I haven’t said anything about Nazis. the Nazis did not invent concentration camps. The United States used concentration camps in the exact same war. I’m simply saying that America is committing a crime that she has committed before, that has been committed many times in many different places, and it’s always wrong.
It’s so easy to get burned out and numbed by our own sense of helplessness in the face of such an evil– and it’s true, to a great extent we are helpless. But we can’t give up. We cannot become silent; we cannot allow this abuse to become normal. We have to continue to express our outrage, as our bishops have courageously begun to do.
You can find a list of local protest events happening near you at this link.
You can donate to the RAICES Family Reunification Bond, which is seeking to raise bond money to re-unify the separated families, here.
The Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, is seeking donations of all kinds for families who have already been released. They need diapers, flavored Pedialyte, toiletries, feminine hygeine products, shoes and clothes of all sizes, sealed snack foods, gift cards and phone cards, baby and toddler supplies such as bottles and wipes. You can find their complete wish list and how to donate here.
You can call your representatives and express your support for the passage of the Joint House/Senate Bill known as the Keep Families Together Act. The main switchboard for the Capitol is 202-224-3121. Keep calling.
In addition, it’s been said that two of the contractors for the concentration camps are MVM Incorporated and General Dynamics. MVM is calling itself “a trusted partner of ICE” and I really can’t think of a worse thing to call anyone. The emails for the General Dynamics PR team have been released to the public on twitter; they are:
Write a respectful letter to each of these letting them know how you feel about children detained in tent cities. It’ll only take a moment.
And, of course, we should all pray and do penance constantly for them and for everyone who is the victim of injustice. I went to Adoration to pray for the children yesterday, and I ask all of my Catholic readers to pray and intercede as much as they can.
I believe that this crisis will go down in history as a shameful crime committed by the United States– as shameful as the Japanese internment camps of World War Two. I am determined to fight it in any way I can. I beg my readers to join me in any capacity they’re able in speaking up and caring for these children who are being abused by our government in order to deter immigrants.
(image via Pixabay)