Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy Hurts the Most Vulnerable

Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy Hurts the Most Vulnerable July 25, 2018

For weeks the media has covered the detainment of immigrant children due to Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. Political pundits have weighed in on their support or displeasure with this policy.

A recent headline about a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome detained made headlines. Front in center of this conversation is Trump’s former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski.

The media had a field day with the response. Headline after headline is dissecting the offensive nature of his complicit and flippant response to Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas detailing the separation of the 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome from her parents.

Corey’s response, “Womp, Womp.”


People are livid, people are disgusted, I get it. I’m angry, livid and unhappy too. However, I want to put a pause button on this misdirection of anger and put back into focus that little girl that is sitting in that camp.

In the rhetoric of highlighting his horrible response, we forget about this little girl and likely dozens if not hundreds of other children with disabilities in these centers.

Due to the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy, there are thousands of children separated from their parents. Many of these children also have disabilities.

My perspective may be different than those that want to fling mud at the Republicans for harboring such barbaric thoughts and feelings toward other humans. I don’t want to throw mud; I want to advocate and build awareness for those children.

My son is five years old. He could be just like that little 10-year-old. He is has a neuro-developmental disability, that makes him a vulnerable child, easily influenced, and easily manipulated.

My son doesn’t know a stranger, and it’s a terrifying place to live as a parent.

Every single person he meets is immediately his friend. My son cannot decipher between someone with good intentions or someone hell-bent on doing evil. In his world all people are good. As a parent, I spend a lot of time helping him learn the difference between the two.

My child also can’t identify social queues, read body language, or process new information quickly. These attributes are typical of children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

For many of these children, it takes them more extended periods of time to understand new information, more explanation is required, and a lot of consistent messaging.

None of that can be done by strangers.

My heart is breaking thinking of her parents ripped from her. They know her better than anyone else. Over the course of 10 years, her parents have learned her body language, her voice inflections, and her non-verbal queues to identify confusion and stress.

Strangers meeting her would never, ever know how to reach her, understand her needs, and communicate with her in a way her mother could do.

She has likely spent much of her life with her family, sheltered and cared for with very delicate hands. They have defended her from bullies, violence, and exploitation that is common for children with intellectual disabilities.

Her entire world has completely flipped upside down. Due to her disability, she may not be able to express her fear, anxiety, and confusion about what is going on.

If I transplant my child into that situation, I imagine my son crying, screaming, and having no means to understand why he wasn’t with me. My son has never spent a night away from his parents in his entire life. Which is not an uncommon situation for children with disabilities.

Most parents, like me, don’t have people knocking down our doors to take our kids overnight. More importantly, most people are not equipped to take on the responsibility and manage the extra needs that our children require.

This little girl now is in a detention center, away from anyone she knows and has no one that can advocate for her care. My heart breaks a little bit more. I think about her struggling to find the proper words, or trying to find a way to communicate what she needs.

She doesn’t know the language. The food she is served is different than the food from home. At night she sleeps with an aluminum-foil blanket instead of her favorite blanket or stuffed toy.

My heart is in pieces thinking about the tears that are dripping down her face. She can’t understand where her parents have gone. Everything around her is happening at such fast speeds. She can’t get people to slow down to help her understand.

Her voice is either screaming in pain or quiet due to complete terror. Her entire world of routine, repetition, and consistency was stripped away from her.

She’s raw, alone, and has nothing but that aluminum foil blanket on a cold concrete floor.

That could be my son. My son could be alone, desperate for someone to hear him, but not having the skills or cognitive abilities to communicate or advocate for his needs appropriately.

He would be more susceptible to manipulation and abuse, and more likely than any of the other kids to pumped up with drugs to keep him quiet and subdued.

Instead of focusing on flippant remarks by insensitive politicians and their staff, we need to remember at the heart of that story is a human rights violation against a vulnerable child with a disability. I don’t care what anyone says on either side of the aisle.

I’m the mother of THAT child, and I know how horrifying this experience is for the family. The agony, disgust, and illness her mother must be experiencing is more than I can even bare.

My stomach crawls into my throat; my heart drops to my knees, and tears stream down my face. That child is vulnerable, scared, and alone

Her mother is desperate to get to her, to hold her, to comfort her, and to help her feel safe.

Yet, there is a bureaucratic roadblock that has decided her mother’s misdemeanor offense is worth detaining them. A misdemeanor that likely carries little to no jail time and a fine.

In worst cases, this girl might be left here in the United States while her mom is deported. My heart breaks for her and all the families in this same position.

Republicans don’t want us to feel bad for her because,”Her mom broke the law.”

What you don’t understand is her mom likely fled her country to get her out of a cartel infested country with limited economic opportunities, violence, and horrible exploitation of children.

She may have come here for better medical care, therapy, or resources to help her daughter have a better life.

They were looking to us to offer hope and salvation, but we stuck them in cages like rats.

I could be her mom. Had my son been born there, I could be running here for help too. When your child has significant needs whether developmentally or medically, you will do whatever it takes to get them the help they need.

Sometimes that means making impossible choices that might be against the law.

But her mom is not a criminal; she’s a parent that wants to give her child a chance to thrive. She wants her child to have a chance.

Her mom knows the violence and wars could kill them all. She knows her daughter is at higher risk for sexual assault than other girls her age.

She knows how fragile her life is in her home country. This mother broke the law to give her child a chance.

Our country has failed her mother. We have failed her. We have failed all children, but most importantly we have failed the most vulnerable people in our society. This isn’t the America I love.

This is criminal.

This is inhumane.

We must stop this.

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