Blame The Parents, Too, For The Kids In Cages
Americans have been rightfully horrified at the conditions for children of asylum seekers near the southern border. Reports of families torn asunder, squalid conditions, and lack of basic care have turned the stomachs of even some of the most fervid Trump supporters.
So whose fault is it?
Well, mostly the federal governments. Detention centers under both Obama and Trump have been inhumane institutions, and the system needs serious reform. The government has not needed to separate children from their families, but if family separation had to be the policy, the administration could have created conditions more like foster homes and summer camps than prisons and animal shelters. (RELATED: Cory Booker Helps Asylum Seekers Cross The Border From Juarez)
But the parents of those children also bear significant blame.
These migrants, mostly from countries like Honduras and Guatemala, certainly know full well by now the conditions that await them and their children. Yet they choose to come anyway.
And heres the key point: in decades past, would-be Americans were largely Mexicans quietly sneaking across the border. They were still putting their children at risk, including the possibility that they would someday be deported to a country they do not remember (see under: Dreamers). But they were hoping to avoid detection by the U.S. government and to blend into the underground world of illegal immigrants.
LOS EBANOS, TEXAS – JULY 02: A U.S. Border Patrol agent interviews immigrants after taking them into custody on July 02, 2019 in Los Ebanos, Texas. Hundreds of immigrants, most from Central America, turned themselves in to border agents after rafting across the Rio Grande from Mexico to seek political asylum in the United States. They were then to be sent to a Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, Tx. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Thats not true anymore. Todays would-be Americans are asylum seekers. They cross the border and immediately turn themselves in to Customs and Border Protection officers asking for refuge in the United States. They know perfectly well that the United States separates the families of asylum seekers. Reports of suffering children whose parents are awaiting asylum have been reported in Spanish media as much as in English media for months. And yet they still deliver themselves and their families to U.S. authorities.
Thats a choice. And its unconscionable.
Saying parents are complicit is not “blaming the victim.” The victim in this case is not the parent; its the child – who is completely innocent. Any reasonable comparison of who suffers worse – parents seeking asylum or their children – would conclude its the children. Thats the group that is worst-off, feeling abandoned by those they love and barely getting their physical needs met, much less their emotional needs.
Children of asylum seekers dont understand the geopolitics of immigration. They dont know what a refugee is or the long odds of being granted asylum. They dont know the evolution of border policy from Obama to Trump. They just know they have limited access (in some cases) to showers and hot food, and that they miss their parents.
The asylum-seekers are, therefore, not families facing the perils of illegal immigration as a team. They are parents facing agreeing to face discomfort while their children experience something closer to torture.
Yet the shared responsibility of parents and government is virtually never heard among critics of the border crisis. Charles Blows New York Times column “Its the Cruelty, Stupid” had no recognition that cruelty comes from the family as well as the government. USA Today penned an editorial lambasting the Trump administration and gently critiquing the Democrats for not helping, either. But the role of parents was unmentioned.
Politicians are hardly better. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps the loudest voice against the border conditions, could make a big difference in stemming the tide of suffering children if she would address would-be migrants – in English and Spanish – “Im going to try to make the system more humane so your children dont suffer while you wait a response to your asylum application. But in the meantime, dont come.”
MCALLEN, TEXAS – JULY 02: A U.S. Border Patrol medic treats an immigrant for heat exRead More – Source