Parents of separated children: Bad moms and dads, or heroic?

A recent poll suggests a majority of Americans support the “zero tolerance” policy that separates children (ages 5 years old and up) from parents who cross our Southern boarders illegally, rather that through recognized processing centers.

What sort of parent would do it — purposely separate their child from themselves, even at the risk of never seeing them again, of their being taken by someone, or exploited? A desperate one.

The Trump Administration’s separation policy may not be the deterrent he believes it will be, as the parents interviewed by the New York Times admit:

When Luis Cruz left behind his wife, four of their children and the house he’d built himself, he’d heard that American officials might split him from his son, the one child he took with him. But earlier this month, the two of them set out from Guatemala anyway.

The truth, he said this week, moments after they arrived at a cream-colored migrant shelter in Tucson, was that he would rather be apart from his child than face what they had left behind. “If they separate us, they separate us,” said Mr. Cruz, 41. “But return to Guatemala? This is something my son cannot do.”

Why don’t these parents, who have sometimes traveled thousands of miles on foot to get to America, not simply taking the extra time (or extra steps) necessary to find our processing centers and enter legally? I can’t answer that. Perhaps some of them are too exhausted; perhaps they don’t know where, exactly, they are; perhaps some have faced danger on the way and simply want an end to the journey, but any means necessary.

Across the border in the Mexican town of Nogales, many parents preparing to cross the border said temporary separation from their children in the United States would be better than facing the violence back home.

“I’d rather accept that, to know that my son is safe,” said Lisbeth de la Rosa, 24, who was waiting in line to enter the United States with her 4-year-old son.

“It’s worth it,” said Lidia Rodríguez-Barrientos, 36, standing with her 9-year-old daughter. “Why? Because we’re afraid to go back.”

What parents will do for love for their children can surprise us. During WWII, Jewish parents would obtain fake birth certificates for their children, along with Christian baptismal certificates, and allow others — often strangers — to take their children away, rather than see them subjected to horrors. Did that make them bad parents?

Sometimes parents do almost unthinkable and risky things to protect their children, because the risk seems the lesser of two evils. And then, are they bad parents, or are they heroic? I’m betting 20 years from now their children will tell you they were heroic.

What about the mom who, attempting to save her son, put him into a basket and set him upon a river, where anything could have happened — he could have drowned; a crocodile could have killed him; he could be stolen away. Was she a bad mother, who set Moses into the bulrushes? Irresponsible parent or heroine?

I’ve been listening to “no amnesty” people tell me for years that their grandparents, “came through Ellis Island the way they were supposed to…”

Well sure, so did mine. That’s because Ellis Island existed; programs and processes were in place and (if you could survive the ocean voyage) easily accessed in New York and in Boston. Had programs not been in place, and accessible, though, I’m pretty sure my dirt-poor Irish people, my underemployed Scots ancestors and the truly endangered Sicilians would have come here, anyway. They’d have come in over the Long Island Sound, or through New Jersey.

They would certainly have come, even under great risk. And we’d call them heroic for it.

America doesn’t make it easy to be come a naturalized citizen, anymore. It takes a very long time to “do it right” and some people come here not realizing that. Or they don’t know how much time they have to survive where they are.

Comprehensive immigration reform needs to happen. Grandfathering in people who have peaceably lived here for a while needs to happen. But I’m a broken record on this.

As to the rest of it. The Times article again:

For years, children and parents caught crossing the nation’s southern border have been released into the United States while their immigration cases were processed, the result of a hard-fought legal settlement designed to keep children from spending long months in federal detention.

Supposedly Trump’s EO returns us to this practice which, while more humane, it is still an imperfect solution. People often do not show up for their court dates, and so “illegal” immigrants remain “illegal” because they are never processed. Instead of helping these immigrants to become full citizens, the “capture and release” plan traps families forever between two worlds and makes assimilation, education, employment — everything about the future — more difficult for them, and for the country, too.

There has to be a better way, but no one in government seems prepared to truly explore more expedient, humane, and efficient ways to process not just these desperate immigrants seeking asylum, but all of them.

Image:

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2018-06-23T23:11:46+00:00

One Comment

  1. John Donaghy June 23, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Thank you for this. I live and work as a permanent deacon in a rural parish in Honduras. I know some of the people who try to enter the US – out of desperation and the lack of opportunity for their families. Keep up the truth and pray for us and for the people we serve here.

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