a lament

While I have been concentrating on family issues these last few months – and watching less news on television as the now-two-year-old ABC is more often alert in the evenings – there is always the undercurrent of disturbing news around me.

One of the worst of these issues is the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants by the Trump administration. Under U.S. and international law, people have the right to cross the border to ask for asylum. The administration has set up barriers to this, including restrictions at ports of entry, that have resulted in desperate attempts to cross rivers and/or deserts that have caused deaths.

Those who do manage to cross the border have been detained for long periods in overcrowded facilities without access to proper food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, communication, and legal aid. The most scandalous part of this has been the continuing separation of children from adult family members, resulting in thousands of so-called “unaccompanied minors”, some who are still infants and toddlers, who are only unaccompanied because they have been taken away from family members who brought them to the US and aren’t able to contact them or other adult family members already in the country. As if that weren’t bad enough, these children are being kept for extended periods of time in horrible conditions without proper care. This is in flagrant disregard of court orders, international law, and human decency.

These sorts of things are not supposed to happen under the rule of law and, if they do, the attorney general, as head of the justice department, should take legal action to ensure that these abuses stop and never happen again. However, this is not happening. Some judges have issued court orders, but they can’t make the Department of Homeland Security carry them out. Meanwhile, the president is holding rallies touting his tough stance at our southern border.

It’s all sickening.

I don’t know how this will end. I am hoping for the sake of the people being held that something will work to free them and care for them, now rather than later. My fear is that this disregard for our laws and for basic human rights will persist until there is a new president and cabinet. That will take much too long, though, with more suffering, deaths, and trauma inflicted on thousands and thousands of people in the meantime. It’s possible that the US could be sanctioned by the United Nations or an international court, but I doubt that would have any greater effect than the court orders of US judges.

There is no good way to end this post, other than to thank all the lawyers, social service agencies, faith communities, and local governments who are doing all they can to care for those being detained, for those who are released with no means to care for themselves or to travel, for those who are sick or hungry or thirsty, and for those who are frightened and confused and separated from their families while surrounded by people who do not speak their language. May their example of love, compassion, and human decency move those who are in power to change their ways.

Update:  I wrote this yesterday evening and woke up to see this post being shared on Facebook. It is very disturbing information about one of the for-profit companies running detention centers using US tax dollars; it lists sources.

Holy Innocents

On December 28th, the Catholic Church commemorates the Holy Innocents, the very young children who were killed by order of King Herod in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the birth of Jesus.

Today in the United States, I am mourning the death of two children who fled here with a parent, seeking safety and protection, but who died while detained by Customs and Border Protection.

The government is trying to blame the parents for bringing their children here, but these people were living in desperation and danger in Guatemala. They would not have risked coming to the United States if there had been any safe option in their home country. International and domestic law, as well as human decency, call on us to protect the vulnerable; the current administration has failed miserably and, when challenged in court and among the citizenry, has said that it will fix things, but then declared a new policy that violates those same laws in a slightly different way. (And for those who are grumbling that those seeking asylum need to enter the country through legal ports of entry, both US and international law recognize the right to ask for asylum without regard to means of entry. Also, the current administration has made it nearly impossible to enter through the legal ports of entry, which further endangers the already vulnerable.)

I am also remembering the many thousands of children and teens who have been separated from their families and placed in custody. While I am grateful that some have been reunited with family, others are still in detention. All of these children and young people will have life-long scars from the trauma of separation, sometimes without even having access to someone who speaks their language. Somehow, the US government assumes that all Central and South Americans speak Spanish, but many of the current asylum speakers come from remote areas where they speak an indigenous language, not Spanish. Imagine how terrifying it is to be separated from your family in a strange place where you can’t understand anything that is said to you.

I am grateful for the many volunteers who have come forward to help the migrants, offering material and legal aid, and for the millions who give to organizations that are helping to support these people and battle in court on their behalf.

There are also many people and organizations trying to get legal solutions in place. Several years ago, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill; although the House would likely have passed it as well, the Republican leadership would not put it up for a vote. Perhaps, with Democrats set to take over the majority in the House in January, there can be comprehensive immigration reform passed by both houses of Congress. Admittedly, it might have to pass by large margins, in case the president vetoes it, but I’m hoping that at least some reforms can be put in place.

The current situation must be resolved in a caring and positive way. I pray for strength, wisdom, and perseverance in this struggle for human dignity and decency.

 

marriage, family, and immigration

Millions and millions of people watched press coverage of the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Meghan, a United States citizen by birth, is now the Duchess of Sussex.

I am very happy for them as they begin their married life in the United Kingdom, but I am sad that British immigration law makes it so much more difficult for other non-citizen spouses to join their British counterparts. The complex immigration laws of the United Kingdom and the United States, both currently in flux under their current governments, are conspiring to keep ABC, my dual-citizen granddaughter, from being with both her parents for the majority of her first two years. She is always very excited to video-visit with her daddy when she is in residence with us and her mom here in the States, but it is, of course, not the same as being there in person.

Still, at least they can see each other and have access to a process that will enable them to be together long-term, unlike the families seeking asylum in the United States who are being subjected to new procedures by the Trump administration. Children as young as one year are being separated from their parent(s) and put into foster care. Unconscionably, some of the parents are being charged with human trafficking of their own children.  Such treatment of asylum seekers is both immoral and illegal under international law. I’m hoping that legal challenges filed on behalf of these families will find justice among federal judges, even though it is the Justice Department in Washington that has implemented these new draconian policies.

Update June 1:  This post gives more information and ways to speak out in defense of children and parents.