On July 28th, 2010 hundreds of children will march in front of the White House in Washington D.C., in Los Angeles in front of the Federal Building, and in Mexico City at the US Embassy. They march to deliver a letter to President Obama and to protest the tragic situation of children being taken from their undocumented parents following deportation.
The children who are separated from their parents often end up in the foster care system. Once in this system, it becomes almost impossible for the parents to get them back because of language difficulties, legal status, resources, and understanding how to negotiate the complex system.
In an effort to provide a better life, these parents lose the most important and precious thing in the world to them and all because they wanted to a life free from destitution and poverty. We’ve come a long way from Emma Lazarus’ “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” written in 1883.
Knowing that this is the immigration policy that the U.S. is enforcing, there are those who may not comprehend how parents could take such a high risk to lose their children by working here without the proper documentation.
Well, imagine you live in a community that has suffered tremendous financial hardships, particularly since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has obliterated the local corn market because it couldn’t compete against the government subsidized corn imports from the U.S. Your main source of income is gone. Your children wear clothes made out of old flour sacks, they don’t have shoes on their feet, they don’t go to school, and they rarely eat meat. You’ve started giving your six-year old coffee to fill him up. They cry from hunger and when they get sick there is nothing you can do. The only answer seems to be to work in the U.S. Your options are to either leave your young children behind knowing full well that by the time you return they will not even remember who you are, or you to take them with you. You don’t fully understanding that if you get deported, the cost is that you might lose them forever.
If we put ourselves in this position, not many of us could sit back and watch our children suffer hunger and destitution without doing something, anything to ease their suffering and improve their lives. This is why so many parents risk everything, leave everything, and come to work in the US.
When did separating very young children from their parents because of deportation policies become American values? Most people cannot imagine the destructive long-term consequences these policies are having on immigrant families—for years. It should take far more severe than trying to earn a living even while working without the proper documentation to justify the government separating parents from their young children. The act of dividing families, particularly families of color, reveals a dark side of America—one we have seen before with black slave children removed from parents and sold off like if they weren’t even humans and with Indian children who were removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools to teach them how to be white people. Americans justified these atrocious acts in the past and we are doing it again. Will people of color, especially the poor and the most vulnerable, ever be seen and treated as human beings in this country by most people? If they were surely these policies would not be sustainable.
Something must be done that both (1) keeps the children with their parents, and (2) ensures the children’s rights as U.S. citizens in the future should they be deported with their parents. Immigration laws must be changed in ways outlined by Michele Wucker, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School in New York City, who states, “The population of immigrants who are in this country without legal papers did not grow to more than 10 million people without America’s full participation in the legal charade.”
Until the Obama administration or the Congress have the guts to fix our immigration system, the most compassionate means of enforcement need to be found. And it cannot and should not involve the kinds of family tragedies that take children away from their parents.