On the same day that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed that “we've taken steps and we will continue to strengthen what our partners do to protect” migrant kids they’ve torn from their parents, the Washington Post reported that “the Trump administration is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases.” We are lying to ourselves if we see this as anything but what it really is—internment camps for brown children.
Donald Trump and his administration have been escalating their brutal war on migrant kids, and the children of immigrants, since he took the oath of office. In the interior, families are being broken as thousands of immigrant parents, many with no criminal record at all, are being swept up by mass deportation agents. But at the border, the cruelty is taking on a new brutality, now that tearing kids from the arms of migrant parents is official U.S. policy. It’s also the tactic of totalitarian regimes:
Last weekend, independent Russian-language media published hundreds of photographs from protests that preceded Monday’s inauguration of Vladimir Putin, who has claimed the office of President for the fourth time. In many of the pictures, Russian police were detaining children: primarily, preteen boys were having their arms twisted behind their backs by police, being dragged and shoved into paddy wagons. According to OVDInfo, a Web site that has been tracking arrests since anti-Putin protests began, six and a half years ago, a hundred and fifty-eight minors were detained by police during the protests, accounting for just less than ten per cent of the day’s arrests.
Now, locking up the children of migrant parents in warehouses like livestock may also become official policy of the U.S., with, as pointed out by GQ, no indication of when this internment will end or “even if it would in fact be temporary.”
Almost as disturbing as the imprisonment of kids on military bases is the dead silence from so-called “family values,” “pro-kids” Republicans, the same people who never fail to support unconstitutional, anti-abortion bills, yet, when a brown child is locked up, alone and afraid, they’re missing in action. All lives matter, except when they don’t. Your racism is showing, guys.
The fact is, tearing children from their parents is child abuse, and it is traumatic. According to research, “children who have been separated from their parents frequently show signs of trauma, including anxiety, depression, frequent crying, disrupted eating and sleeping, and difficulties in school.” Current detention facilities are already ill-equipped to handle grown adults—what’s going to happen to thousands of kids who will be living every day in crisis?
“We’re witnessing a shameful mix of incompetency, inhumanity, and basic cruelty,” said Pili Tobar of immigrant rights group America’s Voice. “Kids belong with their parents, not alone and on military bases, and our country deserves better than the leaders behind this shameful vision being implemented in our names. The policy of separate and lose must stop—stop separating children from their parents.”
We have to ask ourselves, what kind of nation have we become that the internment of children isn’t round-the-clock news? What kind of nation have we become that this is even happening in the U.S. in the first place, in 2018? What kind of nation have we become that our elected leaders are doing nothing about it and turning a blind eye to potentially thousands of brown kids who “will languish alone, indefinitely”? This is who Trump is, but it doesn’t mean that’s who we are.