With all the Kavanaugh drama happening, and the terrifying likelihood that the judiciary will be the third branch of government to fall into conservative Republican hands by ill-gotten means, it's easy to forget about the thousands of immigrant children living under lock and key in our nation.
DefineAmerican.com's creator, Jose Antonio Vargas has not forgotten this - he hasn't the luxury, as he is himself an undocumented citizen living in the U.S. Joy Reid discussed his new book about his own experience being separated from his mother in order to travel to the U.S.
REID: And you and I had a great conversation about this book not too long ago in Brooklyn. And I asked you to read a passage which is probably my favorite passage in the book because it is so poignant as to what the separation of a mother and the child really feels like. And I'm going to read a little bit of it now, and it's from the chapter called "Gamblers." It says, "After handing me a brown jacket with a made in the USA label on its collar, a Christmas gift from her parents in California, the grandparents I would soon be living with, my mom said matter-of-factly (and I'm probably going to mangle this) 'Baka malaming doon.' ('It might be cold there.') It was the last thing I remember her saying." That parting from your mom is so poignant and searing in the book and I think that people forget that there is a lot of pain involved in a parent separating from their child and a child being separated in this way.
VARGAS: That's actually the reason why I ended up writing the book the way that I did. Right? I didn't want to write about politics and policy, I wanted to write about the psychology of all of this, like what does it mean to be separated from your family? In my case my mom for 25 years. This morning when I got up here in San Francisco, I was reading the New York Times report about the 3,800 kids that are lock up in a tent in South Texas. And the question for me, what are we doing? What are we doing? Like we're locking kids up in tents because why again? Why are we locking them up, why are they separated from their parents? And so we talk so much about this issue in such a partisan way, that I think, for me, at least, as you know traveling across the country, I think we've lost, kind of, the mental health part of all of this. Like, what is the emotional toll and cost that is happening not only to the parents and the kids. I'm a 37-year-old man and being put in an airport and staying good-bye to my mom was something that I did not think would haunt me as a 37-year-old man, but it has been traumatic in that way.
According to the New York Times report, undocumented children currently living in foster homes or shelters are being moved suddenly, and in the middle of the night (to deter escape attempts) to their new homes in tents in the desert of West Texas. In the foster homes and shelters, they had schooling, medical care and oversight. In the tent cities, they only will if they are lucky.
The roughly 100 shelters that have, until now, been the main location for housing detained migrant children are licensed and monitored by state child welfare authorities, who impose requirements on safety and education as well as staff hiring and training.
The tent city in Tornillo, on the other hand, is unregulated, except for guidelines created by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, schooling is not required there, as it is in regular migrant children shelters.
These kids are lost in a system whereby in order to get out of the shelters, they must be placed with sponsors — usually family members. Those family members, however, are often undocumented themselves, and are rightly fearful of stepping forward to claim the children because they might be arrested. The ICE officials and harsh Administration's policies (recently proven to be policy, despite the lies of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to the contrary) are indeed threatening the safety of potential sponsors for these children who are here.
Matthew Albence, a senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Congress just last week that they are arresting people who come forward to sponsor immigrant children if they are not themselves here legally. He further testified that 70% of the people ICE arrested did not have criminal records. Let me say that again. Seventy percent of the people ICE arrested DID. NOT. HAVE. CRIMINAL. RECORDS.
And yet, the Trump administration and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the Third would rather see these children woken up in the middle of the night from their beds, taken from homes where they may have developed relationships and a semblance of normalcy, shuffled onto busses for a cross-country drive to a desert, where they will now live in a tent with 19 other children, many of whom they don't know, and in under-regulated conditions, and potentially abusive adults in charge.
So, how, HOW, exactly are these children supposed to cope under conditions such as these? Can anyone blame them for trying to flee?