Immigrant children are seen at a tent city in Tornillo, Texas, June 18. CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters

Editorial: Stop the madness

  • June 19, 2018

If mercy and justice prevail, by the time this editorial is being read the American government will have reversed its immoral practice of separating migrant children from parents and sending children to separate detention centres.

This has been U.S. practice since May, when the U.S. Justice Department introduced a “zero tolerance policy” for migrants. The children of border-crossers are now taken and placed in locked enclosures as their parents are handcuffed and led away. Approximately 11,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents are currently being held in government shelters, according to government statistics. Ghastly and inhumane hardly begin to describe the situation.

To inflict suffering on children for any reason is reprehensible. To do so for political purposes is contemptible. Intended to deter illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, this policy is inflicting a cruel punishment and emotional pain on innocent, no doubt frightened, children who are torn from parents, often for several weeks at a time. These families have already endured trauma, their lives upturned in long journeys north, often from Central America, in desperate bids to start a new life. To pry away children at the border and secure them in temporary pens is beneath a great nation. 

There are about 100 of these child warehouses. A U.S. senator who visited one facility likened it to a human kennel. An reporter visited a centre and saw hundreds of children locked in fenced-off areas that resemble large cages with few toys, books or anything much to calm or occupy an agitated child. A CNN report included heart-rending audio of children wailing and pleading for their mothers and fathers.

This merciless treatment has ignited a justifiable uproar among leaders from across faith, political and civil communities. The United Nations human rights office called it “a serious violation of the rights of the child” and urged that the policy be scrapped. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to its credit, has been particularly vocal. Earlier this month, the bishops denounced a new initiative to prosecute every adult who crosses the border without proper documents, including even those making a legal claim for refugee status. These adults, without exception, are now treated as criminals, separated from their children and jailed.

“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the American bishops’ conference, told a meeting of fellow bishops. “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. 

“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

The room was said to have erupted in applause. It should have been a standing ovation. 

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