When I told my 9-year-old about the children who were being separated from their parents when they came to America seeking asylum, his response was “This is happening in America?”
This thought has crossed my mind many times over the past few weeks, too. In a country that supposedly places a high value on families, it’s inconceivable that children were not only separated from their parents after arriving in the U.S. after escaping violent, life-threatening conditions, but then they were shipped to other parts of the country and, according to a federal judge, “the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children. The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”
How can this be?
According to the New York Times, despite a federal judge’s order requiring that parents are reunited within 30 days, more than 2,000 children remain scattered across 17 states and their parents have also been sent to detention centers around the country. When I did some research to find out if there is any updated information this week, I came upon a report from CNN that said that the government is refusing to release updated information about how many children still remain in government custody.
On June 20, the Department of Health and Human Services said there were 2,053 children from separated families in its care. On June 26, the agency said there were 2,047 such children.
Why haven’t officials released updated figures since then? According to HHS, it’s because the number of immigrant children in the agency’s care is always in flux — and because they are working with other agencies to cross-check the numbers they have.
Federal officials have released updated statements revealing the total number of immigrant children in their care — a figure that includes children who crossed the border alone and children who were separated from their families after crossing. But since June 26, they’ve refused to specify how many kids from separated families remain in custody.Here’s why that particular statistic matters: It’s the only figure officials have provided that gives us any indication of whether reunions are happening.
It’s horrifying to know that this is happening here in America. I can’t help but juxtapose the images of families joyfully traveling with their children on their summer vacations on the same airline flights as young children traveling alone to shelters or foster homes, scared because they were separated from their parents and don’t understand English or what’s happening to them. Some of their parents have already been deported and it’s unclear whether they even know where their children are.
I understand that immigration is a complicated issue and that there’s a danger that the children came across the border with adults who were not their parents. Many children are victims of human trafficking and government officials have said that it takes time to vet whether the adults that came over the border with children are actually their parents.
But these facts make it no less horrifying when you hear of the families who have escaped violence in their home countries to find refuge in America and then their children – including babies and toddlers who can’t speak yet – are taken away from them and sent across the country indefinitely. How is this trauma going to affect these poor children? The reports about the children crying out for their parents and sobbing inconsolably in shelters is so unimaginably heartbreaking.
I can’t even imagine what these parents are going through and I feel so sheltered and spoiled to have the opportunity to be with my children this summer. When they fight and I long for a few moments of solitude, then I feel a tremendous wave of guilt for thinking that way because of all the parents who are aching for their children and long to hold them one more time.
Today America celebrates freedom and I hear fireworks outside that mark the celebration as my children sleep in the next room. I pray that the parents who are separated from their children will soon be reunited with them and will experience freedom as well.