The article was small, hardly noticeable in TGI (June 16, 2018) informing us about the current action of the Department of Homeland Security, namely about separating minors from their parents when they entered the United States illegally. During a six-week period this April and May 1995 minors were separated from their parents. The parents will undergo criminal prosecution, but there is no word about the future faith of the children.
The official reasoning given was that the children were separated because they are not being charged with a crime. Well, it sounds legal, but deep in its core it is inhuman. Inhuman big time! Why? Because the children get the harshest punishment.
Do those dumb officials know how the children feel when they are taken away from their children to strangers that they have never seen and they don’t even know if they will ever see their parents again? Apparently not, or they don’t care. And finally, their justification: “U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents.”
It does not say though that they have to be separated. They can be confined with their parents without being detained. It will not be pleasant for them, but more pleasant than the forceful separation.
I would put the protocol makers for a day in a large room with a loudspeaker to blast the recorded screaming of the 1995 children when they were separated, so that these protocol makers realize the effect of this unusual harsh punishment inflicted on the children and their parents.
OK, let’s look at this realistically. Refugees leave their home usually by entering the destination or transit country illegally. I did the same thing in 1972 with my wife and 2 children. We left Hungary and entered West Germany illegally. According to international law after apprehension those entering the country have to be questioned about their reasons or motives. The German officers did it but did not separate our children from us.
We were taken to a refugee camp where the adults were separated by sex for the night, but the children remained with their mothers. This was only a temporary solution for two nights until they could find one room for our family with a shared bathroom with an Indian family who were in an adjacent room.
In the meantime, the court has rendered its decision in our case in three days and we were granted political asylum and could go wherever we wanted. And all families were handled this way in the large refugee camp. Then an agency helped me to find a job in the country where housing was also an option for proper pay of the rent. Keeping children with their parents was always a high priority.
Later, while already living in the United States I traveled extensively visiting refugee camps in other countries too, but while the laws in those countries are different the refugees’ children are kept with their parents. It is the same thing in Thailand, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Uganda, Austria and so on. It is much less problem and definitely much less liability for the authorities.
Put yourselves in the shoes of the mother whose hysterically crying child is ripped out of her arms. Let’s see, how you feel? Awful? Yes, I bet, if you are normal. While the parents might be charged for illegal entry the final decision is up to a judge who has to consider not only the circumstances objectively, but also the best interest of the children.
Any forceful separation of minors from their parents before that is a harsh, unusual and cruel punishment that even the U.S. Constitution prohibits. In addition, it is a gross violation of international human rights.
The judge may decide to send them back to the country where they came from, but together with their children.
This issue seems to have a strange relevance to a recent case where in April, a top official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told Congress that HHS had lost track of 1475 minors who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.
This news has raised concerns that HHS has not taken the proper precautions to protect these migrant children in government custody from abuse and human trafficking. An ACLU report in May revealed that immigrant children suffer “pervasive abuse” while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Following the ACLU report, these missing migrant children got new attention from a social media campaign #WhereAreTheChildren. The Office of Refugee Resettlement tried to come up with an excuse that losing track does not mean that the 1475 children are missing, just they cannot find them. Hack of a good prospect for the new separations!
According to media reports there is a serious problem in the United States with child trafficking and child abuse. The issue of forceful child separation and the inability of the government to account for missing children placed into its custody may have a strong connotation to child trafficking.
If other countries can manage keeping refugee children with their parents why the United States is unable, or rather unwilling to do it? Why are they not following other countries’ examples? No solution? It is unacceptable. Where is the public uproar? Where is the American compassion? Where is the American ingenuity to find solution? You can send people to the Moon, but cannot find a solution for this simple issue?
You have a US Ambassador to the United Nation, Nikki Haley who has been threatening the UN with the United States’ pull-out from the UN International Human Rights Commission because the overwhelming majority of member countries is condemning Israel for their violent handling of Gaza protesters. Ambassador Haley save your breath!
And stop babysitting Israel! They are big enough to take care of their own affairs. Concentrate on the local human rights disasters.
By the way there is no need to pull out. If the U.S. government is not acting on this child separation issue right away, the UN Human Rights Commission should expeditiously expel the United States from its Human Rights Commission for its gross violation of international human rights. But first of all, stop this crime and change that damn protocol to also serve the best interest of the children!
János Keoni Samu is a resident of Kalaheo.