A time for decency

Forced separation of young children from their parents for several weeks and counting. Warehoused youngsters in buildings with few amenities and little or no communication with their moms and dads, who had disappeared. Traumatized kids who were told one thing and discovered another about their immediate future.

This in the United States of America 2018. This to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

This is not what Americans voted for in 2016.

As of a week ago, the federal government had reunited 57 of the 103 migrant children under the age of 5 who a court had ordered be no longer separated from their parents.

But the government deemed the remaining 46 toddlers “ineligible” for reunification for one reason or another: their parents were accused of crimes (other than illegal border crossing), or had a communicable disease. Most heartbreaking of all, parents of 12 of the youngsters had already been deported and were extremely hard to locate back in their home country.

So those 46 young kids are in foster care or some other facility, some of them hundreds of miles from the border and their frantic parents. It’s unknown if they will ever see them again.

And close to another 3,000 children from Mexico and Central America from ages 6 to 17 remain separated from their families. The government is supposed to reunite them by July 26, according to the court. That’s next Wednesday. Anyone willing to bet that will happen?

It’s not as though it’s unheard of here. Slaveowners routinely separated and sold slave children. Native American children were often separated from their families in the days of Western expansion.

It’s easy to say the brutal treatment of Latino families is not like that. But it’s not all that different. The Trump Administration, it turns out, had no particular plan to reunite the families once they were separated. Unbelievable.

Bruce Turkel, a Fox News consultant, resigned three weeks ago because Fox’s position on the government’s policy “is too heinous for me to accept,” he wrote in an open letter to the network.

He cited statements by various Fox spokespeople that the crying children were “child actors,” that they were part of a “rolling invasion” of the U.S., that they were better off in cages than with their parents, and that locking them away was like “sending the kids to camp.”

Turkel ended his letter with “no one will even know I’m not on Fox anymore. But you will know. And I will know too. I quit.”

Kathy and I attended the memorial service for former Iowa Governor Bob Ray in Des Moines last Friday. Among those present was a delegation from Iowa’s Southeast Asian community, who have called Ray their savior.

Acting out of compassion, Governor Ray in the 1970s opened our state to thousands of refugees from the Vietnam War and its aftermath. They’ve enriched Iowa economically and culturally. Ray had to travel to Washington to persuade the federal government to increase its refugee quota for the second group of refugees who came to the state. In so doing he saved thousands of lives.

The memorial service was moving and heartfelt. But it was sad to sit there and contrast Bob Ray’s Christian love in action in the 1970s with the brutality of the U.S. government in 2018. Thousands of the Latino immigrants are seeking asylum, the same cause of the Southeast Asians.

This isn’t a time for politics.

It’s a time for decency.

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