The story is heart-stopping, seemingly beyond belief. Recent headlines have shifted to other pressing concerns—coronavirus, a staggering economy, racial injustice, election integrity—and away from the plight of children separated from their parents at our southern border. But like a low-grade fever that threatens long-term health, this continuing crisis festers, defying any sense of justice in a civilized society.
According to court documents, Thousands of families were separated under the policy before the Trump administration ended the practice in 2018. The ACLU successfully sued the government, winning a court order to reunite families. Many parents and children were reunited within weeks. But, in a document filed this week by the ACLU, lawyers say that the parents of 545 children in this group are still missing, three years later.
About 1,000 families who had been separated in a pilot program in 2017 were not covered by the initial court order. Reunification of this group was ordered only last year. The passage of time has made finding both parents and children more difficult.
“What has happened is horrific,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NPR, “Some of these children were just babies when they were separated. Some of these children may now have been separated for more than half their lives.” Many of the parents were deported. Because of complications due to the pandemic and the amount of time that has elapsed, these parents have yet to be found, let alone identified and enabled to be reunited with their children.
How can this be? Use your imagination and focus on one single child. Imagine the agony. The sadness. The fear. A little child—perhaps not even yet school age—torn from her parents. Living in a strange place. Not knowing the language or what the future holds. This is beyond cruel. How can a so-called civilized nation allow this to happen? How can a government be so callous as to not expend every effort to restore these families in order to make them whole? How have we as a society allowed ourselves to be so distracted by other concerns that we have let the plight of separated children disappear from our collective consciousness?
We are two weeks from the election and each new day unveils incidents more heinous than the last. This story, hidden beneath the flood of other incidents, is yet another clarion call to vote. We must restore empathy and compassion to the halls of government. We must hold accountable those who are in authority. And we must assume our own complicity in the horrors we have perpetrated. Only in so doing, can we move forward with justice and dignity for all.
In last week’s post, The Handmaid’s Justice, I called on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to follow the example found in the words of Mary, Mother of Jesus and referred to in Luke’s Gospel as “God’s handmaid.” The post drew strong reaction, perhaps best articulated by my daughter Kierra. As a serial blogger, I am thrilled that my post drew such strong reactions, including from those who disagree. As a father, I am especially proud that Kierra is able to communicate with such impassioned clarity. For those who saw my post before her entry, or for those who make it a habit not to read the comments, I share Kierra’s words:
Having just binged watched three seasons of the “The Handmaid’s Tale” everything about this reference makes me uneasy. I am uneasy that Judge Barrett ever had the title of handmaid. I am also uneasy about the summary of Atwood’s book stating that fertile women “hold a favored place” in that society. In fact the women are consistently beaten and raped and have their children stolen from them in order to keep them in line and keep them reproducing. Most of all, I am very uncomfortable with any glorification of the idea of handmaid… a woman who bears someone else’s child through no choice of her own. Whether that is God’s child, or some powerful man who has a barren wife. (As a Christian, and as a woman, I do struggle with the story of Mary.) With regard to Barrett’s religion or spirituality, as a judge she shouldn’t be driven by either. She should not be driven by her faith, but by the law, by precedent, by ethics, by science, by logic and by evidence. The fact that today she claimed that “climate change” is a “controversial topic” when it is all but proven, shows that she is not ready to be guided by reality or science. In fact is more likely that she will indeed be a handmaid of the court. She may not have to hand over her womb, but rather her vote. She will be guided by the conservative men who head the chamber, just as the women in the People of Praise are expected to defer to the men that head their household. And yes, that could lead to a great many people, losing their rights, putting us one more step along the path of Atwood’s novel, which suddenly does not seem so far-fetched.