By Ashley Frechette and Brandon Jarvis
The nation is reeling from images and stories of children being held inside of a chain-link fence enclosure in a Texas warehouse. This is an image that sounds more like the plot of a Lifetime movie about children being kidnapped, not kids that came to the US seeking a safe haven. There are horrific stories of children being separated from their parents and relatives, heartbreaking images of distraught toddlers watching on while their parents are searched and detained, stories of children being taken “for a bath” only to be moved to a child detention center. Soul-crushing stories of flight attendants accompanying children being flown in cheap gray sweatsuits across the country, not quite understanding what is happening to them.
Imagine how terrifying it must be for a child to not only leave behind your home, but to also be ripped away from your family, not understanding the language well enough to communicate, and being passed off from place to place and treated like a prisoner. More and more reports of children learning how to change the diapers of strangers, scanning their barcodes for meals, and other atrocities that sound more like a dystopian novel than 21st century America.
An account from an attendant aboard a flight transferring 16 unaccompanied children who were taken from their parents at the border. If you can read this without crying or feeling sick, unfollow me. pic.twitter.com/Z487f7I14s
— feminist next door (@emrazz) June 17, 2018
Currently, the Trump administration is arguing that its family-separation policy:
– is a deterrent
– is biblically compliant
– is the Democrats’ fault
– does not exist.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 18, 2018
The current administration has been quick to pass the blame off onto Democrats and even the Bible, rather than admitting their own responsibility with their new zero-tolerance policy. Instead of treating each migrant as an individual, everyone is being treated as a criminal. False narratives about asylum laws have taken Twitter by storm, with uninformed individuals, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, claiming that people can apply for asylum before they enter the United States; (this is false, you must be on US soil in order to request asylum).
You cannot apply for asylum unless you are in the US. There is no visa allowing you to enter to apply for it. You have to figure out how to get inside to apply, ie crossing the border.
She is such a liar. https://t.co/LaMx23YDfQ
— rabia O’chaudry (@rabiasquared) June 18, 2018
We pulled this statement directly from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website: “You may only apply for asylum if you are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, you may ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or, if you are already in the United States, you may file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are here legally or illegally.”
Many Senators and Representatives have stated their disapproval. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, the two Democratic Virginia United States Senators, have shared images and stated their disapproval for the separation policies.
Former First Lady Laura Bush released an op-ed in the Washington Post railing against zero-tolerance, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse (R) posted on Facebook “This is wrong. Americans do not take children hostage, period.” Republican Jeb Bush tweeted: “Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. @realDonaldTrump should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.”
The real Trump Hotel. pic.twitter.com/PP6nIbzNQR
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) June 18, 2018
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) June 18, 2018
I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.https://t.co/he1uw1E96A
— Laura Bush (@laurawbush) June 18, 2018
Shelter workers are not allowed to touch, hold, or pick up the children who have been ripped from their parents and are being detained all alone. I can’t stop seeing my daughter in this story. I can’t believe we, as a country, are inflicting this pain upon children. https://t.co/08Gorob8Cg
— lauren kennedy (@laurenkennedyMA) June 17, 2018
Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. @realDonaldTrump should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers. https://t.co/OOjv0vNeVg
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) June 18, 2018
And yet, despite the many voices screaming for this to stop, the voices that are usually the loudest are silent. Notably absent from the conversation are Republicans – Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham, and Virginia’s own Dave Brat. Brat is the Representative from Virginia’s 7th district. He is facing a tough re-election bid in November to keep his job. Brat’s critics accuse him of being out of touch – this became apparent when the entire country is in the midst of debating the immigration policies at the border, and Brat published an op-ed about opioids on Monday afternoon.
Brat likes to say that he doesn’t participate in politics, only policy. “I take policy seriously; I’m not just trying to be a political hack.” But, he has failed to speak productively on the policy that the Trump administration has implemented until a simple tweet Monday night. He held the conservative party line tight: “I look forward to working with my colleagues on real policy solutions that address these issues. I will not engage in bantering and empty political rhetoric. So far, GOPs have made very generous compromise offers to Dems, but they have not been willing to show up and play ball”.
Brat continued on Twitter stating that the goal of keeping families together and the border secure are not mutually exclusive. Many critics of the policy agree, stating that families should be held together regardless and children shouldn’t be ripped from their parents arms in order to secure the border.
After publishing this article, Brat’s camp sent us the following quote: “If they are seeking asylum, these families can go to the proper point of entry to ensure they will not be separated.”
For Republicans who are so set on inserting their own personal beliefs on family and values into every other conversation, their silence speaks volumes. To the children and families suffering, the silence screams out that their suffering is not important and that America has turned its back on them. The silence tells those in power that it is OK to separate children from their families, despite what history has taught us to the contrary. Separating children from their families is not the answer to immigration and neither is feeding them into an already stretched-thin foster care system. We must do better as a nation to protect innocent children, and that includes speaking out against injustice.