Watched the documentary on Fred Rogers over the weekend, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" It was all about children, of course, and it strikes me now that even the title is ironic in the light of the current news. Did you know Mr. Rogers was the reason our children are now spoiled brats? That was a small part of the story, but it stuck with me. I could have sworn that was Benjamin Spock's fault and my generation that suffered, but no, Fred Rogers did it to the next generation past the Boomers. That, at least, was a vogue for awhile. Mr. Rogers wanted children to know they were loved, and apparently that made them weaklings. There's something painfully American in that criticism, and something entirely wrong with it.
But they were still children, and that makes them precious. Interesting watching that movie while we're still putting children in cages, can't find their parents after we separated them, and sent 19 of their parents out of the country while we kept the children here.
Tonight I was watching "The Doctor Blake Mysteries." Set in 1950's/'60's Australia, this episode concerned an orphanage with aboriginal children. Dr. Blake utters the line in the title at the end, explaining the drama of the story. Odd timing, to have that story just now, especially with part of the orphanage story being children taken from their parents by the state.
Not so odd, really: children are inviolable in our culture. They are the only innocents. Well, not black children; we consider them dangerous. But that's why Trump keeps mentioning MS-13. He wants us to be afraid of brown children, too. Only that's not working, and it's not going to work. Meanwhile, in the immigration courts of this country:
A 1-year-old boy in federal custody who appeared in immigration court without his parents in Phoenix briefly played with a ball, drank from a bottle, then “cried hysterically” as he was about to leave the courtroom Friday, according to The Associated Press.
But he was eventually granted a voluntary departure order so the government can fly him to Honduras, where his father has already been sent.
The little boy, identified in court only as Johan, was one of the children who appeared in the Arizona court Friday without parents. One boy held up five fingers when the judge asked him his age.
Judge John Richardson said he was “embarrassed to ask” if Johan understood the proceedings, AP reported. “I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” he told Johan’s attorney.
In family law courts, where it is not uncommon for the child to have both parents present, children can be appointed guardians ad litem, adults who report to the court about the status of the child and argue for the best interests of the child, and even an attorney ad litem to represent the child's legal interests apart from the parents. In immigration courts, the child is lucky to have an attorney present. But that's not the worst part of it:
Some 3,000 migrant children remain in government custody after being separated from their parents, and about 100 of them are under the age of 5, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The New York Times has reported that some records on the separated families have been lost or even destroyed, raising the possibility that some children may never be reunited with their families. In addition, the U.S. has already deported at least 19 parents of children under the age of 5 and in federal custody.
So those children go where? Into foster care systems in Texas? Pennsylvania? California? New Jersey? Where? And why? Because the Administration is so incompetent it fails at the most basic governmental function of all, keeping records on people?
I would say this is Trump's Katrina, or Trump's Japanese internment camps, but this horror show is unprecedented. This is slavery, where families are separated by law and government action (or at least approval under law) and no records are kept about the members of the family unit. This is not comparable to the Nazis; this is all-American, through and through. This is a return to the worst part of our history.
What is that doing to the children? What is it doing to us, that we would treat children this way? This is painfully American; it is also entirely wrong.
We need to be aware of that; and we need to remember that. Which will be more damaging to our culture, to our national psyche? The next Supreme Court justice? Or how we treat other people's children?
Also updating: this is simply not acceptable:
Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabien said that while only two children out of the 102 the government has identified have been reunited so far, she believes another 54 can be returned to their parents by Tuesday’s deadline. As for the rest, she claimed, three were brought by someone who is not their biological parent, three have parents with serious criminal records that bar reunification, five have parents with something on their record that requires further investigation, 12 have parents either in local or federal criminal detention who must serve time before being transferred to ICE, 18 have parents who were lost by the administration after their deportation or release into the U.S., and four have been approved for release to a non-parent sponsor.
As for the last of the 102, Fabian said, “We’re still trying to track down what information we have about that parent. To my knowledge we do not have any information.”
3 children, or 102 children: the government has a responsibility, if it takes a child, to keep track of that child and their parents. 3 children are not disposable goods you toss in the trash because you got more from Costco than you could use.
My experience at restaurants: I ordered take out at a Greek restaurant. When I arrived, the owner saw me & threw in a free baklava (one of my favorite desserts). He said he appreciated what I was doing. I guess that's what happens when one opposes ripping kids away from parents.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 9, 2018