EDITORIAL: Do not be silent

IT SOUNDED LIKE “BA-BA”–what a toddler would want in a tense situation. But it could have been “Papa” or some other sound a terrified child would make. Hearing it on the radio with no image amplified the horror.

Every parent knows the sound. It triggers the urge to comfort and protect. The survival of our species depends on this impulse. That sound gets louder every day as the federal government, on the orders of President Trump, impounds more children at our border with Mexico.

Our distance from that border allows us the luxury of ignoring the impacts of immigration by desperate people from Central America. Or maybe not if you’re a Columbia County farmer or in the construction business or food service or need help doing jobs U.S. citizens don’t want.

What we know about these youngest of immigrants is that they have no interest in our jobs nor are they criminals or terrorists. These are children, thousands of them, forcibly separated from their parents and held in facilities not designed to accommodate children and with no long-term plan for reuniting them with their parents.

We will pay for this no matter where in the U.S. we live. There will be courts to build and legal staffs and government jobs of all sorts to fill. Imagine what the diapers cost as well as the services of people to change them. Be grateful that deficits are not something that concerns the federal government these days.

This week, as the cost of imprisoning infants became all the more politically painful, President Trump said he will sign “something” this week that will halt the separation of children from their parents. He doesn’t say what it will do or when, not to mention how this affects the thousands already in custody.

That leaves the impression that this policy is a ploy to force the hand of Congress, which may not act anyway. And if children have become legislative bargaining chips, what are now the limits of moral behavior? We used to have child labor. We could revive it for the border violator babies and groom these little ones to work in the factories and mines the president says will be coming back. But that could be tricky. He has already promised those jobs to the second, third and fourth generation offspring of immigrants from other countries.

The administration says that the practice of taking children away from their parents at the border is not meant to act as a deterrent to people south of the border thinking of immigrating to, or seeking asylum in this country. But that’s exactly what it is and it may already be creating unanticipated consequences.

Parents from the country of El Salvador, for example, are often fleeing for their lives and to protect their children from gang violence and a corrupt government. They are so desperate that they are willing to risk being separated from their children because at least here their children will survive. In other words the prospect of child separation might encourage parents to deposit their children with the U.S. government rather than condemn them to death at home.

But surely most parents only want their children back. Even President Trump says he hates the practice of seizing children at the border. That suggests he understands the policy is wrong. Now he signals he knows he could change the policy immediately. And yet he continues to blame Democrats for the policy. He sounds like he’s scared of doing it himself. Is President Donald Trump afraid of these children?

If so, he has good reason to fear them. By authorizing the government to remove kids from the custody of their parents the president has made them the children of the United States of America. We citizens of this nation are now responsible for their care. This policy of separation endangers the welfare of these children of ours.

We can measure the kind of nation we have become by how we respond to the abuse of these kids at the hands of our government. And while the president has the power to end or prolong this mass abuse, citizens have a duty demand that it stop now.

Tell Congressman John Faso and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand that Congress must end the forced separation of children from parents and begin the reunification of families immediately. We do not need to protect our borders from children; we need laws to protect our country from a government that abuses them.

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