Zero Tolerance Is Separating Families

I have been sick to my stomach for almost two months now. I’ve shed tears as I rock my son to sleep. I’ve felt rage in my gut unlike any I’ve felt before. I’ve been so angry it’s made me shake. Why?


Jeff Sessions announced in April, “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” Regardless of your stance on immigration, the policy of separating children from their parents cannot be tolerated.


Before a very brave undocumented immigrant in one of my nonprofit courses in college came forward and gave an in-depth explanation of the United States’ immigration system, I had a very conservative view on immigration. “Just follow the law!” I would naively say. Since then I’ve learned it is much more complicated and the U.S. system makes it incredibly difficult for many families to immigrate legally.  


It will take a lot of work to fix that system, but in the meantime we must deal with this pressing and disgusting issue. The Trump administration has enacted a “zero tolerance policy” which shows no compassion or grace for families seeking asylum in our nation.


These families are leaving terrible living conditions, drug wars, and horrors we probably couldn’t dream of. Due to the lengthy, confusing, archaic immigration system in the U.S., it is very difficult for these families to legally enter the country in a timely manner. They are forced to make the decision of risking their lives staying in their situation while they wait or attempt to enter the United States and risk separation.


What family should have to make that decision? What compassionate human being would make them? This zero tolerance policy can separate children as young as 53 weeks old (just after their first birthday).


I look at my 14 month-old son and think “What would I do?” These families are rarely given explanation of what is happening to them and where their parents and children are going. Even if they did, how could anyone explain that to a toddler? How could you possibly comfort him as he cries for his mama? He still nurses to sleep for god’s sake! What kind of amoral monster could separate a nursling from his mother?


Please, these are not rhetorical questions. Someone answer me how these politicians, many parents themselves, can sleep at night knowing they are separating toddlers from the only comfort they know. This is not a political issue, this is an issue of human decency.

So what do we do about it? Call your representatives – repeatedly. Demand action on this issue. Donate any money you can to organizations like Together Rising which are hiring lawyers and advocates to gain and maintain contact between these parents and their children.

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