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We need to stop the brutal separation of parents and children at the Mexican border

ByTom Morris

Jun 4, 2018

If you had been alive when the Australian Government was forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their parents and giving them to white foster parents ‘for their own good’, would you have objected? If there had been a petition saying the policy was wrong, would you have signed it?

We now condemn that policy, enacted throughout much of the last century. It was cruel and wrong.

Australia no longer practices such a heinous act, but the USA does. Since January, the official policy on the Mexican border is for US border officials to seize the children of asylum seekers and send them often hundreds of miles away to foster parents or institutions.

There are no official figures, but it is thought that hundreds of families have been torn apart in this way. It is said to be in the interests of the children, although no one seems to have asked the children for their opinion. The separation has no designated duration and the only contact the bewildered children have is an occasional phone call to their distraught parents. Amnesty International has condemned the practice as a human rights violation.

Many of us can remember an occasion when, as kids, we found ourselves lost in a crowd. I was six when it happened to me on the crowded beachfront in Southsea. One minute I was beside Mum and my brother and sister, the next I had lost all sight of my family. As I write, I can recall the icy worms squirming in my tummy. For a child, there is nothing more terrifying than being lost.

My ordeal lasted less than an hour before we were reunited. A number of those children who crossed the border (some less than four years old) have been separated from their parents for months.

The Student asked Amnesty International for details of some of the cases on their books. Below is a report dating back to November 2017, when the forced separation of children was happening but had not yet become official policy. Last week, the White House Chief of Staff, General Kelly was asked about the fate of the children. His comment was, “The children will be…put into foster care or whatever” implying that there is no more tenderness being shown to these children now than was the case in November.

Four Central American fathers, each with their child, crossed into the United States from Mexico to seek asylum from death threats, between 10 and 13 November, 2017. Eric Edgardo MC and his son Roger (3), are from Honduras, and three families are from El Salvador: Jose DF and his son Mateo (1); Carlos BA and his son Dominic (12) and Walter RA and his daughter Melissa (5).

Three of the families presented themselves at the San Ysidro Port of Entry claiming asylum; one family was caught trying to cross irregularly into the US.

 The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities visited the group four times on 16 November, using intimidation tactics to coerce the fathers to give up their children to shelters. They denied the fathers’ requests to use a phone, told them that their asylum claims would be compromised, and demanded the children be given up to prevent their being taken by force.

 Under duress, three of the fathers surrendered their children. The fourth refused and his child was violently removed.

 The authorities then handcuffed all four fathers and declined to inform the fathers where their children were taken.

Amnesty International confirmed that, over six months later, two of these children are still being held apart and have not seen their fathers since November. There is an international Change.org petition against the US policy of forced separation of children from their parents.

The petition had reached 48,000 signatures, which initially seems impressive. However, the population of the US is 325 million, and the population of the UK is 65 million. Considering this, a total of just 48,000 people declaring that they think that punishing children by forcibly taking them away from their parents and sending them many miles away to live with strangers is wrong. This doesn’t seem like such a big number.

We have all seen petitions blow up and gain hundreds of thousands of signatures very quickly. This petition hasn’t. We need to change that. We can, if you help. Let’s face it, it is about the only help these kids are going to get.

Sign the petition here

Image: thecollaboratory.wikidot.com

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