Signs at a Fresno rally at the corner of Blackstone and Nees to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Photo by Hannah Brandt.

Shame on Us

By Ruth Gadebusch

What is happening to would be immigrants on our southern border is unworthy of this nation. What makes it OK for this nation of immigrants to treat asylum seekers in such a dastardly manner? Where is our empathy? Where is our kindness? Where is our common sense? Most especially, have we lost all morals?

Even an occasional criminal in the batch does not justify the treatment being doled out to those seeking refuge. Mostly, we treat domestic criminals better. Whether seeking asylum or actually crossing the border illegally, all are treated as criminals. We prosecuted the Nazis for inhumane treatment sometimes no worse than what is being done in our name.

It would be bad enough if only adults were involved but little children, including a nursing infant, are literally being snatched from the arms of parents. Lifelong damage is inflicted by the trauma of children separated in such a manner. In their short lives, these children already have endured more than we can comprehend. I take no comfort in the words of the public official who stated that we split the families of domestic criminals, thus seemingly making it OK.

Worse yet, we don’t even have decent facilities in which to house these children. Cages! The proof is in the efforts to hide these conditions from the public. There must be a special place in hell for those perpetrating this action.

Yes, I know it is the orange-haired one in our top office, but he had help getting to the office he now holds. That was the first mistake. Making the mistake worse is allowing him to act as a dictator. What has happened to our tripartite government? It is in our name whether we voted for him or not.

He might not know better, but the Congress should. What is their excuse? Purely and simply, they are putting their own power/ego first. How can so many be willing to go along with this man issuing edicts as if he were a dictator?

At this writing, the majority party, the President’s party, supposedly has an immigrant bill ready to be acted on. Presumably, they and he are on the same page but he has announced he will play the role of picking up his marbles and going home if his every wish isn’t granted. It will be interesting—very interesting—to see if this Congress, this party has the guts and the integrity to act.

Had they considered the good of the nation they could have worked with the Democrats in developing this legislation, thereby gaining sufficient votes to overcome any veto by the executive. Our constitution clearly provides for this kind of balance.

Furthermore, this president lies so readily that nothing he says should be taken at face value. We are not speaking of minor deviations here but pure lies. He is totally unencumbered by the truth. He says things that the most ignorant, uneducated and ill-informed citizen should be able to discern as unacquainted with the truth; however, there is ample evidence that what is known as his base has near worship of his pronouncements. And they vote! So what can we do?

Easier said than done, but some way, somehow, we must change the makeup of Congress to one more responsive to its constitutional duty. In the next election, the opportunity to do that comes well before the opportunity to remove this man from office. Unless, of course, the investigation of his actions forces Congress to step up to the plate and impeach. Don’t hold your breath.

In the meantime, we must put pressure on our power structure to stop this action now. We need not wait for the outcome of the ongoing investigation of possible campaign misdeeds of a nefarious nature.

All this to put us back on the path of the nation we seek to be. We must be the refuge for our fellow/sister humans so desperately seeking safety for themselves and families, just as earlier generations did. How easily we forget what brought our own ancestors here.

Then, too, we are not exactly pure when we by such things as providing the drug market fertilize the conditions being fled by those on whom we now turn our back. With no consideration whatsoever, those reaching our border, be they adult or child, are treated as criminals.

Led by the party that speaks of family values, our government is treating families as disposable. It is cruelty beyond words inflicting indescribable hardships with our separation of children, and subsequent treatment, beyond the pale. This done in the name of the nation that claims high moral principles above all others. It is unworthy of any nation, much less the one we claim to be.

Then there are those of an earlier era crossing the border undetected becoming contributing residents. We would ship them and their innocent children back to some place unknown to the younger members and most likely unwelcoming. Even if they were welcomed what is our excuse? No thought is given to the disarray in this nation or to them personally. Regardless of how they arrived in the United States, we are referring to them as criminals.

In other law, we do not consider those committing crimes under the age of consent as responsible. These DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) did not come under their own volition; however, if they did, that does not excuse our mishandling. The damage to their lives is ignored with no credit given to the contributions they have made to our society. Again, that is unworthy of a moral nation. For the life of me, I cannot mark these young people as criminals.

For those worried about the nation’s ability to absorb the downtrodden, it strikes me that it would be wise for us to consider better ways to ameliorate the conditions that make them come here. It is counterproductive to encourage those who could improve conditions in their native countries to stay here after getting an education. The root of the problem is in the conditions that drive them to flee.

We may be unable to save the world, but it is in our own best interest to examine our actions creating the conditions from which they flee. Not blaming us for all, but we are often short-sighted regarding long-term health—a story for another time.

In the meantime, let us find a better way to manage the spot where we find ourselves. It does not require great brains to avoid outright cruelty. We are better than a fence on the southern border. We are surely better than grabbing crying, frightened children from the arms of loving parents. They deserve the same protective laws that serve our own. It is the humane way, the responsible way, the moral way, the only way to be a great nation.

*****

Ruth Gadebusch has served as a Naval officer, a trustee of the Fresno Unified School District and the vice-chairperson of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and is an emeritus member of the Center for Civic Education.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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