In response to the announcements by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that their new “zero tolerance” strategy means that infants and toddlers will be separated from their parents, a range of voices – from editorial boards, to mothers and children staging walkout protests when DHS Secretary Nielsen testified in Congress, to members of Congress themselves – are taking the administration to task.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice,
“To codify family separation as the official policy of the United States is cruel, inhumane and sadistic. To those refusing to speak up – especially Republicans in Congress – your silence is deafening. It is up to the rest of us to say clearly and firmly: this is not who we are; this cannot be done in our name; this must stop.”
Below, we excerpt a few examples of the nation’s rallying cries against the administration’s anti-family policy:
Alongside democratic members of Congress, advocates and members of the faith community have planned protests across the country and hosted press calls this week to pressure public opinion to in turn demand that Congress intervene and stop the separation of immigrant families.
Outside of a Senate hearing, where Nielsen defended her practice of separating families at the southern border, Moms Rising, immigrant mothers and U.S. citizens who support the cause, declared that there was no justification for “tearing children from their mothers’ arms.”
A group of mothers, carrying their children, on Tuesday denounced the Trump administration’s plan to separate families who enter the United States illegally, walking out of a hearing in Washington where the homeland security secretary was speaking.
“We attended the hearing with our little ones, and then in order to protest the family separation policy walked out when Secretary Nielsen began speaking,” she [Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center] said after the demonstration. “This feels like it’s not normal business as usual. It’s a policy that’s really so cruel and so harmful in its immediate impact that it felt like it called for an unusual response,” she said.
When speaking of immigrants, of undocumented people, even the strongest values and principles are ignored. In this case, the traditional defense of the family unity is torn apart without inconvenience. The values are thrown out the window as if the human condition did not exist due to lack of papers.
Will babies be separated from nursing mothers? Will toddlers be housed in institutions far from parents? How many children will be traumatized by being carted away from their parents for weeks or months — or longer? The attorney general doesn’t say or, apparently, care.
Mr. Sessions’s talk of a “massive influx” of undocumented immigrants is a falsehood. Against his incendiary vow that the administration will not allow the United States to be “invaded” and “stampeded ” is the plain truth that the southwest border is more secure, and less frequently breached, than at any time since the Nixon administration.
Yet Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions propose a breathtaking innovation: wrenching every small child away, as a matter of policy, from his or her family. They have now matched their demagoguery on immigration with malice.
A legitimate debate can be had about how aggressively the United States should police its border. But it’s hard to see how separating parents and children improves border security. Even the ardently hawkish Center for Immigration Studies has blanched at the notion, saying it should be used only as a “last resort.” Now it will become the first resort.
The Trump administration’s zeal for border protection knows few boundaries. You would have thought snatching children out of their parents’ arms should have been one of them.
It’s downright cruel to intentionally separate children from their parents as a way to punish immigrants, especially those seeking asylum. This policy betrays our values. We can’t lead the world on issues of human rights if we’re taking babies away from their mothers.