Monday, June 25, 2018

Baby Jails – How Donald Trump is Keeping Us Safe from Infants in Diapers

Depraved is the word I’d use to describe the Trump administration and its recent actions. Ripping infants and children from their mothers’ arms without even giving them a chance to say goodbye; shipping immigrant children to secret black sites set up across the nation where the American public, journalists, and even U.S. senators are denied access to see what is going on inside these makeshift internment camps, where credible reports have surfaced of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of children; the permanent separation of children from their parents. This is not my America. But it is Donald Trump’s America and for the first time in my lifetime I’m ashamed to be an American.

I keep hearing the refrain “This is not America” on TV, but it is. This is not the America we know and love, the land of liberty and democracy we grew up in, but it is indeed the America of 2018: Trump’s America. We have begun the slide into an undemocratic authoritarian regime, flamed by propaganda to incite hatred among each of us, filled with disinformation and distractions, and an unprecedented level of corruption by members of the Trump administration seeking personal financial gain from taxpayers’ dollars.

This is not about politics, it’s about morality. Placing children in cages is not a political issue. Neither is taking a breastfeeding infant from her mother and sending the baby across the country to a secret “baby jail.” That mother will never see her infant again: When the separated baby is asked her mother’s name, the nine-month old infant can only reply with a gurgle. She hasn’t learned to speak. She doesn’t know her mother’s name or where she lives… and now she never will.

The permanent psychological damage to the children will follow them their entire lives. But it gets worse than being ripped from your mother’s arms. It gets worse than hearing your mother tell you what the guards have told her – that they’re just taking you off for a shower and you’ll come right back. The last thing these children heard from their mothers was an inadvertent lie – their last memory will be of the (unintentional) lie their mothers told them… as they spend weeks and months, maybe years and possibly a lifetime waiting to see their mother’s face again.

For some, it gets worse. Children have been assigned numbers pinned to their chests and arms: reminiscent of Jews tattooed with numbers by their Nazi captors upon arriving in concentration camps. There are reports of children being stripped naked, tied to a chair with a paper bag over their head and left there for two days; and at least one case of a guard accused of sexually abusing a child. Children have been drugged to placate them (obviously without their parents’ knowledge or consent). What else goes on in these secret black sites located in the desert and other places far from view? We may never know unless the press and congressmen are allowed access to these facilities. The Trump administration has handed out photos to the press rather than let the press in to see for itself. That’s what authoritarian despots do. What are they hiding?

Two Florida lawmakers were blocked from entering the Homestead, Florida internment facility. Sen. Bill Nelson accused the Trump administration of a “cover-up” after not being allowed to survey the living conditions. ”It is an affront as the senior senator of this state that an agency head would tell me that I do not have entrance into a federally funded facility where the lives and health of children are at stake,” Nelson said. Nelson was one of many senators attempting to make surprise visits to immigration detention centers in recent weeks. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive requiring lawmakers give two weeks’ notice before traveling to an immigrant detention center. Why do they need time to hide what they’re doing?

When the government takes children from their parents it is acting in loco parentis – a legal Latin phrase meaning the government stands legally in place of the parents. The U.S. government is now responsible for the safety and well-being of these children it has confiscated. What happens when they are injured… or the first one dies in custody?

“(We’ve) seen some of these children in cages – cages,” Maria Teresa Kumar, founding executive director of Voto Latino, said. “Some of these children will never see their parents again. Whatever the American government is doing, they’ve gone rogue. This is not acceptable. Not on our watch.” MSNBC reporter Stephanie Ruhle said, “(This is an) assault on humanity.”

It’s official: the United States of America no longer supports the concept of human rights. At the same time the American president has set up concentration camps to hold immigrant children separated from their parents, many of whom have already been deported without their children, Donald Trump also announced the United States is withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

I have two questions for President Trump: (1) What do you plan to do with the thousands of children left behind by the parents you have deported? And (2) Once these concentration camps are finally emptied who do you plan to fill them with next?

The parallels are striking. One of Trump’s child detention centers has a sign written in Spanish: “If you work hard, good things will happen to you.” Sound familiar? The gates of Auschwitz had a similar sign above the entrance: “Arbeit macht frei” or translated from German “Work will set you free.”

If Trump’s people build concentration camps in America (as they have now done), they will fill them. What goes on inside will be kept from the public. We’ve seen the tip of the iceberg: baby jails, drugging children, torturing children and sexual assault -- and that’s just from the news articles I’ve read this week. Worse things are going on behind closed doors, where children forcibly kidnapped from their parents are being held in cages. And they will ship more and more immigrants to these camps which will one day cause people to wonder why they never run out of room.

Unless we put a stop to it now. America is no longer at a crossroads. It has gone down the wrong path, a well-trodden path of authoritarianism, fascism, and evil and we know where it leads. Meanwhile, we wait for our leaders in Congress, and the financial and business community, and the entertainment industry to be profiles in courage, but almost all by their tacit or lackluster response have instead demonstrated profiles in cowardice. But as another author, Elie Wiesel, himself an Auschwitz survivor said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

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