Yesterday the Minnesota AFL-CIO released the following statement,
“Minnesota’s Labor movement strongly condemns the Trump Administration’s cruel policy of separating children from their parents at the border and the holding of peaceful asylum seekers in internment camps.
The President’s choice to implement such an immoral policy is not just a betrayal of our country’s values, but an affront to basic human decency.
This inhumane policy must end now.
All but two members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have called for an immediate end to the administration’s policy. We strongly urge them to personally demand that President Trump reverse his decision to break up families when they meet with him in Duluth.”
In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy for people apprehended at the border, including families. This has resulted in the separation of children from their parents.
As immigration reporter Tina Vasquez explains,
“I need y'all to understand that "illegal entry" is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are things like public intoxication and petty theft. For a misdemeanor, the United States is taking children from migrant parents and disappearing them into the system, with no plans for reunification.”
Vasquez also persistently points out that the Trump administration is taking advantage of the deportation apparatus created under the Obama administration.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents between May 5th and June 9th, which equals an average of 65 children per day. Details of the conditions children are facing have been hard to come by as the government has restricted media access to the facilities. However some details have emerged.
ProPublica published a stunning audio recording of, “a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in which a Border Patrol agent mocks the wails of migrant children as young as 4.” A border patrol agent is heard joking, “We have an orchestra here.”
The Associated Press reports that babies and young children are being sent to three “tender age” shelters in South Texas. New reporting on MSNBC indicates a fourth is being added. AP further reports that, “lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has denounced the practice of separating children from their parents. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Colleen A. Kraft, MD, FAAP President of the AAP explains:
“As children develop, their brains change in response to environments and circumstances.” Kraft went on to write, “Fear and stress, particularly prolonged exposure to serious stress without the buffering protection afforded by stable, responsive relationships — known as toxic stress — can harm the developing brain and harm short- and long-term health.”
Reveal News reports that, “Taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in the past four years to private companies operating immigrant youth shelters accused of serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse.”
In response to emerging details of the conditions these children are facing, Rep. Cummings (D-Maryland) called on his Republican colleagues to "stand up to President Donald Trump" and reject the separation of families at the U.S. border.
In prior reporting on immigrant detention, University of Minnesota Professor of Chicano Studies Jimmy Patiño challenged reforming or fixing the immigration system. He explains that the deportation regime is "not broken; it works exactly as it’s meant to work. It creates so-called illegal people in order to create a vulnerable workforce that businesses have been reliant on since the border patrol was created in the 1920s.”
Affirming Workday’s focus on Immigrant Workers and their Families
I am utterly devastated by the impact of the Trump administration's immigration policies. In my relatively short career as a journalist, this has become the most painful topic to process and explain.
As I pointed out when I first became the editor Workday Minnesota, both my parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. My dad came long before my mother and struggled mightily. My dad would never describe himself as an activist, but he fought for what he believed in. He was shot at crossing the border, experienced varying levels of bigotry, and watched both his wives die from breast cancer. My mother, in particular, was a victim of institutional racism. She was uninsured and received inadequate and delayed care for her breast cancer.
Through it all, my father had faith, hope and a healthy dose of suspicion about this country and how it impacted my siblings and I. I indeed have drawn from that energy as a journalist and editor.
It is also essential for me to share that I have a particular sensitivity to the treatment of asylum seekers. For about four years now I have worked as an expert witness in support of those coming from Guatemala fleeing imminent harm. I have worked on close to 30 cases, each more devastating than the next. My status as an expert is rooted in Ph.D. research on contemporary Guatemalan history and the lingering effects of the genocidal '36 civil war. As a student of Guatemalan history, I am compelled to point out that the instability mostly indigenous Maya are fleeing from is rooted in the perverse consequences of the 1954 CIA sponsored coup that deposed the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz.
Accordingly, one of the most significant editorial directions I have taken with Workday is emphasizing and exploring the experience, role, and abuses that immigrant workers and their families face. Of all the pushback and criticisms that I absorb as I steer this publication forward, the hostility towards my choice to emphasize immigrant workers has been the most damaging and frustrating. The resistance to exploring this history and reality, in my view, has enabled the degrading conditions defenseless migrant children are now facing.
That said I know that many of you identify with my experience or understand this historical perspective. In one way or another we are all wrestling with the nativism and xenophobia that lurked in the shadows and is now ever more present. I firmly believe that the way to untangle this nativism and form common bonds is to continue reporting and exploring how the deportation regime is escalating and impacting immigrant workers and their families.
For those of us that are US citizens and feel caught not knowing what to do I hope that you feel you can depend on some of these articles as tools to offer perspective and clarity in your conversations with loved ones and peers. I will continue reporting, and I hope y’all keep reading, trusting and sharing. As always, please continue offering your perspective and insight.