Happy Father’s Day?
By Wim Laven
The hypocrisy of American Values was front and center for Father’s Day in 2018. The U.S. government has taken at least 2,000 children from their parents since Donald Trump’s administration implemented policy changes about six weeks ago. Trump has incorrectly claimed that this is the fault of Democrats, but it is a clear result of his “no tolerance” policy. But it isn’t clear what they are refusing to tolerate; many of those being victimized have gone through completely legal requests for asylum. The U.S. has a history of breaking up families; during slavery children would be sold with no regard for family units and the Indian Child Welfare Act was used to destroy Native American populations for more than 100 years by removing children from their families.
One wouldn’t think it a political issue. Every living First Lady condemns separating immigrant children from their parents. But Congressional Republicans like Barry Loudermilk are happy to do the lying for Trump and try to point the finger in the other direction: “Where was the outrage of the documented abuses at the border during the Obama administration? Looks like the Democrats are being hypocritical here!” Loudermilk cannot point to the Obama administration snatching thousands of children from their parents but he can attempt a misdirect. Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain!
One also wouldn’t have thought the U.S. would pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, but we did, or that 3000 lies later his approval ratings of 45 percent would be tied for highest of his presidency, but they are, and time will tell whether or not people accept “tender age shelters” as being anything but cruel and unusual punishment.
It is important to be clear about the roots of the problem, and the issues at hand. Are the children being held hostage in an effort to build the wall that Mexico definitely will not pay for?
In my field of conflict transformation, we focus on just, humane, and nonviolent problem-solving. Clearly Trump and his team are extremely limited in this regard. The coercive approach of hostage-taking damages relationships and increases opportunity costs. This cruelty, intended to function as a deterrent, has received broad condemnation from the United Nations to the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Psychological Association. Collaborative, win-win solutions, while more time consuming and harder to negotiate, are the preferred goal of diplomacy because they are more durable, have greater follow through, generate far less blowback, and are the easiest to enforce. Ignoring human rights, on the other hand, is decidedly lose-lose.
Are asylum seekers breaking the law? Not when they properly submit and identify themselves, but have we made that process achievable? Many families make the appropriate steps and are still broken up! We need to call the liars out—all of them. Puppets like Loudermilk are lying: Obama was heavily criticized for family detention centers (1), and what Trump is doing is much different and much worse(2). Hacks in the White House or on Fox News are lying when they say there are laws that require breaking up family units “they’ve been around a long time,” but no such law exists.
We can learn much from the American Psychological Association’s statement:
“The administration’s policy of separating children from their families as they attempt to cross into the United States without documentation is not only needless and cruel, it threatens the mental and physical health of both the children and their caregivers. Psychological research shows that immigrants experience unique stressors related to the conditions that led them to flee their home countries in the first place.”
Cases illustrate this, including the death of Marco Antonio Muñoz. This father crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and 3-year-old son on May 12 near the tiny town of Granjeno, Texas, where they were taken into custody, moved to a processing station in nearby McAllen, and were denied asylum. After being separated from his family Marco died—a “suicide in custody.” Should we treat families seeking asylum differently than families trying to illegally immigrate? What was the Muñoz family fleeing, and does it matter? Do we want to force families to decide between violence at home or potentially being torn apart at the U.S. border?
The more important questions reflect values. On Father’s Day I reflected on the man who taught me love, compassion, charity, and forgiveness. “Build bigger tables not bigger fences” is tidy on a bumper sticker, our Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and I was taught these values. My father was a doctor, he lived in service to others. I learned by watching him. He treated everyone with respect and dignity. He served just like his father before him. It didn’t matter that father and grandpa were Democrat and Republican, because compassion, love, and charity weren’t political positions. I would take it further. The reason people seek asylum in the U.S., the reason families undergo the tremendous costs and risks with trying to start new lives, is that the U.S. has declared itself a melting pot where diversity is a strength. That proposition used to mean something.
Our communities are really suffering, and it is more than the medical ailments that my father used to treat. He took me to the homeless shelter with him, and I’ve not forgotten the lessons. Being homeless is hard on its own, being sick doesn’t make it any easier. Leaving your home for a better life, as a refugee, seeking asylum, fleeing violence, whatever the reason… I’ve never heard it told as an easy story. The least we can do is keep families together in the process. The hypocrisy has to stop; we say we care about families and values, now we’ve got to protect them. I cannot bear to imagine the consequences of allowing this persist.
Donald Trump manufactured this crisis and he could put a stop to it at any time. We need to be clear about both sets of issues in responding to this disaster. The people on both sides of the aisle need to declare that this is no place for coercive politics; asking for ransom and holding children hostage is unconscionable and will not be tolerated. Give Trump notice: we do not resort to childish bullying and terrorist tactics. We also need to be clear that we take human rights seriously. The ugly support that Trump has received for this unthinkable and entirely unnecessary cruelty is too much. Anyone who claims to care about families or honoring fathers cannot allow fathers to be pushed to heartbroken suicide, the time to speak up was yeste