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How Can You See This and Still Support the Trump Border Policy?

Headed for a "tender age" shelter

Published in ChicagoNow, August 30, 2018

There are still over 500 children, many of them under age five, separated from their parents. This despite a court ruling that the Trump administration was ordered to halt separations on June 20, reunite children under age five with their families by July 12, and reunite all of the older children by July 26.

So much chaos happens every day in the White House that most Americans have not noticed that so many children remain separated. Lest you forget what this means for a child, think about a three-year-old named Sammy being one of the “lucky” children reunited with his mother after three- and one-half months of being separated. How can you still support the Trump border policy? On a strictly human level, how can we allow this treatment of children to go on in our country. How can we not be deeply ashamed when a mother sobs, “What happened…my son is traumatized,” as the preschooler runs away from her in panic and fear, trying to hide?

As an early childhood educator and advocate for young children, I am heartbroken. Forget the political argument of whether these asylum seekers should have entered our country illegally. Tell me these innocent children deserve this punishment. Tell me you are at peace with having caused lifelong damage to these kids.

According to the Washington Post, our government has created permanently orphaned children, and they are making little effort to reunite them with their families. There never was a plan for how to put families back together. Some of the parents have already been deported or left voluntarily before they were able to find their children. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “many parents signed forms waiving their reunification rights while separated from their children and under duress this spring or without understanding them.”

There are some parents denied reunification with their children because they have “red flags” from background checks. These could include major things, but most are due to small offenses like traffic stops. Some families are waiting for the results of DNA tests to confirm they are the parents. That won’t work for children who are adopted or are being raised by other relatives.

As a lifelong early childhood educator and advocate for young children, unlike Melania’s infamous jacket I really do care. On a personal level, I remember as if it happened just yesterday how it felt as a parent to be separated briefly from my panicked child. My daughter and I had been attending a parent-child program, but when she turned three in February, the policy was to move her into a without-parent preschool room. There was no preparation for this change. A teacher took her by the hand and led her away from me into a room. I heard her screams from the hallway, but when I attempted to enter the room, I discovered the door was locked. She probably cried for less than fifteen minutes while I pounded on the door in tears. Finally, someone heard me and opened the door. I picked up my sobbing child and left shaking with anger. We never returned to that program.

I knew on an instinctive level that this was the wrong way to handle separating children from parents, even for a couple hours of preschool. Studying child development as part of my Master’s degree program in early childhood education confirmed this. When we founded Cherry Preschool in 1991, as director I placed great emphasis on the importance of handling the separation of young children from their caregivers with sensitivity and empathy. And that was for a part day preschool program.

It’s hard to imagine the cruelty of a policy that removed migrant children from their asylum-seeking parents in the first place. That there was no plan for how to reunite them is unforgivable. That there are still over 500 children in custodial care apart from their families, in defiance of court orders, is incompetent and abusive. That there will be many children permanently orphaned by this policy is heartbreaking.

Even if these last 500 children are reunited with their families, the damage done to the children cannot be fixed. When history looks back on this policy, it will be with sorrow and regret. We must remember all of the young children who have been permanently harmed by our country’s actions under the Trump border policy. Shame.


by Laurie Levy
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