Please, don’t feign surprise when our government lies to us again and again about the state of immigrant affairs and detention centers. Don’t feign shock when news of 1,475 unaccompanied immigrant children disappearing from government oversight hits the headlines. Don’t feign sympathy when you know in a few days, those kids will be off your social media timeline and off your radar.
Reports of physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment and abuse, and neglect of migrants at the hands of government employees have surfaced this month, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
We know that many of these migrants are children. Children who, if they were U.S. citizens or U.S. fetuses, would be fought for with legislative action, with lengthy protests and with Facebook and Twitter rants again and again.
But they aren’t. They are forgotten and lost, by the government and by many of us.
According to a testimony given last month by Steven Wagner to Congress, almost 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children were proverbially lost by the U.S. government. Wagner is a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which handles the care and settlement of illegal immigrants awaiting trial. The HHS maintains it is not legally responsible for these missing children, despite taking care of them and finding them sponsors to live with.
Realistically, we can’t be surprised. This is not the first time those under government watch have gone missing. In 2014, at least 10 migrants including eight minors were found on an egg farm in Ohio. The individuals had been released by the HHS to traffickers who forced them to work. The HHS said this was due to inadequate procedures and policies to protect these kids.
This is just one instance of migrants gone missing. Imagine how many never made headlines.
Further, the ACLU found reports that children, who are particularly vulnerable within the migrant population, suffered a wide range of abuses at the hands of immigration officials working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Migrant children have been tased for punishment or amusement, threatened with rape or death and physically abused.
Using a position of power to demean and attack immigrants is a brand of evil that casts serious suspicion on the U.S. immigration system. The more time we spend dilly-dallying around this recurring issue of abuse of immigrants, the more we lose touch with our own humanity and morality.
This embarrassing and inhumane track record in immigrant affairs is apparent throughout U.S. history, as hundreds of thousands of immigrants are deported every year. The Trump administration continues and exacerbates systemic barriers to immigration, and the number of deportations and instances of abuse of migrants is sure to rise given the current political climate.
It’s easy to forget that we have a say in what happens in the world and in our country. It’s easy to become desensitized to the headlines and the injustices that are happening every day.
Beyond those nearly 1,500 kids, our nation’s shared moral values are lost. The promise of a better life in the U.S. is destroyed by constant othering that fragments our society, turning people into abusers and victims, citizen and immigrant, separate and never, ever equal.
We as a country, as individuals and as a democratic power must regain our senses of humanity. We must make a choice to take these injustices into our own hands and demand that those involved in abuse be removed from their positions. Policy renovations to repair the broken state of our immigration policies and accountability measures to ensure safety of all parties must be implemented immediately.
If we can rally against plastic straws, we sure as hell can rally against abuse of immigrant children who are seeking a better, safer life in the U.S. No more kids need to be lost in order to inspire a social justice movement.