Letter to the Editor: Hundreds of Children Remain Separated at Our Border

As I wrote earlier in the summer, the sad predicament for families on our southern border (children in cages, parents lost in the system) is the result of the Trump/Sessions policy of “zero tolerance” for entry into the U.S. without documents and immediate incarceration of those who try to enter for asylum, reunification with family members, or virtually any reason that has been acceptable in the past.

As a result of further reading in recent weeks, I want to add a few observations. The first is that the current surge in border crossings into the U.S. from Central America, according to The Atlantic (Sept. 2018, 69), actually involves significantly smaller numbers than were common in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It is far less severe than the “crisis” of 2014. So much for the claim that we are being overrun by immigrants! In fact, immigrants are now crossing our northern border into Canada in large numbers.

The second is that the U.S. has significant responsibilities for the conditions that these families are fleeing in their home countries. We often intervened in those countries with destabilizing results. Our willingness to buy drugs has fueled the worldwide drug trade, and our guns have supplied the means to wars among the drug cartels.

What I learned from a short book, Tell Me How It Ends, by Valeria Luiselli, an author who has served as a translator for children in immigration court, is that we also bear significant responsibility for the gangs that make life miserable for the children who flee – miserable enough so that they brave a perilous journey to an unknown place with a “coyote” and endure unspeakable threats to come here – often to join a relative who has already been sending them money to help them survive. The gangs were formed in Los Angeles (and other American cities) in response to unmet needs and were exported to other countries when their members were deported! They will continue to exist both here and there until the problems of our current immigration system are resolved. A policy that denies asylum because of gang violence is hypocritical beyond belief.

The fact is that we live in a world where the fates of all people are interrelated. No good can come of systematic mistreatment of children at our borders. They must be reunited with family members immediately, at our expense, since our agencies created this painful situation.


Estella Lauter

Fish Creek, Wis.

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