Opinion

A mother's questions about the new U.S. border policy

Residents at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses women and children caught crossing the border illegally, in 2015.
Residents at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses women and children caught crossing the border illegally, in 2015. NYT

Dear Senators Burr & Tillis,

I am horrified and sick to my stomach over the change of policy to separate children from parents when they come to this country seeking asylum. I understand the appeal of this policy to Republican lawmakers. It is brutally expedient. The president wants immigration from what he calls "shithole" countries to stop. This vicious policy will deter desperate parents. But it costs us our humanity.

You can be for protecting the border, you can be for putting America first, you can be for holding people accountable for their actions without being for this. As a parent, I want you to denounce this policy and create a humane alternative. I want you to stand against this and truly be the party of family values. But if you won’t do either of those things — then, as a parent, I hold you accountable for implementing it. I want you to answer these questions:

You are allowing children as young as 12 months to be taken from their mothers' arms. How are you ensuring the safety of those babies?

Are you allowing siblings to stay together, or must they be separated as well? Who is caring for those children? How are you vetting these employees?

What is the adult-to-child ratio in these facilities? Did you take a medical history from parents before taking their children away? Do you have a way to care for children with chronic diseases or life-threatening allergies? If a child became seriously ill, do you have a way of informing parents? Would you be compassionate enough to allow a parent to be reunited with a child should his or her life be in danger due to serious illness? Are you prepared for children to die alone on U.S. soil without their parents?

Do you even have an accurate list tracking where you are imprisoning children and parents? And are you coordinating the immigration proceedings of parents and children? I imagine that the immigration trials of two-year-olds (who appear before judges without legal representation) move considerably more quickly than the trials of their adult parents. If the children are marked for deportation first, where do you plan to send them? Do you have next-of-kin information in their home countries? How will you notify parents of the location of their minor children once you deport them? Should this evil policy be reversed, is it even possible for the federal government to reunite these families?

As far as I can tell, you’ve allowed this policy to be implemented with no planning and no oversight, so I doubt you can answer a single one of these questions. Sooner or later, there will be a reckoning. Inevitably there will be hearings on Capitol Hill. Some expendable INS or ICE or HHS officials will be called upon to act as scapegoats while senators like you express their outrage for hours over the human cost of this unconscionable policy. It won’t be time to demand answers then. You should have answers now.

We're waiting.

Kate Murphy lives in Huntersville and is pastor of The Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.
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