For the children we serve in our residential program, the need to separate them from their families is usually because of a safety issue rooted in the emotional challenges they are experiencing. Traumas they have experienced because of instability in their homes contribute to their emotional state. They arrive confused, weary, angry, despondent, and anxious. However, no matter how dysfunctional their home situation might have been, they nevertheless want to go home, return to their community, and enjoy the comfort of what is familiar.
As a result, one of the first things we do is to reassure both child and family that we are committed to developing a pathway for the child to be returned home as soon as possible. It is never an easy road to reunification but it is important to do everything we can to make it happen and to do so quickly. To do otherwise would be cruel.
In light of this mission, it has been extremely difficult to see the images this past week of children separated from their families at our southern border. The vitriol from both sides has been extreme, and so it is with some reluctance that I weigh in on the discussion. To remain silent is to be complicit in light of this injustice.
The bond between a parent and child is sacred — so sacred that it must be preserved at all costs and cannot be seen as a negotiating tool no matter if related to another issue, such as immigration policy. The separation of parents from their children has no justification, and to argue such is pointless and runs the risk of being interpreted as a cruel tactic to advance a political agenda.
As I write this commentary, President Trump signed an executive order to end this policy of separating undocumented adults from their children when attempting unauthorized entry into the country. This is an important move because it restores a modicum of civility to an otherwise chaotic situation and makes a statement not only to those seeking unauthorized entry to the country but to all Americans that children will not be used as pawns in the divisive political environment of our day.
Those running for political office often address the well-being and safety of our children as a priority. However, laudable statements do not always translate into credible actions. Whether it is separating children from parents at the border, the failure to adequately fund education, threatening entitlements for needy children, reluctance to provide common-sense gun control to assure safety in our schools, or balancing budgets by sacrificing services for children, repeatedly the rhetoric does not match the action. It is shameful and not acceptable, and we must not be reluctant to call it out and hold those elected accountable.