Nearly 60,000 Central American children, fleeing rape, torture and death from the drug wars in their countries, had come to the Rio Grande Valley last spring and summer. The children and their moms had come to surrender themselves to America.
Why had they come? Apart from fleeing a Mad Max kind of horror, it seems that people had been spreading a rumor that the United States, a nation founded on Jewish/Christian principles (“show hospitality to the widow, the orphan and the stranger”) would welcome this opportunity to do good.
Unfortunately for the children, our country found this particular biblical mandate inconvenient, and we arrogantly tossed it aside. Institutionally, we sold the care of the mothers and their children to the highest bidders (the private prison companies GEO and CCA). Culturally, we chose to believe that these children came bearing plagues, and we spoke of them as if they were insects (“hordes”). Diplomatically, we paid someone else (Mexico) to do our dirty work, to intercept the children well south of the Rio Grande.
We continued, as usual, our war-on-drugs’ business. The criminal enterprises that carried out the violence against children in Mexico and Central America continued to celebrate a merry collusion with corporate interests; the violence continues unabated.
Last week, a federal court found that the immoral act of locking up non-criminal families was also illegal. Presumably the kids and their moms will be set free. I will be interested to see how that plays out. Will eight year olds have to wear ankle monitors? Will the refugees have to wear some version of a red “A” or a yellow star?
Some weeks ago, I was in the waiting room of an immigration court. I was with a friend of mine, a seventeen year old Guatemalan who had a hearing that morning. The attorney who was with us nodded at a little girl seated a couple of rows in front of us. “She is all alone; me and some of the other attorneys are trying to figure out how to help her—we just don’t want to scare her—you know, another set of strange adults she has to deal with.”
As if she could hear us, the little girl turned in her seat and looked back at us. I winked at her. She smiled. “I trust you guys” that smile seemed to say.
Oh, but if only she should. If only she should trust us.