Much like the phenomenon which occurred recently when the American public could no longer turn a blind eye to the police brutality which has been pervasive for over a century in this country, the flood of images of helpless immigrant children being separated from their families and placed in federal detention centers has finally reached a tipping point, and the American public has begun to speak out. Just as in the case of police brutality, immigrant families being torn apart has been happening for a long time. Deportations under President Obama exceeded those of the previous administration, leaving many children behind, and this has gotten worse under President Trump. In fact, children all over the world have for centuries and millennia been the forgotten ones in the blur of humankind’s never-ending list of hate or money-fueled wars that their adult “role models” have waged.
As I watched these images and the “outrage” that people suddenly felt, a favorite song of mine came to mind, written by an immigrant from Denmark. The freedom-fighting lyricist Mike Tramp, lead singer of the great 80’s band White Lion, wrote and sang these beautiful and powerful lyrics in the song When The Children Cry:
“Little child, dry your crying eyes
How can I explain the fear you feel inside
‘Cause you were born into this evil world
Where man is killing man and no one knows just why
What have we become just look what we have done
All that we destroyed you must build again
When the children cry let them know we tried
‘Cause when the children sing then the new world begins”
This song was released 30 years ago, and it resonates more than ever. No matter what country a child is from, it does not cease to be a child, to be innocent, to be full of hope and potential, regardless of the circumstances it was born into. The Attorney General announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April regarding families captured when illegally entering the U.S., and the result of this policy has been many families torn apart and children separated from their parents.
While my job is to help people enter the U.S. legally, and therefore I do not advocate for or support breaking the law, I do believe that a line needs to be drawn when it comes to innocent children, who do not have the free will to choose not to break the law, who are not willing accomplices to the decisions of their families to take the law into their own hands. President Trump announced the suspension of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program a few months earlier, demonstrating once again his inability to show empathy towards other human beings, including children, so the zero-tolerance policy announced by Jeff Sessions should not come as a surprise to anyone.
It should, however, be something that causes outrage, because basic human rights involve protecting innocent children, no matter what their nationality, ethnic group, race, religion or economic circumstances. When President Trump announced on the campaign trail that he would not allow for illegal aliens to use “anchor babies” to access U.S. resources, he not only showed a blatant misunderstanding of the law (U.S. born babies cannot sponsor immediate relatives until they turn 21, and if those relatives came to the U.S. without inspection they are probably still not eligible for a green card), but a blatant disregard for the babies, or children, themselves.
I came to the U.S. when I was five, not of my own volition, not by my own choice. I entered this strange land where people spoke another language, and I felt like I had landed on Mars. That decision was made unilaterally by my mom, and because she happened to have been born in the U.S., I was able to eventually become a U.S. citizen, after almost a decade of waiting and processing. What if my mom had not been a U.S. citizen? What if we had not come in legally? Then I would have been an “anchor baby” too, and I might have been in a federal detention center by myself, scared, unable to speak the language, crying, traumatized by the fear of the unknown, of the possibility of never seeing my mother again.
Children are born all over the world into different sets of circumstances. They cannot choose their country of birth, their families, their economic class and the corresponding opportunities or limitations that come with it. They are innocent, and our job as human beings is to protect and nurture them. ALL OF THEM. The U.S. policy on immigration is often confusing and contradictory, and driven by hate and fear. This has always been the case to differing degrees, and my job on a daily basis is to advocate and fight for my well-intentioned clients. However, where the policy has failed miserably is in how it leaves the fate of innocent children completely off the spectrum. Turning a blind eye to the basic rights and protections for children is NOT OK, no matter what country’s name is on their birth certificate.
These children ARE crying and we, as a country, are NOT trying. We must let them sing so that a new world can begin.