As we send our children off to school this week, we wonder if they are nervous; if they are making friends; if their teachers are nice. As we once again fall into the routines of a new school year, let us remember another group of children whose treatment by our country has been anything but routine.
Let us remember the 497 children who still remain separated from their parents, the last remnants of the nearly 3,000 children torn from their parents’ arms at our southern border. Let us think about their desperate parents now beside themselves with worry, who came to this country seeking safety for their children.
Let us think about the 322 of these children whose parents have already been deported; children who have essentially been orphaned by a government who gave no thought to how these families would eventually be reunified; children who have been traumatized, who wonder what they did wrong .
Let us think about the six children under the age of five whose parents have been deported; how they may never trust anyone ever again; how the only people who gave them unconditional love have vanished from their lives.
Let us remember that we, as a country, are responsible for these children . It matters not if we are red or blue; if we are white, black, brown or yellow. None of us would ever want to be separated from our children and endure that kind of pain- have our children endure that kind of pain. It matters not from which side of the aisle we hail.
We can all agree that whatever our opinions on politics or immigration, it is never justifiable to remove a child from a loving parent . We can all agree that we want our country to be a light unto the world ; a nation that others look up to for our moral leadership. Yet as we send our precious children back to school, let us not forget that the world has admonished our country for violating the human rights of the separated children; that our own pediatric leaders have called the treatment of these children “government sanctioned child abuse.”
Let us not forget that over 40 days have passed since the court ordered all the children to be reunited with their parents , yet hundreds still remain separated. Even in these politically divisive times, surely we must see that some issues must transcend the political divide. Do we want to be the country that not only allowed this atrocity to victimize innocent children on our soil, but the country that remained silent? If we do not hold our leaders accountable for what has happened to these children, what is to prevent it from happening again?
As our children return to school in the years to come they will learn that we once had a government that conceived of this cruel and heartless policy that tore children from their parents, orphaning hundreds of them. Do we also want them to one day learn that we as a people sat back in silence and said nothing because we were so politically divided as a country that we lost our humanity?
I pray that on this issue we can step away from our corners and come together to expect better from our leaders; to demand that every available resource is utilized to reunite these families; that those responsible for this policy be held accountable for what they have done to these children.
I pray that one day our children, our grandchildren and future generations of Americans will know that we were not silent ; that as it threatened to slowly fade away, we rose up and reclaimed our humanity .
Dr. Eve Krief is a pediatrician working and residing in Huntington. She is on the Executive Committee of the NY Chapter 2 American Academy of Pediatrics and is on the Core Team of FamiliesBelong.org