Can you remember a traumatic moment in your life before the age of six. I can.
I wasn’t raised in this area. I was born and went to school in a city in Connecticut. Although I was raised in a city, I was blessed by going to neighborhood schools. Because the schools were neighborhood schools, it was not unusual for kids in kindergarten to be walked to school by an adult. In my case it was my mother. She walked me every afternoon to drop me off about 12:30 and was there faithfully to pick me up at 3:15, except once.
I can still recall being in line and walking across the school yard looking for my mother. I can remember walking closer to the end of the chainlink fence that surrounded the school yard and still having no sight of my mother. I can remember being at the top of the cement staircase and making my way down to the bottom where the patrol boys stood to stop traffic. I can remember still having no sight of my mother and the tears that poured down my cheeks and the sound that came out of my mouth.
I know someone tried to console me. I can kind of remember one of the patrol boys looking at me in utter helplessness. His face seemed to say both, “I don’t know why she’s crying” and “I don’t know what to do.” I remember being aware that just about everyone had left and made their way home. I refused to budge. My mom was supposed to meet me right where I was standing and there was no way that I was going to move.
I can remember seeing her scurrying down the sidewalk at a semi-hurried run. To this day I can tell you why she was late, too. I can’t ever recall her ever being late to pick me up again.
If I can so vividly recall an incident that happened in excess of 50 years ago, what torturous memories will these young immigrant children have and what feelings of abandonment will they experience by what they are going through.
The news is running the picture of the girl in the red jacket being stopped at the border with her mother. She looks at her mom with tears on her cheeks as her mother is being detained. What hit me the hardest was hearing a little boy, maybe three years old, piteously crying out for his “PaPa.” I think that little boy was as close to his father as I was to my mother.
It is bad enough to have a policy to separate children from their parents, but it is reprehensible to know there is no safety net, no tracking system, no government agency to see these children are united with their parents either in this country or anywhere else.
Since when has the United States government been in the business of child or baby trafficking? That is what this sounds like. We take your child and secret him or her off to other locations within the U.S. and no, we don’t know where he or she is. Kidnapping and abduction come to mind, too.
How can these children be legally absorbed into our system? If you are a citizen of the U.S. your child can legally be taken from you if you are proven unfit as a parent, you legally surrender your rights as a parent or the parent is incarcerated and no one can take care of the minor child. I suppose these children would be the last category. But wouldn’t the person in jail need to sign a legal document agreeing to let the state see to the welfare of the minor child? Where are the rights of these immigrants? Who is looking to protect them?
Another audio recording that haunts me is the little girl, seven years old, who has memorized a phone number to contact her aunt who lives in the U.S. Everyone we jail gets one free phone call to anyone; could be to a lawyer, could be to a relative, could be to their dealer. It doesn’t matter. It is there so someone knows where you are and that you are in trouble. Did that little girl ever get to make her call?
The latest images I have seen come from New York City. A video shows girls that were detained. It is a short clip of a group of five or six girls. How does someone who was stopped in Texas wind up in Harlem? How does that happen? More importantly, why does it happen? More important yet, who let it happen? Who gave the OK to transport these children that far away from the point of entry? Someone on the national level communicated to someone on the local level and said move them. And how is it that the mayor of New York City did not know anything about it?
Don’t tell me this isn’t being hidden. You don’t transport something between midnight and 5 a.m. if everything is on the up and up. No one person, no agency, no cabinet member has yet to say that they are responsible for tracking these children and seeing to their welfare. No one seems to care if they survive this trauma or die from the experience. I can see that happening, meaning dying from the experience.
It saddens me to know that on the map that identifies cities across the country where these children are being placed that Pittsburgh is one of the cities that has been highlighted.
Let me ask you this. Would you sleep well tonight if someone took you teenager, your tween, your young child, your infant and kept him or her in Pittsburgh for an indefinite period of time and out of contact with you? Imagine you didn’t speak the language they spoke in Pittsburgh, you couldn’t read the road signs, and you didn’t have anyone you could call. Now go find them.