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Monday 16 July 2018
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Playing politics with children

Diary of a mothering worker

Entry 289

GABRIELLE HOSEIN

US GOVERNMENT inhumanity is being broadcast as globally as World Cup football. Yet, few are tuned in.

Maybe you’ve seen the anguished images. The US Department of Homeland Security reports that close to 2,000 children were separated from their parents in just the six weeks between April 19 and May 31. More than a hundred children separated under this policy were under four years old.

One Honduran woman reported US agents taking away her breast-feeding baby and handcuffing her when she tried to resist. It would be unimaginable if it wasn’t being broadcast as real. The United Nations has called for an end to the deep violation in the current Donald Trump policy toward illegal migrants. Humanitarian organisations have called it “willing cruelty.” The American Civil Liberties Union alleged that border patrol agents were kicking, beating and threatening children with sexual abuse.

The words on the Statue of Liberty say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Yet, this about-face from a country whose majority population are immigrants, and which is ruled by white supremist power established through a history of illegal, violent and genocidal entry, is the height of hypocrisy.

Only those seeking a better future from difficult lives try to irregularly cross borders. From El Salvador and Honduras, migrants are escaping forced recruitment by gangs, extortion of their small businesses, rape of women, and kidnapping of children for the sex industry plus straight-up poverty.

People with wealth, power and opportunity in their own countries don’t experience such desperation and have the resources to legally negotiate migration. Vast class inequality in migrants’ home countries, at the hands of their own governments, cannot be ignored here.

Inequalities among countries are also key. Countries such as Mexico were impoverished by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which created higher levels of unemployment, lowered labour rights and reduced environmental rules.

Subsidised US corn flooded Mexico’s market leading to some two million being forced to leave their farms. These and other effects of NAFTA have had a direct effect on Mexican migration to the US.

Finally, the facts are that immigrants produce net benefits to the US economy by slowing an aging workforce, slowing the declining birthrate, contributing disproportionately to innovation, filling workforce gaps, and enabling high-skilled Americans, such as working mothers, to maximise employment.

However, more powerful is a language of immigrant-blame which fed Trump’s campaign, his insane call for a border wall, and his ability to rally supporters around xenophobia or hatred of foreigners, as a distraction to his undermining of labour, environmental, health, gender and equitable tax policies.

Once just an administrative process, the new ratched-up response is that any migrant family entering the US without a border inspection will be prosecuted for this minor misdemeanour. Parents get incarcerated and children sent to a detention centre or foster care. Parents are having difficulties reuniting with children, and may be deported alone.

Even credible asylum seekers are at risk in this new policy effort. Families are broken up because children cannot be kept in the jail-like immigration detention centres which house parents, but the decision to jail such people who haven’t violated any laws is a choice, not a mandatory or long-established practice.

The Trump regime is now playing politics about an approach that leaves children deeply traumatised. One legitimate, woman asylum seeker in particular, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was separated from her seven-year-old daughter for months. Children have been reported to be at risk of running away, self-harm and suicide, and arrive at overcrowded centres thinking their parents are lost or dead.

Commentator Dan Savage’s tweet got it absolutely right: “Reminder that the people currently justifying tearing children away from their parents spend the last twenty years insisting ‘every child deserves a mother and a father.’”

On the one hand, “family values” are touted as the basis for Republican undermining of women’s right to safe and legal termination of pregnancies, and undermining of challenges to homophobic laws regarding marriage, adoption and inheritance.

On the other hand, this is a vastly anti-family practice, enacted by almost no other country in the “free world” experiencing such migration. The world should also remember that, despite being a signatory, the USA has never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, undermining its global accountability for violation of children’s rights.

Even illegally migrating children should not be treated this way. In-between football games, join a world closely watching Trump’s border policy foul play.

motheringworker@gmail.com

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