Bad policies can take decades to heal


More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks and placed in government-contracted shelters — hundreds of miles away, in some cases — under a “zero tolerance” policy toward families entering the U.S. Many are from drug – and violence – wracked Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. After public outcry, President Trump issued an executive order halting his own administration’s policy.

A federal judge has ordered the thousands of refugee children and parents who were forcibly separated be reunited within 30 days, sooner for youngsters under 5. The task ahead could be monumental as there seems to be no policy in place as to how to reunite parents with children. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress this week that his department still has custody of 2,047 children — only six fewer than last week.

Since Trump issued the executive order, the administration has elected to establish detention space in tent cities and military bases for holding refuge families. Further, this administration has asked the courts to modify a 1997 settlement agreement that generally bars the government from keeping children locked up with their parents for more that 20 days. This means families could be detained indefinitely.

We wish we could say this is not who we are. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the U.S. government has removed children from their parents(Native Americans, and enslaved peoples). Nor is it the first time we have had internment camps. Nor is it the first time the U.S. has turned away refugees in their plight to save lives.

History has shown us that bad policies can take decades, even centuries, to heal. The trauma inflicted on these children will have life-long consequences — not only on the families affected but on the U.S. as a whole. Separating families and or detaining families in internment camps is not only inhumane, it threatens our national security.

Please, if you are concerned about these children and families, call your Representatives and Senators. It is easy — call (202) 224-3121. All you need is your zip code and you will be linked to your Congress person.

Vicki McGaffigan

Connie Osier

Nancy Beck

Bruce A. Hanson

Teresa Ross

Dane Ross