Commentary: We must not forsake the children

In this Wednesday, May 22, 2019, migrants mainly from Central America guide their children through the entrance of a World War II-era bomber hanger in Deming, N.M. A surge of asylum-seeking families has been straining cities along the southern U.S. border for months, but now the issue is flowing into cities far from Mexico, where immigrants are being housed in an airplane hangar and rodeo fairgrounds and local authorities are struggling to keep up with the influx. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Pearl S. Buck wisely wrote, “The test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless.” If this is true, and we’re convinced that it is, then the United States of America is failing mightily.

Last week, the Trump administration argued in the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that migrant children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border did not need to be given toothbrushes or soap in order to meet the requirements of the 1997 Flores settlement, which stipulates that minors must be kept in facilities that are “safe and sanitary.”

Sarah Fabian, representing the Justice Department, also argued that allowing children to sleep on cold concrete floors did not violate the rules of the agreement.

Such justification is unconscionable.

And last Monday, President Trump tweeted that ICE would begin a mass roundup of migrant families on Sunday in an effort to “remove millions of illegal aliens” despite Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan’s warning that such an indiscriminate operation risks separating children from their families. But then, in yet another example of what has become a pattern of erratic behavior, on Saturday he tweeted that he would delay the raids for two weeks.

Our current immigration crisis is complex and messy. There are many pieces that must be addressed, including cracking down on the reprehensible cartels and smugglers who profit off the desperation of impoverished and/or terrorized people and working to help stabilize the countries from which so many of these defenseless people are fleeing. Our immigration system is completely overburdened, and we are in urgent need of comprehensive immigration reform.

But no matter one's views on what the ultimate solutions are, we cannot forsake the children.

As Mormon Women for Ethical Government wrote in their statement of June 6, 2019:

"Earlier this month, the Acting Inspector General released a report recommending that the Department of Homeland Security take immediate action to address the dangerous and inhumane treatment of detainees, including family units and unaccompanied minors, at a border patrol processing center in El Paso, Texas.

"On June 3, we learned that 37 migrant children between the ages of five and twelve were kept in vans in the sweltering Texas heat last July for between 23-39 hours, depending on the child, while waiting to be processed for reunification with their parents. This happened after public outrage forced the administration to backpedal on its inhumane zero-tolerance policy that led to thousands of children being taken away from their families.

"And yesterday, news broke that the Trump administration is cutting basic services — including legal aid — for unaccompanied minors who are being held in migrant shelters across the nation. These revelations, added to what we already know about cages, family separations, militaristic tent cities and other atrocities, are an affront to basic human decency.

"At least seven children have died while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since September of last year. In the decade preceding this, zero children died in custody. This is indefensible. Children are our most precious and primal responsibility. All children must be cherished and protected. To tear children from their families and to deny them access to legal aid and to basic necessities of sanitation and comfort is not just wrong, it is morally reprehensible.

“We call upon all citizens to stand with us in defense of children and families. A crisis of this magnitude demands a proportionate response — a groundswell of indignation and determination. And we call upon our elected representatives in Congress to honor the sacred trust we have placed in them and to set aside petty partisan politics and come together to pass the kind of comprehensive immigration reform that will ensure that these kinds of inexcusable atrocities never again happen on American soil.”

Sharlee Mullins Glenn | Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Diana Bate Hardy | Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Linda Hoffman Kimball | Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Sharlee Mullins Glenn, Diana Bate Hardy and Linda Hoffman Kimball are the founders of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to the ideals of decency, honor, accountability, transparency, and justice in governing. MWEG is not affiliated with or endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We do, however, fully sustain the leaders and doctrines of the Church.