This is not what was meant by ‘suffer the little children…’- By Mohamed Hamaludin

This is not what was meant by ‘suffer the little children…’

By Mohamed Hamaludin

An undocumented Honduran woman claimed immigration agents ripped her infant from her while she was breastfeeding her baby at a detention center in McAllen, Texas, and handcuffed her when she resisted the outrage. The Department of Homeland Security rejected the accusation as “false” but, given the administration’s record on “false” news, the denial will ring hollow to many people.

And, in any case, between April 19 and May 31, 1,995 children were taken from 1,940 adults who crossed the border without documentation, the parents jailed, the children taken into state custody.        

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. National Public Radio reported in October that the Border Patrol arrested Rosamaria Hernandez, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, after she underwent emergency gall bladder surgery at a Texas hospital, following her ambulance and taking her into custody after she was discharged.

Even before the current wave of family separations, President Donald Trump was facing strong criticism over his policy. The denunciations have only grown louder. Activists filed a complaint with the Organization of American States. The United Nations has criticized the policy, as did the nonpartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in May that the administration was merely enforcing the law, adding, “Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.” That law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, allowed for the criminalization of border crossings, making it a misdemeanor for the first offense. The measure was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

But Sara Boboltz of Huffington Post and others have said that in taking the children from their parents, the administration was merely following a long history of separating members of non-white families, including slaves and Native Peoples.

Faced with intense criticism, Sessions sought justification in the Bible, citing Romans 13 and Paul’s exhortation, which he said was  “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” But several commentators have pointed out that the same passage was used to justify slavery and the Jewish Holocaust. Guardian writer Arwa Mahdawi cited several other Bible verses with a different message, including Exodus 22: 21: “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

Religious leaders joined in the protest, including Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Trump’s staunch supporter the Rev. Franklin Graham, who deemed it “disgraceful;” and Sessions own church, the United Methodist Church.

Catholic Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., raised the possibility of imposing canonical penalties for Catholics “who are involved in this,” ranging from denial of sacraments to excommunication, Jack Jenkins of Religion News reported from a recent meeting of Catholic bishops in Fort Lauderdale.

Tthere has been very little news of other black-oriented groups joining the criticism, perhaps because of an enduring belief that immigrants take jobs. But there is a lot at stake. The immigration crackdown is intended to soften American public opinion into accepting policies that would never have been tolerated just a couple of years ago and others will follow. It is part of an ethno-centric campaign here and in Europe by “nativists” seeking to gain power by scaring white people into believing they face an existential threat from the dark hordes. In the U.S., it is part of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” platform that harkens back to a time when America was supposedly great, when there were no Mexicans, no Latin Americans, no Africans or when those here were in chains, no Jews, no Irish…

The Guardian’s Delphine Schrank put the whole immigration travesty this way in March last year:  “The chilling effect carries a whiff of life in a police state, under authoritarian or semi-authoritarian rule, where security forces strike unpredictably, rarely with just cause, and most often with inhuman efficiency. Nightfall brings heightened anxieties about the knock on the door, and the disappearance to detention centers where terms of release are discretionary and capricious. By day, people glance over shoulders, careful about what they say or who might be listening. Laws, when applied, turn on technicalities whose mutability and application serve the whims of the state.”

On Wednesday, Trump finally caved in to pressure and signed an Executive Order ending the practice of separating children from families which even his wife First Lady Melania Trump criticized. But the overall crackdown will continue and it will forever be the case that an American president has used his power to shun desperate human beings seeking refuge and once again take children from their parents, all in the name of good government.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every two or three weeks for The South Florida Times, where the above column was first published.

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Comments

  • Chandra Panday  On June 22, 2018 at 12:58 am

    Power Mad Hello DT is an immigrant him and his Father Built their Empire on Government Funds. So l ask you who are the illegals and who are the Criminals DT?

  • Vince  On June 22, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Very well written.

  • Clyde Duncan  On June 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

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