I had grand plans of using my final post for June to close out Pride Month with a bang. The piece would be centered on the proverbial purgatory that bi folks tend to exist in–simultaneously atoning for our proximity to both straightness and queerness.
Those plans are cancelled.
I couldn’t bring myself to publish a post centering my own existence in the margins, amidst the need for a spotlight to be shone upon the fact that immigrant and asylum-seeking children are being marginalized to the point of total dehumanization. En masse. Right here in the ~*land of the free*~.
Over the past six weeks, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents–and subsequently detained–while attempting to cross the US border. This practice stemmed from an April decision by US Attorney General (and Keebler elf; word to Desus and Mero) Jeff Sessions. He ordered full adherence to a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy which has been on the books for quite some time, but has been implemented half-heartedly at best. The policy requires that any adult attempting to cross the border illegally must be arrested and prosecuted. This includes asylum-seekers.
Regardless of what their level of adherence to zero-tolerance was, previous administrations always erred on the side of keeping families together. Generally, children were only detained separately if there were extenuating circumstances. The separation of all children from their parents is unique to the administration of the Tangerine Tyrant. Now, the Marmalade Malfeasant did issue an executive order a couple days ago, which will halt the practice. Allegedly.
We’ll circle back to that.
The thing is, even if the practice is completely stopped, there are still 2,300+ immigrant and asylum-seeking children who were impacted by it, in less than two months’ time. They join around 9,000 other children who are already housed in detention centers managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Many of the centers are eerily reminiscent of prisons, or even internment camps.
One of the largest centers, located in Texas, is frankly nothing more than an abandoned Walmart which was haphazardly revamped into a federal facility. A minimum of five or six cots are jammed into each tiny room; there are no doors, and no ceilings. Photos from another Texas facility revealed children sleeping on the floor, and being held in cages. The center leadership complained about the coverage of their atrocious conditions, stating that though they were indeed holding kids in cages, they weren’t actually treating them like animals.
A uniquely disturbing piece of this puzzle is the fact that it was literally not until today that media was granted access to facilities which house migrant girls. The small amount of in-depth coverage on detention centers–which the media had to fight tooth and nail to get–was only from all-boys shelters. While child sexual abuse occurs across gender, female children are disproportionately impacted. One can’t help but to shudder at the strong possibility that the slowness to allow access to girls’ facilities was rooted in a need for extra time to sweep the unimaginable under the rug before reporters arrived.
What is happening is unacceptable. Is inhumane. Is on the track to a repeating of our world’s darkest histories.
And yet, there exists a relatively large portion of the US population which struggles to say unequivocally that this is not ok. Which floors me.
I’m primarily accustomed to vitriol from folks who are on the wrong side of responses to the injustices which impact people of color. When it comes to both overt and covert racist rhetoric, America isn’t new to this, it’s true to this. So it’s not shocking that small children are not exempt from the incendiary ramblings of people convinced that immigrants are the scourge of the earth.
I can even stomach apathy, to be honest, especially in times like these. One can feel powerless in the face of the ever-growing flames of our American dumpster fire. But ambivalence? A need to “see both sides” here? I can’t.
Just the other day I found out that my home state–Michigan–has 54 recently-detained children. The youngest of them are babies; 11, 8 and 3 months old, respectively. That same day, my phone lit up with a notice that per the request of Spraytan Stalin, the Pentagon had agreed to house up to 20,000 detainees on military bases. I think it goes without saying that the ways in which detainment on a military base can go terrifyingly awry, are myriad. And that executive order (told you we’d circle back) in place, ending the separation of children from parents? Is part of a larger effort to circumvent laws mandating that children cannot be kept in detention facilities for more than 20 days. The goal is to be able to detain entire families, indefinitely, without consequence. Every last bit of this is horrific.
So what in the entire fuck is there to be unsure about?
Nothing, that’s what.
I personally think that the uncertainty being expressed in interviews and comments sections and social media posts across America is nothing more than a mixture of denial and cowardice. If you have to stop and think about whether the treatment of these children is morally wrong, there is at least a piece of you willing to justify it. If you follow “it’s sickening to see” with “but their parents should’ve stayed in their country,” the reality is that the need to keep the ominous “them” out of “your” America outweighs the human rights of children.
And no one wants to admit that they are so blinded by devotion to party or politics that they’re callous enough to not care what happens to a child. No passionate [alleged] pro-lifer or All Lives Matter promoter wants to sit with the fact that there are some lives which they actually don’t find even remotely valuable.
They know it to be true that deep down, they are heartless racists, but they are too cowardly to admit that to themselves, let alone to others. It’s pathetic, and infuriating. Especially because ambivalence often breeds the same inaction that apathy does; you can’t land on how you feel, so you don’t say or do anything at all. That silence and inaction is the common thread which binds instances of genocide and/or internment across the globe.
Immigrant and asylum-seeking children and families are being subjected to immense injustices. Desmond Tutu tells us: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” There is no space for uncertainty in times like these. There is no room for “seeing it both ways.” Pick a side.
I think it’s abundantly clear which one I’m on.