The Children Are Watching
The white vans pull up to the shelter in a tight line. The shelter workers bring their charges out to be loaded in, careful to document the identity of each one. Having been examined and, if necessary, treated at the shelter’s clinic, then perhaps fostered by caring volunteers, the charges are healthy and well-prepared for the trip. The van driver meticulously confirms the information, matching the details of identity, route, and destination. Only after all documents are verified does the silent line of vans proceed down the highway to a faraway state. Upon arrival, the same care for clear document check precedes the discharging of the passengers into the arms eagerly waiting to receive them.
No, I’m not describing our government’s treatment of immigrant children ripped from their parents’ arms at the US – Mexico border. No, I haven’t come across hidden evidence that in fact all is well with the more than 2000 children dispersed across what we now know is more than 17 states in places for the most past unknown to and unreachable by their parents. And, no, I’m not reporting that stories of missing documentation, lost names and family connections, have suddenly been proven false.
The white vans I’m describing take rescue pets from shelters in Houston to rescue organizations in other states where stray, adoptable dogs are scarce, and where families are eager to adopt one of the thousands of abandoned animals in our city that would otherwise be euthanized. One of the lead volunteers of this pet rescue organization recounts the professionalism and precision with which the Houston organization, and our local animal shelters, coordinate with their counterparts in states like Colorado, providing careful and detailed documentation on each animal. And, yes, the organization does have its own clinic, assuring the animals are healthy before they are transported; those needing time to heal from neglect or injuries or illness are placed with knowledgeable and caring foster families before they begin their journey.
When I first heard that ICE, Homeland Security, the US Justice Department, and other federal agencies had together managed to “lose” more than 2000 children after taking them away from their parents who came here seeking asylum, I was appalled at the incompetence and lack of caring for these, “other people’s,” children. When we further learned that many of these children were babies – infants and toddlers, even still nursing, and that many were not even old enough to speak, a collective horror arose across the nation. And that was before we found out that not only did their parents not know where they were, our government doesn’t either. That’s when the mental image of the pet rescue vans came to me: the pet rescue folks know where the pets are at any given time because they care. Our government, with its high-tech surveillance systems and sophisticated communication networks, would know where the children are – and who their parents are – if they cared. But as I wrote about in a recent post, these are “other people’s children,” not “our kids.”
Given the capacities of the US government, its millions of employees and thousands of departments and agencies, one can only conclude that the disappearance of these children is deliberate. Not the result of incompetence or bureaucratic snafus or poor planning: deliberate.
To even think such a thought evokes guilt: how could we accuse anyone of deliberately “losing” little children? Then we began to listen more carefully to the words – the words of the president, of Jeff Sessions (why is he so afraid?), of the various Cabinet secretaries and spokespeople. Really listen. That’s when we knew the children are not taken away from the heat of the border for their own benefit: they are being held hostage as leverage to get their parents to sign away their rights to an asylum hearing, to just leave, regardless of the violence that forced them to flee their home countries.
We know that losing track of this many children is not the result of a hasty policy pronouncement or poor planning: the government had plenty of time to award multimillion dollar contracts to the for-profit and (putatively) non-profit companies like Southwest Key for the tents, and to the computer and communication companies to set up the detention centers. Plenty of time to install all those wire cages – and to line up the trucks and people to carry all these materials and equipment to remote places in the desert. Plenty of time to coach border agents on standing on the border marker, not an inch behind it, to prevent asylum seekers from lawfully entering the US to be able to petition for a hearing. Plenty of time to commit taxpayer millions to bus tickets and airline tickets and “shelter” contracts and subcontractors. Plenty of time to divide up the tasks among Homeland Security and Justice Department and HHS and numerous others agencies in a planned chaos of hidden machinations and distributed (and therefore non-existent) accountability. Plenty of time to set up the apparatus of control.
The parents have been given a how-to-guide for reuniting with their children, complete with a 1-800 number to call to ask where to find them. Sometimes no one answers. Sometimes the person who answers doesn’t speak the parents’ language. Sometimes the person knows where the child is but won’t say, or says the child is fine but gives no more information.
As of June 27, only 6 of the more than 2000 children missing one week before have, according to official sources, been reunited with their families. In the meantime, another caravan of white vans have left Houston with rescue pets that reached their intended destinations, cared for safely and attentively all along the way. None lost.
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