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Kunin: Political Pawns

I shuddered when I learned that more than 700 children, including toddlers, have been taken from their parents at the United States Mexican border. This inhumane policy would act as a deterrent against illegal immigration, we are told. Yes, it will deter immigrants from making the dangerous trek to the border and parents will think twice before seeking refuge from the violence in their own countries. The “zero tolerance” edict from the administration against undocumented families, may just work. But I have to ask at what price?

I wonder if the authorities have children of their own. And if they do, how they could condone such cruelty since separating a young child from his or her parents is conceivably worse than water boarding.

No matter how long the separation, it shreds the fundamental bond between parent and child and causes trauma that can be permanent as many studies have shown the ill effects of institutional upbringing. An intact family, regardless of poverty or dire circumstances, generally remains the best way to raise a child.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans disagree with that conclusion – with the only exception being when either the mother or father, or both, voluntarily give up a child to foster care or adoption, or prove themselves incapable of caring for them, according to law. But many parents arriving at the border, seeking refuge for their families, have had their children wrenched from them - literally from their clinging arms.

I can well imagine the scene, with cries, and tears and chaos. And I think if this were happening to me, I would become a Mama bear, desperately protecting my cub.

The most chilling response to questions about this policy came from John F. Kelly, President Trump’s Chief of Staff who attempted to justify placing children in foster care or institutions by trying to make it sound normal, suggesting that tearing families apart was a logical step to take – implying, “What’s all the fuss about?”

But using children as pawns in the immigration tug of war is unforgivable.

It may work, but I ask again, at what price?

The answer is: our country’s humanity.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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