The US Government's recent policy U-turn over the separation and incarceration of children represents a small victory, however, we still have a long way to go.
Recently, an influx of videos, photos, and news stories have surfaced, documenting the policy of family separation taking place on America’s southwestern border. This evidence has provoked a mountain of outrage among concerned American citizens, as well as voices internationally. On Monday, the United Nations’ top human rights official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein joined in condemnation of the American policy, calling it “unconscionable” that the United States would attempt prevention of illegal immigration by forcibly separating children from their parents.
Image via The Washington Post
Criticism of these practices has notably crossed partisan lines, with former Republican first lady Laura Bush among those speaking out. One photo (pictured above) of a two-year-old sobbing as U.S. border agents pat down her mother has been shared over a million times. In the chaos of the overwhelming spread of shocking, anger-inducing news that defines politics in the Trump-era, this particular story has struck a chord. Such a chord, in fact, that Trump was forced to sign an executive order on Wednesday reversing the policy, and stopping family separation at the border.
Humans, it seems, whilst capable of avoiding serious attachment to many of the injustices taking place in our world on a daily basis, are uniquely unwilling to ignore what American Academy of Pediatrics President Colleen Kraft called “government-sanctioned child abuse”. In the midst of evidence of corrupt governing and harmful legislation we can remain focused on our own lives, but when greeted by photos of children in cages, we’re forced to confront a world beyond our own daily realities.
President Trump responded to the rage against separating migrant families by claiming that Germany’s “open-door” immigration policy has caused crime to go “way up” and “strongly and violently” changed German culture.
Not only is the comment on crime blatantly false- statistics show crime in Germany last year was at its lowest in 25 years according to the New York Times- we at Pass the Crayon would dispute the second part of his statement as well. Yes, the immigration of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany has certainly affected European politics and, at times, culture. Some of that change means the presence of new challenges. But beyond those challenges lies the reality that Germany is a superior nation for the immigrants it has accepted, many of whom, are children that we work with. If culture has changed, it has changed for the overwhelming better.
At Pass the Crayon, we understand why people worldwide are compelled to speak out about the United States government causing children to suffer. Too often, it is children- the most vulnerable members of our societies- who are caught in the cross-fire of international geopolitics that forces families from their homes. However, if armed with effective avenues to express themselves and work through the trauma they’ve experienced, we’ve come to realize that refugee children have a unique ability to integrate into and contribute to a new society in ways their adult counterparts cannot. We should be cherishing this potential. We should not just welcome children who have fallen victim to the perils of international conflict, but understand their immense value in creating more thoughtful, rounded, diverse societies.
Widespread display of resistance has prompted Trump to reverse this most recent policy of family separation. It would be easy to declare this a victory, and move on to limited thinking about the lives of refugee children, and especially, limited thinking about the implications of actions by our governments- funded by us, the taxpayer- in impacting the lives of refugee children. Here at Pass the Crayon, we strongly urge against a return to apathy. A rampant rise in nationalistic thinking among citizens and political leaders worldwide means refugee children are at an ever-increasing risk of being shut out of countries like Germany and the United States. We must continue to speak up for the rights of these children to live, grow, and make art.
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