Separating children forcefully from a parent(s) has been described as unethical, immoral, barbaric, unconscionable, indefensible, inexcusable, inhumane and a form of genocide. Some would argue that genocide is a term that should be left to identify and define cataclysmic atrocities against humanity.
So what is the word that best fits? Is it a matter of the degree of pain suffered by the victims, the calloused engineering by the victimizers, the number of ruptured lives or is it the multigenerational trauma that lingers?
What I am left to ponder is not only the physical, but the mental and psychological terrorism on the human soul upon a child being separated from their mother and/or father. I am left with only word –
The word brings together the act of separation, the crime against humaninty and the causation of multigenerational trauma.
It’s interesting to notice that the engineers, victimizers and defenders of Separátocide immediately blame the parents who placed their children in harms way. In other words, the separation was the fault of the parents, who made the decision to cross a border and regardless of the reasons, did so illegally and knowingly and therefore are to blame.
We tend to have selective historical memory when it comes to the separation of children and parents. It was not our first rodeo at creating such trauma. We have documented history of its multigenerational horror.
Native people have a daunting history with Separátocide. Native children were forcibly taken from their parents to attend boarding schools; religious groups (Civilization Fund Act) systematically separating children from their parents, eliminating native dress, appearance, language and customs.
The engineered formal process of forcibly separating Native American children from their families and their native land was echoed in 1879 by U.S. Calvary Captain Richard Henry Pratt, who heralded the ideology, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”
These detention camps were prison-like institutions funded by the government and religious groups to force assimilation without government oversight. Captain Pratt was right in using the word “kill.”
There are many reasons why America has earned the content and context of Separátocide. Again I stress, this type of -cide is not new to America. Slaves were originally separated from their place of origin physically, culturally, emotionally, psychologically – ripped from their homes and families – their identities instantaneously fractured.
Slaves faced Separátodice, not only during initial enslavement from their place of birth, but also separated at the slave auction block and at plantations. Separátocide occurred from slave owner to slave owner – beyond the Civil War and the 13th Amendment.
Separátocide was not thought to be an inhuman atrocity because slaves were classified as subhuman and therefore no reason to debate slavery as unethical, unjustifiable or an unaccepted cultural norm.
Japanese-Interment camps are yet another example of Separátocide. An executive order by Franklin Roosevelt established internment camps for people of Japanese descent, most born in the US, forcibly relocated to one of 10 internment locations from California to Arkansas.
Japanese families were relocated taking only what they could carry. Family members, who opposed or resisted such treatment, were separated without legal options.
Traumatic displacement of Japanese families was a direct attack on the structure and sanctity of all that encompassed building a family: home, schooling, language, religion, heritage, traditions, profession, job security, nutrition, health and the capacity to raise and mentor children.
Mexican immigrants faced forced repatriation throughout American history. Families were separated due to politicized capricious immigrant policies, depending on the political party in power at the time, with Capitalism profiting from a ready made work force.
There is a history of a lack of humane comprehensive immigration reform and policies related to: border crossing, border enforcement, legalization for unauthorized immigrants, pathways to citizenship, inconsistent residency status policies to qualifying aliens who entered the United States as minors called “Dreamers”, families with a mother and father (one a citizen and the other a non citizen) to be separated, leaving a child to be raised by a single parent.
Often ignored are the historical reasons why immigrants dared to cross a border clandestinely, even under the threat of harm and death. Immigrants make the difficult and desperate decision to immigrate due to a multitude of reasons seeking a better life:
- Social injustices in native country
- Political instability – Autocracy, Authoritarianism, Insurrections, Revolution, Domestic Terrorism
- Education for their children not available in their native country
- Deprived of quality of life and opportunities of worth
- Human Rights Violations
- Climate Change increasingly becoming a major factor
- Gangs – cartel violence, kidnappings
- Natural Disasters
- Religious intolerance
- Poverty – no opportunities for personal growth for self and family
- Lack of social and health services
- Displacements, implantations, replantations
- Political, religious persecution
- Genocide, Cultural-Ethnic-Political-Religious Cleansing
The horrific images of traumatized children and desperate parents, being separated and imprisoned in cages, left many Americans shocked and empty – beyond sorrow. Citizens began to recognize the antiquated politicized fraudulent “immigrant question” and turned to the empathy question “What if this was my child?”
For most Americans, the “no tolerance” policies of separating children from their parents was not emblematic of what America stands for and contrary to the vision, mission and core values of what Americans believe they are, and teach their children to be.
The reality of the photos and videos were horrific in real time. No, it was not the 1940s, but America in the 21st Century.
For many Americans, the human bond between parent and child goes beyond carnal. To lose a child by force, realizing that the child and parent may never be reunited, is a lingering heinous trauma some would concede is worse than death. It was not only a matter of a separation but a -cide.
America must confront its earned inherited shame. Deal with it without deflections or denials. It’s time to no longer casually refer to the separation of children from parents, but rather call it what it has been and is: Separátocide . . .
Those most responsible – the engineers, the profiteers, the inhuman conspirators need to be tried in the court of Crimes Against Humanity.
- Who were the specific people in power who created the horror by choice and design?
- Who engineered the ideology?
- Who were the collaborators?
- Who were the business men and women who profited from the construction and management of such camps?
- Who were the congressmen/women and senators who supported the inhumane policies overtly and covertly by their silence?
- Do the voters who put the politicians in power own the horror and terror of caging children?
As responsible, conscientious citizens . . . as human beings . . . we must continue, in the words of Elie Wiesel to,
“Build an ethical society . . . where information is transformed into knowledge, knowledge into sensitivity, and sensitivity into commitment” . . . and above all else . . . “to not stand idly by.”