News broke that over 500 children are still separated from their parents with government officials unable to find the latter. The critics, as usual, are making this part of the horror story against Trump and pointing tremulous fingers at his cruelty. But just as usual, they fail to think beyond their own inchoate rage and partisan bias to see possible implications of this story that make the children tragic victims of choices made by others long before they reached the border and were separated by Trump’s immigration policy.
It’s possible these 545 kids were simply used as props by traffickers and criminals wanting legal entry. Analysts cited a 900% increase in the kidnapping of children in 2018 to gain entry into the United States. Since the children are no longer needed their supposed “parents” are off pursuing their criminal lifestyle.
We might reasonably assume that if they were separated from their actual parents, then the parents would be beating down the door of the nearest government building demanding reunification with their children, not missing entirely. Of course, perhaps they are too afraid to talk to government officials for fear of being deported. This is an unfortunate but not outrageous consequence of breaking the law. Even then, I would rather be deported with my child than live without them and know that they are stuck in some government run camp. Finally, it might be possible that parents gave up their kids so they could have a better life in America. This is a tough decision that stresses the need for solutions that deal with the root cause instead of arguing about down stream issues.
Finally, we might consider that the government has shoddy records and can’t find them because they took incomplete information in the first place. While we should expect professionalism and proficiency from our border patrol agents, we must understand they were being overwhelmed with migrants. They had to combat drug trafficking, potential terrorist infiltration, protect the vulnerable from sexual exploitation, and provide food, housing, shelter, and medical care to an incredible number of immigrants. Even in the best of circumstances the government has trouble performing perfectly, (see below) given the raging crisis the number of children with parents unable to be reached could be considered low.
This has much wider implications than blaming Trump for his supposedly cruelty. We are in election season and should remember that the government sucks at everything. At the same time every politician promises you the world. When government officials make a promise that electing them will solve all your problems, remember how incapable the government seems of managing anything including the names and phone numbers for parents of children they’ve taken into custody.
I wrote during the height of the migrant crisis that the outrage over the child policy begins in the middle of the story. It doesn’t look at the decisions of parents to make the long dangerous trek with credible risk of abuse and death from the climate, how they pass through countries that are relatively peaceful, closer, and offer a much easier journey to asylum and instead travel all the way to America. The outrage doesn’t consider the magnets that generous social safety nets and businesses looking for cheap labor create. It simply begins on the border where Donald Trump is evil and racist.
Selectively using bits of a story to stoke outrage is such a common practice that the Greek historian Polybius countered it thousands of years ago “[Historians] omit…the causes which give rise to [the catastrophes], or the course of events which led up to them; and without knowing these it is impossible to feel the due indignation or pity at anything which occurs…And so in everything our final judgment does not depend upon the mere things done, but upon their causes” (ii. 56).
I don’t feel what liberals would call “due indignation,” really Trump derangement syndrome, because I realize this news is but a small piece in a much larger story, and that Trump has done much more than many others in Washington to mitigate the need to place children in dangerous situations or be adopted by criminals. Instead of staged photo ops, he asks them to shelter at the first safe country, and those that arrive at the Mexican border must remain in Mexico. These and other changes have drastically reduced the number of migrants at the border. I hope these kids can be reunited with their parents, but looking at the whole story, I’m glad that Trump’s policy changes regarding asylum have eased the crisis.