Back in 2003, living in Haifa, Israel was grim. My father got laid off from work, and my mother couldn’t sustain our family on her own. My parents did not know what to do.
The situation didn’t alter until my father thought of what seemed like a far-fetched idea: the American dream.
When my father shared his idea with my mother, she didn’t know what to make of it. Our family and friends lived in Israel, and we had never lived elsewhere. She thought long and hard and eventually recognized that moving would be the right solution, given our finances at the time. So we obtained the appropriate visas, packed our possessions, said our farewells, and immigrated to America.
I was powerless in my parents’ decisions. It was simply my good fortune that my father was able to acquire a skilled-worker visa to ensure that we would enter the country legally, and I would be a legal resident. Now, as an American citizen, I am grateful for the marvelous opportunities — economically, educationally, and culturally — this country has granted my family and me.
Countless individuals execute similar life-changing acts to guarantee brighter, more promising futures for their loved ones. But many are not as triumphant in obtaining proper legal documents antedating their immigration. They arrive at our borders begging for refuge or, at the event they entered without authorization, advance their lives within American communities by living in the shadows.
While these families’ children and I have different immigration status, so many of us arrived in this country for a similar reason: Our parents risked everything to secure us with better lives. Yet, for more than a year and three months now, migrant children, including legal asylum seekers, have been punished most harshly for their parents’ pursuit to ameliorate their lives.
To date, thousands of children have been ripped from their parents’ arms when seeking refuge at our borders, and these kids are put through catastrophic living conditions. Babies are sleeping on cold floors, and youngsters are held for weeks without access to soup, clean water, showers, or even a change of clothes. Occasionally, facilities holding migrant children are so crowded that there is a lack of space to sleep. Inside these detention centers, youngsters have been sexually assaulted, abused, hospitalized, and have even died.
Even while disregarding these atrocious facilities, the mere separation act inflicts stark trauma on these kids, according to the American Association of Pediatrics. Indeed, the conditions the U.S. is forcing these children to undergo amount to torture.
Still, the Trump Administration is now ramping up additional hardships on migrant children. It is imposing fear on these kids by making repeated threats of sweeping ICE raids — which, if executed, would essentially form a second version of the Administration’s child separation policy. “Rather than [separating families] at the border,” as Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro expressed, “it’s going to happen in cities across the country.”
What has our country become? The nation that former-President Ronald Reagan once called a “shining city upon a hill” is placing toddlers in distress, tearing children from their parents and, yes, even torturing kids by placing them in hellish living conditions.
Through the President’s obsession with harming migrant communities — who have historically built our country — children have been the ones to suffer most. Despite that many of their families chose to legally present themselves to the government as asylum seekers, our country is placing them in torment.
The main difference between these children and me is that I had immigration documents preceding my arrival. No factor should justify torturing children. Our parents’ capability to obtain legal documents, which we are patently impotent in, must not be the basis for my flourishing and their withering. These children ought to be allowed to thrive, just like I was.
As of last week, Trump’s new asylum rule promises to produce more family separations. Given the administration’s continuous, callous efforts to rip families apart, it’s fair to assert that this calamity will only end with the 2020 presidential election. Americans must come together and boldly assert: We are better than this. We will not tolerate the traumatization of children. As the Statue of Liberty so elegantly depicts, the U.S. is an immigrant haven, not the antithesis.