There has been a strange response by many white conservatives to the separation of migrant children from their parents. Whether we are discussing undocumented migrants or those requesting asylum, there has been rightwing pushback to the larger chorus of condemnation of the Trump administration for its zero tolerance. These right-wingers claim that it is the parents who are to blame for the separation crisis.
Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. If the parents of these children are attempting to escape criminal violence or destitution, why would leave their children behind and who would they leave them with? Perhaps that would be the case if one were discussing migrants from economically, politically and socially stable countries who would first send one relative ahead and then bring the family. But what if a woman is trying to escape domestic violence? What if a family is attempting to escape intimidation carried out by criminal gangs? What if one is seeking freedom from political persecution and/or repression? Under those conditions how likely would you be to leave your children behind?
I have been thinking about this a great deal in the context of the current, Trump-instigated immigration crisis. But it came to a head for me in reading of Trump’s remarks in Europe regarding immigration. He warned Europe that they were being overwhelmed and ruined by immigrants. My guess is that Trump was not talking about Polish immigrants moving to Britain. Rather, as has become clear for Trump, “immigration” means immigration from the global South to Europe and the United States. I cannot imagine Trump ordering the separation of undocumented Russian or Irish immigrants from their children but if one looks at immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, as originating from so-called “shithole” countries— as Trump apparently does— none of this should come as a surprise.
To blame migrant parents for the current Trump-instigated crisis and to suggest that the parents are wrong for bringing their children along is another display of the ignorance and a racial blind spot for much of white America; that ideology can only originate in the minds of people who know next to nothing about the conditions that migrants are fleeing and their near total amnesia concerning the experiences of other groups of migrants who arrived on these shores over the decades.
What I find particularly unsettling is the way that a sizeable minority of the United States has become quite comfortable with the idea that migrants from the global South are somehow unworthy of the human rights guarantees that the United States is supposed to uphold.
I wonder how many of these same people would have questioned the rights of European immigrants in the aftermath of World War II who were crossing borders en masse to escape the results of that war.
Oh, but I forgot. That was a deserving population.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter @BillFletcherJr, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.