President Donald Trump has lied so much and so consistently that it should come as no surprise that he lied yet again when he promised to sign “something” that would end the separation of migrant children from their families at the southern border.
Within hours after Trump put his signature on an executive order that purported to end the policy, other government officials stepped in to clarify that, well, it’s not what it seems. Health and Human Services stated that the 2,300 children already separated from their parents would not be helped. No grandfathering.
Other officials indicated that children presently farmed out to shelters and foster home across the U.S. might not be reunited with their families anytime soon. The cruelty that Trump created will continue.
Moreover, it is that indisputable that irreversible damage has already been committed against these families. This truth must be acknowledged, and we must take immediate legal and humanitarian steps to mitigate the damage. America owes these families, whether the Trump administration wants to admit it or not.
The biological impact of stress in children is settled science. But if discussions about changes in brain chemistry, physiological responses to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder bore you, at least stay tuned enough to listen to those who have gone through similar experiences.
Some of these children are too young to explain beyond their cries, and it’s highly likely that access to them will continue to be limited. Evil likes to hide its wrongdoings.
Pedro Irigonegaray vividly recalls the terror of being separated from his father and two little sisters through his immigration to the U.S. from Cuba. He remembers clutching desperately onto his father on the airport tarmac, seeing his little sisters weep and fearing that he’d never see them again.
The date was January 13, 1961. He still has the airline ticket. And one he never used; the return flight.
“My separation was mild by comparison,” he said. “But as a 12-year-old, it was devastating.”
He was going to Miami with his mother. Later, he’d be sent to an uncle in Kansas City while his mother tried to reunite the family from Florida.
The nightmares began soon after.
“The emotional cost I still pay today,” the 70-year-old said. “And the long-term harm that we are causing now will be a stain on our nation that will last for years.”
Irigonegaray, a lawyer in Topeka, Kan., is a former trustee for The Villages, a nonprofit that has been accepting the Central American children.
He had nothing but positive things to say about the agency, which was founded in 1966 by the celebrated psychiatrist Karl Menninger as a place for troubled and neglected children.
Irigonegaray is adamantly opposed to “the atrocity that our president is committing.”
“I too came as a political refugee,” he said, his voice rising with emotion. “I too came seeking asylum and I can relate to those young kids, and it breaks my heart to think that we, as the greatest nation in the world, would consider it necessary and appropriate to do such a thing.”
The Villages is among several organizations under intense scrutiny for its role in sheltering the children. Earlier in the week, the nonprofit declined to comment on the number of Central American children it has accepted, among other details. On Thursday, it issued a statement that read in part:
“While (they are) in our care, The Villages works diligently to reunite Unaccompanied Children with family members or other qualified sponsors and we have had great success to date. There really is no rule about how quickly Unaccompanied Children can be reunited – the answer has been and will continue to be as soon as it is possible to do so in a safe manner,” the statement said.
Obviously, this is a developing story and there will be much more.
But one has to wonder how Menninger would have viewed the high emotional toll our government is causing.
He died at 96 in 1990 in Topeka. Tributes to him noted the psychiatrist’s theories that shaped his profession. Paramount was his belief that much dysfunctional behavior and mental illness could be traced to an absence of parental love and a stable family.
It’s a sad statement indeed that the U.S. government is inflicting the damage that his legacy, The Villages, now seeks to mitigate and mend.
Reach Mary Sanchez at email@example.com.