Last week I joined with nearly fifty of my colleagues in the House of Delegates in signing a joint letter to all the Virginia senators and representatives in the United States Congress about “our outrage at the cruel and systematic separation of immigrant children and their families at the U.S. border with Mexico.”
While immigration issues are mainly federal responsibility, the actions on the part of the current administration have been so horrendous that we felt an obligation to speak out. We asked our Virginia delegation to intercede with the administration to cease the policy and to reunite the children involved with their families without delay.
Since our letter there have been some pronouncements from the administration about changes in the policy, but it remains entirely unclear what will happen with the thousands of children who have already been separated from their families and are being held in mass facilities that seem more like prisons than homes. It is equally unclear as to whether a continuation of a zero-tolerance policy on border entry will simply replace prisons for children with adult prisons. I am pleased that Governor Ralph Northam has withdrawn the use of any Virginia National Guard forces from being involved in implementing this inhumane program.
The politics of building fear of immigrants to further political goals stinks as does the attempted use of children as pawns to bargain for a disastrously conceived wall with our neighbors. Beyond the politics are the long-term human rights issues that many thought and most hoped America was beyond. The negative long-term impact on the children involved cannot be overlooked or not addressed. Nor can the impact be underestimated of sending people back to a country from which they were seeking asylum in fear for their lives.
Earlier this month, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) along with 540 other organizations wrote to the administration as part of the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign stating their opposition to actions that would separate children from their parents. As NAEYC stated it, “There are no ends that justify these means.”
The organization that is well respected for its research on the education of young children went on to state, “The research is clear, and so are our core values. … We have an obligation to create and advance policy solutions that support child well-being and strengthen the bonds between all children and their families.”
Part of that research has found the traumatic impact of separation on young children can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. As NAEYC said, “You don’t have to be either a parent or an educator to understand that separating children from their families — and putting them in a place where they cannot be hugged, touched, or loved — causes harm. And not the kind of harm that is easily repaired. This is the kind of harm that is significant and long-lasting, interfering with positive child development and well-being.”
Please take some time and join me in expressing to the administration our opposition to their policies and actions on immigration.