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Children at the border: America must not give up its morals

Photo by Sarah Whiting, Minnesota Women’s Press
Jessica Melnik

I am a first-generation American.

There is a stark contrast between my experiences as a young child of immigrants and those experiences of the kids of immigrants coming from our southern neighbors.

Although immigrants come from different places, speak different languages, and have different ethnicities, most of them share a common belief that America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, will give them a better life for themselves and the generations to come. This is the common belief that America was founded on, and we cannot regress from that.

My parents immigrated here from Belarus, which used to be a part of the Soviet Union. My great-grandfather perished in the Holocaust. My grandparents and my father were victims of anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union.

My mom and dad left their country and came here in hopes of living a better life for themselves and their future children. At that time in America, people immigrating from a Communist country were often not welcome. My parents had to tirelessly prove that they had no Communist connections and were simply trying to come to America because their country was not a place in which they could thrive. During that time, America feared Communists just as some fear immigrants coming to America today.

My experiences as a first-generation American have been good overall. I was brought up speaking Russian and English, getting flavors of both cultures while enjoying common “kid” activities. As an upcoming senior at Hopkins High School, I am grateful for the sacrifices my parents made to ensure I had the opportunity for a good life.

When I was in elementary school, I went to camp on the North Shore. Admittedly, there were some tears, and I was not exactly fond of the idea that I would be away from my parents. I took comfort in knowing that my parents were only a phone call away. We slept in dorms, we were fed, we were allowed to roam freely (to a certain degree). This was a real summer camp, an experience many American kids share with me.

Like millions of other American children who attend summer camp, I was comforted knowing I would be reunited with my family at the end of the week.

Unfortunately, this is NOT the experience the young kids on our Southern border will share with us. Even now that President Trump has signed an executive order to end the practice of separating families there, where are these children’s assurances that they will be reunited with their parents?

A TV commentator referred to the holding cells for kids at the Southern border as “essentially summer camps.” But others have referenced other kinds of “camps,” camps that reek of similarities to the Japanese internment camps and Nazi concentration camps. As I prepared for my summer camp, I was NOT required to take off my shoelaces because my camp counselors feared I would hang myself with them. I was not subjected to sexual abuse from my counselors.

I was certainly not stranded at my camp indefinitely, and I was not ripped from my parents in heart-wrenching tears.

America prides itself on being the country of progress. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We must not give up on our morals, and I ask you to not give up on the kids.

Jessica Melnik is a student at Hopkins High School.


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Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/22/2018 - 01:01 pm.

    The GOP – Nothing to Vote for Here

    Now the GOP has something much greater than a Katrina like disaster on their hands, Time Magazine’s perfect depiction of today’s GOP. It is a composite picture of a small 2-year-old Hispanic child crying for her parents with Trump towering over her – that says all you need to know about today’s morally deficient Republican Party. Just keep that image in your mind when you go vote. The silence of Republican politicians makes them just as complicit in the immigration disaster as Trump is. Look at all those fleeing the Republican Party because not even they can stomach todays Republican Party, the party of human pawns.

    Thank you for the very well written article with the contrast of your experience to todays immigrates experience. Continue to be proud of your heritage. Thank you for including the link to show it was Laura Ingram, from Fox, that said it is like “summer camp” for those being held captive by Republican’s. As you mention there are other similarities to the Japanese internment camps and Nazi concentration camps. This is an ugly time in America’s history because this is not who we are as a country. This is how the Republican Party is however. The GOP isn’t giving the electorate anything positive to vote for.

  2. Submitted by cory johnson on 06/22/2018 - 11:20 am.

    what an irresponsible piece…..

    You should be ashamed of comparing these detention centers to concentration camps. Did This article doesn’t provide any actual insight into the current situation regarding immigration. It just parrots Democrat talking points to the Minnpost echo chamber. How about offering solutions?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/22/2018 - 04:02 pm.

      What a responsible piece

      She should be very, very proud of this excellent piece. For ignoring all the false equivalencies and recognizing the atrocities being committed by the Trump administration in the name of a fake immigration crisis. Her comparisons are spot on.

      This kid is much more intelligent and far more patriotic than most people on this issue. She gives me hope for the future.

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 06/22/2018 - 05:26 pm.

        Fake crisis?

        So you are ok with the Obama policy of catch and release even though 97% of illegals caught at the border never show up for their hearing? Then a why even have a border? Let’s just let everyone in and see what happens.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/23/2018 - 11:43 am.

          Yeah, I’m OK with that

          I prefer Obama’s policies.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/25/2018 - 10:28 am.

          “Catch and Release”

          I find the use of that term with regard to human beings as offensive.

          “Catch and release” is what you do when fishing for sport.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 06/26/2018 - 05:30 pm.

          97% never show up?

          Please cite the source for this claim.

        • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/26/2018 - 07:34 pm.

          97%? Fact check please. (And not just what some politician said without data to back it up.)

          That estimate is far higher than any fact driven estimate I’ve seen, including from those in favor of tougher border enforcement.

    • Submitted by Elizabeth Simpson on 06/22/2018 - 06:38 pm.

      comparison to concentration camps

      You’re right. She should not compare them to the concentration camps. The concentration camps were actual buildings to protect the prisoners from the elements, while we have people in tents. In Texas. In summer.

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 06/22/2018 - 09:11 pm.

        Do you get how offensive this is….

        To the families of 6 million jews who were rounded up for the express purpose of extermination? This kind of talk is literally insane.

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 06/25/2018 - 08:38 am.

          How many of them have you talked to?

          What do you know about how they might feel about how “illegals” are being treated? Remember, Hitler removed German citizenship from the Jews before he exterminated them.

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/25/2018 - 11:28 am.

          The author references a commonality, not an identity.

          A number of writers of intellect and moral acuity, including those who witnessed and suffered from the rise of fascism in Germany, presently have noted the path thru authoritarianism to genocide and how this nation (as other nations in the authoritarian wave of this time) now finds itself treading that path. The Republican party’s tactic of dehumanizing identifiable categories of the “other” is not limited to its treatment of those who arrive at our borders; its dehumanization of the “other” is core to curating its base. The abandonment of a conveniently segregated group of darker-skinned U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico is a grand act of dehumanization that puts the lie to the claim that the administration is simply enforcing the law.

          Unfortunately, the authoritarian quest for power, tactical cultivation of hate for the false “other,” and the consequent genocide appear to be a repeating dynamic of flawed humanity. The risk that we run by solemnly prohibiting comparison to the Holocaust – or to the conditions that led to it – is that we disable ourselves from forestalling other genocides before they are upon us. If I were a victim of the Holocaust but had consciousness today, I would find nothing more offensive than invoking the supposed uniqueness of my fate as a shield against calling out and acting to prevent the genocides that follow.

    • Submitted by Carrie Anderson on 06/24/2018 - 09:44 am.

      She did not make that comparison

      Ms. Melnik brought up two contrasting ways that some in the media are looking at it, then neatly illustrated the point that while neither extreme may be true, there is a stark difference between choosing to go to summer camp and being forcefully separated from your parents and assigned tent housing by the government.

  3. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 06/22/2018 - 12:48 pm.

    Congratulations to the author and her parents, they are the recipients of one of the greatest gifts on Earth; American citizenship.

    However, I’m going to guess they did not sneak in across the border under cover of darkness. Indeed, the author described a lengthy process to gain legal entry.

    They played by the rules, and it worked.

    That is the lesson that the people flooding across our Southern border need to learn.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/22/2018 - 04:04 pm.


      Except that this crisis came about because the rules have changed under Trump. This wonderful addition to our country might have been put in a cage and separated from her parents had she come today.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 06/24/2018 - 04:37 pm.

        Trump abandoned the catch and release policy that has resulted in tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to melt into the general population. He simply instructed ICE to follow the law already in place.

        According to the authors narrative, her parents followed the law; she was never in danger of being taken into custody.

        In fact, she is telling the story of why following the law is the smart thing to do.

  4. Submitted by Misty Martin on 06/22/2018 - 01:05 pm.

    Congratulations on an excellent article, Jessica!


    Your article was very well written and so true – Hopkins High School is lucky to have you as one of its students. This is what America is all about – you know we were all sojourners here at one time or another. The only people who can claim that they were never pilgrims would be the Native Americans, who were and are not treated very well or respectfully either, if we are to be truly honest.

    I love America, as I am sure that you and your family do too, but I have to speak out when I see wrongs being done, and this zero-tolerance policy on immigration is WRONG. I know that the President has signed an executive order to allow families to remain together as of this week, but so much damage has already been done – hopefully, prayerfully, not permanent damage – but who knows? I read where one father hung himself when he was separated from his son. Who will repair that damage?

    Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the Justice Dept.’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border by citing Romans 13 of the Bible, where the Apostle Paul spoke about obeying the laws of the land. That’s very true and I hear he has also taught Sunday School – so have I. I would like to leave Attorney General Sessions with these scripture verses as well:

    Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them, . . . love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

    Acts 5:29 “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’ ”

    How about the entire Chapter 6 of Daniel, where under Darius the Mede, who took over the Babylonian kingdom, and who after being tricked by some of his officials who were jealous of Daniel, a devoted Jewish servant of God, whom Darius had appointed governor, besides two others, made a decree that could not be broken under the law of the Medes and the Persians, that anyone asking a petition of any god or person other than Darius, would be thrown into the lion’s den? We all know that story – Daniel chose to pray to God and obey Him rather than the king and his decree, and God shut the mouths of the lions so that they would not harm him. The point is: at that time in that place: that was the law of the land, yet Daniel chose not to obey it, knowing it was wrong, and God saved his life and honored him for doing so.

    It was the law of the land in Matthew 2: 16-18 under wicked King Herod to have all male children put to death who were 2 years and under in Bethlehem, in an attempt to kill the Christ child, whom Herod feared might take his place on his earthly throne. This was a law of the land, but it was a bad one, and needless to say, it didn’t work – Jesus survived, because Joseph and Mary were warned and escaped to Egypt.

    Lastly, what about Mark 10: 13-15 and Luke 9:55 where Jesus, lover of little children, rebuked his own disciples when they turned away small children who were trying to come to him to be blessed?

    If you are going to quote Scripture, Mr. Sessions, don’t use just the part that suits your evil purposes and leave out the rest. It’s all God’s Word.

    Thank you again, Jessica. You are a shining example of the good that can come to our great country, when we allow others to come in, with their talents and dreams.

  5. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/22/2018 - 04:07 pm.

    The GOP won’t make it hard to figure out

    You’ll get some negative feedback about your article, that is what the first amendment is all about. A real plus for living in America. The cool thing is it won’t be hard to figure out who to vote for in November. The GOP’s actions are helping you figure that out daily. Keep on writing young lady! You are obviously already far ahead of many.

  6. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 06/23/2018 - 10:04 pm.

    It is nice…..

    to read that someone has learned about the atrocity known as Executive Order 9066 signed by the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I thought this was buried deep in the archives of revisionist history and was a part of history that Roosevelt supporters were hoping the rest of us would forget.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/24/2018 - 08:47 am.


      The Japanese internments during WWII are a well known and standard feature of American history. Our government has paid reparations, and Feb 19th is a Day of Remembrance. Liberals have considered Roosevelt’s order to be a shameful stain upon our history for decades. This atrocity has not, and shall not be forgotten, primarily because liberals organize around the principle of never forgetting. Shall we discuss the Chinese Exclusion Act while we’re at it?

      Your claim of “revisionist history” appears to be itself an example of revisionist history.

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