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The U.S. must care for those fleeing violence and torture

Curt Goering

Over my years with the Center for Victims of Torture, I’ve spoken with many clients who are refugees and asylum seekers, who escaped the violence of war and, because of their political affinity, religion or identity, escaped persecution and came to us for healing. I have heard time after time from so many of them that one of the most important reasons they were determined to move beyond their torture was to be stronger for their children, to restore a foundation in their own lives so that they could again provide well for their sons and daughters.

And so it is with horror that I have watched the chilling spectacle of families being torn apart, and parents sent for prosecution, as they attempt to reach safety in the United States.

At CVT, we care for survivors of extreme violence. People who have survived torture and atrocities committed by militias, violent governments and armies speak to us every day about the nightmares they endured and the duress of flight. They speak of loss – loss of loved ones, homes, communities, countries. The loss they know is like the air they breathe; for many, pain is part of their daily existence.

Nearly incomprehensible

To think that people in these circumstances, fleeing atrocities in a desperate attempt to reach safety, are met at America’s border by U.S. officials who pull their children from their arms is so disturbing that it is nearly incomprehensible.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly justified this abhorrent practice by claiming that family separation is required by law. It isn’t. What they really mean is that they can’t indefinitely jail immigrant children the same way they do their parents, because (thankfully) doing so is prohibited. Of course, there is another option — a humane, responsible and cost-effective one: releasing families into alternative to detention (ATD) programs. But the Trump administration has foolishly abandoned that sensible approach in favor of a punitive and cruel tactic intended to intimidate and control immigrants sufficiently to keep them out and discourage others from attempting to come here, including those seeking asylum.

People are fleeing for their lives, for the lives of their children. The U.S. is intentionally compounding the trauma and fear these individuals are undergoing. The impact of separation on children who are already coping with trauma is devastating and long lasting.

Don’t trade these harms for another

Our leaders cannot let these policies continue. But neither must they trade one set of harms for another. Some lawmakers have proposed a cynical and dangerous “fix” to family separation: changing the law to permit prolonged detention of children, so that they can be locked away with their parents for the duration of their immigration cases. Congress simply must do better.

I urge you to stand up against this outrage that is being conducted in our names. Contact your members of Congress and tell them to take smart, compassionate steps to end these practices, steps that are consistent with the oath they took and values the United States has long sought to embody. Together we must push back against this extreme cruelty.

Curt Goering is executive director of the Center for Victims of Torture.


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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/20/2018 - 12:32 pm.

    The Human Pawns of the Republican Party

    Trump is doing the same thing he did with the North Korean Summit. He created tension before the summit and claimed all is well after the summit, making him the hero, in his own mind. Now Trump is creating tension using babies as his human pawns. It is the Republican’s way as they absolutely love to mess with people’s lives. When Trump feels he has gotten all he can out of the tension, he will sign something and claim his victory. Yup just as the previous sentence predictied Trump is going to sign an executive order this afternoon to stop splitting up families. Never mind the phycological damage that may have been done to the children. In Trump’s mind he didn’t cause it as others have carried out his orders, not him.

    Trump and his cohorts are all for the law when it comes to others, but who is it that is under special prosecutor investigation? Republicans are doing everything they can to stop the special prosecutor. This is more of a racist brown issue than it is an illegal immigrant issue for the Republicans. Trump calls the Hispanics every demeaning name in the book. The terms he uses apply to every demographic in America because every demographic has its problems. Hispanics are fleeing for their lives and the heartless Republicans are feeling threatened because they are losing political ground as white America is shrinking. Under the leadership of the Republicans we have become the heartless America. So heartless they must take children away from their parents and store them in cages. All that must happen to make this a complete political disaster for America is for one child to die or be lost while in Republican captivity.

    The immigrant problem in Washington isn’t the Democrats problem or a congress problem. It rests squarely on Trump and the Republican Party’s shoulders as they have total control of Washington and the immigration situation. The Republican Party is in such disarray they can’t get anything passed, even with total control. Trump could stop it right now if he wanted to, instead he is holding babies as his pawns. It’s all a game to him. He’ll teach those little rabble rousers a lesson or two.

    The US has pulled out of the UN Human Rights Committee because Trump is feeling it is too confining. Human rights are not high on the Republicans lists of things to be concerned about as proven by their handling of the immigrant baby pawns.

  2. Submitted by John Webster on 06/20/2018 - 12:07 pm.

    Another Viewpoint

    This issue is more complex than is portrayed in almost all news outlets and in this piece. No doubt some illegal immigrants are trying to escape genuine persecution in their corrupt countries. But as the essay linked below shows, the percentage of people asking for asylum is way up. That is, they know that being an economic migrant won’t get them long-term permission to stay in America, so almost all of the illegal border crossers now claim rights of asylum.

    America does not have the resources to allow in every impoverished person who wants a better life. We don’t have the water resources or the medical infrastructure for 50+ million more people; moreover, the public assistance costs for massive immigration of low-skilled people would bankrupt the country. There’s a lot of cynicism regarding immigration: Democratic politicians are now in effect pro-open borders, seeing impoverished immigrants as future Democratic voters; employers – both Republican and Democratic – want unlimited amounts of cheap, compliant labor. That’s why Bernie Sanders once said that open borders was a Koch brothers idea to drive down wages for working class citizens. Sanders was, of course, correct – but it is now politically incorrect to admit that the law of supply and demand still affects labor markets.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/20/2018 - 09:54 pm.

      Apparently, The Republicans Have an Immigrant Phobia

      Isn’t it ironic that we went to war in Iraq on a false premise, bombed the place up, created many immigrants, and now refuse to take any immigrants from Iraq.

      Now, remember it was Republican George W. Bush, when asked about Hispanic immigrants, said “they are doing the jobs no one else will do”. Jobs like field work, seasonal harvesting, roofers, meat packing houses, and the Motel/Hotel industry etc. Employers for these jobs use immigrants to fill these jobs. I have had Hispanic workers do work for me and I was impressed with their work ethic. Work ethic is not a word that can be used in the same sentence with Republicans in congress. Democrats are not pro open borders, you are getting your info from a blatant liar, Trump. The Democrats are common sense immigration supporters just like Republicans used to be before the moderates were drummed out of the party. The Trump Party is so fractured they can’t get any work done even though they have total control of the government. The Republican cowards in congress are so afraid of their leader they have gone silent. Today, Trump was embarrassed by his own dumbfoundingly stupid separate the kids from their parents policy. What Trump likes to do is create chaos, let it fester, and then rush in and claim he is the hero. Trump’s problem is this one blew up in his face on TV for all of America to see. You might be right about the immigrants becoming Democrats someday. After the treatment they have received from Trump and the Republicans what incentive have they been given to be a Republican. Trump’s ill-conceived immigration reactions has done long term damage to the Trump Party. Trump is a low esteem bully. What do some with low esteem do? They cover it with lies and bluster just like Trump does. I find your reference to 50+ million immigrants to be without any merit.

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