Three weeks after a 7-year-old girl died in government custody, an 8-year-old migrant boy has also died while being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Was holding children in cages, separated from their parents for months during a border crisis this summer, not cruel enough?
Late on Christmas Eve, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an asylum seeker from Guatemala, died in a New Mexico hospital after being detained by Customs and Border Protection. Earlier this month 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, also an asylum seeker from Guatemala, died in a Texas hospital after being apprehended by CBP.
The White House has disavowed any responsibility for the deaths. Officials tried to depict the hardships of the long journey that families take to the U.S. to seek asylum as an underlying cause.
But these children died in US custody. We are responsible.
Since taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump has bucked generations of policy and attempted to claim immigration as a threat to our security and our financial well-being. According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, Trump has banned nationals of eight countries, most majority-Muslim, from entering the United States, reduced refugee admissions, increased arrests and removals, and ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,.
In October, claiming an "invasion” by members of the migrant caravan crossing Mexico from Central America, Trump ordered military deployment of 5,900 troops. They’re still there, and will be until at least January.
Last week, he shut down the government over fights for funding for a wall at the southern border. (Ironically, the shutdown means that ICE and Border patrol officers are working without paychecks.)
The White House insists there is a border crisis, as immigrants bring with them crime, drugs, and disease and pose a national security threat. While those on both sides of the political aisle agree that border security is important, many experts argue that a physical barrier will not effectively secure the border — and that the idea that there is a crisis is exaggerated.
But there is a true crisis at the border — a humanitarian crisis that has taken the lives of two innocent children.
It’s also a crisis of identity for this country.
President Ronald Reagan, to whom Trump has compared himself on multiple occasions, once spoke of a vision for America as a shining city on the hill.
“In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. “
Trump might be dreaming of erecting walls, but without doors in those walls, America will be far from a shining city. Instead, it will be known as a place so cruel that the horrors of violence and poverty from which migrants are seeking refuge and asylum are dwarfed in comparison to the treatment by US government agents.