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What Are We Doing? Child Immigrant Detention Centers

Special To Topanga Journal

Billie Holiday, the great jazz singer, wrote God Bless the Child in 1939 as Hitler was preparing to invade Poland in direct reaction to the appeasement he had secured with Neville Chamberlain the year before. The world was descending upon darkness, but for Holiday and the children who had experienced the dark days of the Great Depression those prophetic words seem apt today, especially today.

By Lance Simmens

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
Sot the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

 

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

 

Today, somewhere between 2,000-3,000 children are on their own. Exposed to strange surroundings, with no one to hold them, comfort them, love them. Ripped from the arms of their parents or at the very least the touch of family members who risked life and limb, sacrificed savings, endured unspeakable hardships, all in search of the opportunity for a better life only to face the cruel and harsh reality of political gamesmanship that is as meaningless as it is absurd.

“To inflict such pain on other human beings, especially for crass political purposes, should surely reserve a special place in hell for those charged with positions of great responsibility.” Lance Simmens

President Trump turned Lady Liberty on her head today. Valuing might over right, strength over perceived weakness, apathy over empathy, bluster over diplomacy, and blind fealty to a past that never existed over the promise of a bright future the President of the United States of America showed the world that he is not only ill-suited to the position he occupies but a danger to the perpetuation of a world order that has been built over the past 70 years.

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In his quest to satisfy a burning narcissism that prevents him from either thinking rationally or correcting a self-inflicted policy fiasco that will affect innocents for quite possibly the rest of their lives, Trump continued to hold children and their parents hostage to a fantasy that building walls holds the key to perpetual blind ignorance of the complexities that shape our world.

 

Ironically his decision on the immigration crisis that today grips the Southern border between the US and Mexico comes on the heels of withdrawal from the UN Council on Human Rights. It also comes on the heels of an ever-widening trade war that pits the US against two of its strongest trading partners and allies: Canada and Mexico. Trump’s fondness for strong authoritarian leaders (Kim Jong Il, Duterte, Erdogan, Putin) and his public disdain for traditional allies in Europe and North America threaten to further diminish America’s moral leadership on the world stage. When coupled with his ambivalence towards white supremacists and ultra right nationalists, embrace of deregulatory actions that subject millions of American citizens to serious health risks due to pollution, and an aversion to anything resembling either historical perspective or a governing philosophy, the country is more divided than at anytime since the Civil War.

 

All of these events are cause for great alarm, however the blatant abuse of children stirs passions amongst people of all colors, liberals and conservatives, religious and non-religious, educational and income levels, rural and urban, Red State, Blue States and Purple States. It is simply an abhorrent display of callousness that defies rational explanation. He may have attempted to quell the firestorm with a vacuous signing ceremony today that will not only address the problem but will most likely create additional complications while the children we have incarcerated and their parents grow more and more desperate to cope with the betrayal of everything we as a nation are supposed to stand for: equality, justice, freedom, opportunity and an abiding sense of fairness that shine like a beacon for the world to emulate.

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Today we fumble in the darkness of our own cowardice. Republican congressional leadership heaps lavish praise upon a leader who has rendered them spineless. Today’s actions exacerbate the steady decline of the nation, and I can honestly say that while I love my country and what it stands for I am deeply ashamed to call myself an American in light of such travesty.

 

As a single father of two millennials my heart aches, and I simply cannot imagine the pain and suffering of those who have no idea if they will ever again see their loved ones. To inflict such pain on other human beings, especially for crass political purposes, should surely reserve a special place in hell for those charged with positions of great responsibility. In a representative democracy such as ours we are dependent upon a regimen of checks and balances that must protect us from the worst impulses of a charismatic leader. Currently, our system is failing.

 

As I survey the dismal state of affairs afflicting the nation I am surprised and disgusted at the lack of a concerted response from those who wear the uniform of the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies who are complicit in this atrocity. Is there no sense of perspective, integrity, pride in either the oath taken to the constitution or to one’s sense of values to protect the public health, safety and welfare?

 

I watched a high-ranking Border Patrol official defend his actions by invoking the pathetic excuse that he “was only following orders.” This was the same rationale prevalent at the Nuremberg trials following World War II. It was sickening when those who proudly wore Nazi uniforms and were involved in unspeakable atrocities invoked it then and it is similarly sickening today.

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No position is worth sacrificing the virtues, values, and human compassion necessary to make decisions that affect others’ lives. Where are those who see what is going on and reject it. St. Augustine developed a legal maxim over 1,500 years ago, which is as relevant today as it was then. It has been used by St. Thomas Aquinas and as recently as last century by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in his famous treatise “A Letter From Birmingham Jail” and is as follows: lex iniusta non best lex, which translates to an unjust law is no law at all.

 

It is time for all of us to stand up and demand that the injustice we are perpetrating upon God’s children cease immediately and that a major emphasis on reunification of parents and children commence with all deliberate speed. There is no higher priority right now and anything less is a crime against humanity.

 

ON THE WEB:
http://www.lsimmens.com/

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Writer at | lancesimmens@verizon.net | + posts

Lance Simmens spent nearly four decades in senior level policy, political, and government positions, serving two Presidents, two US Senators, two Governors, and the US Conference of Mayors. He has also worked for the Screen Actors’ Guild, taught at Santa Monica College, served as President of the Malibu Adamson House Foundation, and is currently Vice-President of the Malibu Democratic Club. He has written political commentary for the Huffington Post and many major newspapers and is a frequent contributor to LA Progressive magazine.

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