By Javier Sierra
Hundreds of thousands of outraged Americans shouted this word across the country during the June 30th, National Day of Action to Keep Families Together.
“Shame!” was directed at the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane “zero tolerance” policy to separate and detain immigrant families. We already know that thousands of children have been ripped from their immigrant parents’ arms and placed under confinement, and that the federal government has lost track of up to 6,000 of them. We also know that this chaotic system is inflicting a massive psychological trauma on all of them.
Now, under Donald Trump’s orders, the Department of Defense is exploring military facilities in Alabama, Arizona, California, and Texas to confine these children. The drinking water in several of those places, however, is contaminated with a set of compounds known as perfluoroalkyls (PFAS), as revealed by a report that was delayed for six months by the Trump administration for fear of “a public relations nightmare.”
This recently released report from the Department of Health and Human Services identified the chemicals’ dangerous effects on humans, with exposure linked to kidney and testicular cancer and thyroid disease. According to epidemiological data, children are particularly vulnerable to PFAS, causing brain developmental problems and lasting damage to the immune system.
Under enormous pressure from a country outraged that these human rights violations are taking place in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Trump finally backed down and ordered an end to the forceful separation of immigrant families. But his decision worsened the chaos that characterizes his administration by failing to explain how or when his federal government will reunite these families.
As if his actions did not sufficiently stoke the racist fires of his faithful base who overwhelmingly approve of his “zero tolerance” policy, Trump referred to us immigrants as a criminal plague that “infests” this society. Even for someone like me who grew up under a fascist dictatorship, Trump’s invective blows the mind, especially because it’s is based on a grand lie.
Facts show us that as immigration increases, crime decreases. First-generation immigrants commit far fewer crimes and experience a dramatically lower rate of arrest and sentencing than native-born Americans. U.S.-born adult men are 250 percent more likely to be incarcerated than foreign-born men. Undocumented immigrants do not increase alcohol and drug use problems in our country. And on and on and on.
Undocumented immigrants also play a crucial role in our country’s economy. According to several studies, this 11-million-strong labor force is vital to the viability of industries such as agriculture, dairy, construction, and health care. And these are jobs most Americans wouldn’t even touch with a 10-foot pole.
But there is hope. Besides the magnificent rallies to keep families together, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop the separations and to reunite these families. Also, there have been marches and blockades at detention centers across the country, and millions of dollars have been raised to fund these families’ legal battles.
While the Trump administration orders toddlers to stand trial to defend their asylum requests by themselves, it’s great to hear our country yelling “shame!” But it will be even greater never to forget any of these atrocities.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC.