Try This Experiment: Insert Your Immigrant Ancestors In The Child Separation Policy, And See How It Feels
President Donald Trump does not like immigrants, especially from Latin America. He would prefer that no more come here from there.
That’s really what is behind his child separation policy. It’s that simple.
He wants to make it so onerous and frightening for immigrants to seek asylum that no more will do so. He doesn’t care how bad the policy makes him and his administration look, if it’s an effective deterrent.
And, sad to say, a number of Americans agree with him. It’s a reason why they voted for him.
They want to keep the make up of America as it is, which is still far too diverse for them. But at the very least, they do not want any more people coming here that do not look like themselves.
But, I have one request, a fairly simple one.
Insert your ancestors into the child separation policy. Pretend that your grandparents, or great grandparents, came to the U.S. seeking asylum.
Pretend that your family members arrived in the 1930s from Germany. Or from Russia in the early 1900s. Or from Ireland in 1850.
Pretend that conditions were so dreadful back in the home country that your ancestors had no choice but to flee.
Pretend that they brought small children with them.
Now, pretend that upon arrival, U.S. authorities separated those parents from those children. Pretend that those children were sent off, out of those parents’ view.
Pretend, as might be likely, that those parents did not speak English, and neither did the children.
Pretend that they don’t have lawyers, or social workers, or anyone who can inquire about what has happened to those children.
Needless to say, they don’t have mobile phones, or computers, or even pay phones to let their families and friends know what happened.
They’re just in limbo. In a country that isn’t their own. In a language theydon’t speak. They’ve just left a terrible situation, only to find themselves facing another terrible situation.
I tried this experiment with my mother’s family, which began coming to the U.S. in the early 1900s.
To be sure, my maternal grandparents emigrated legally. I’m a beneficiary of chain migration.
My uncles actually came first, followed by my grandfather. He worked for three years before he could afford to send for my grandmother and my aunt Victoria (my mother was born in the United States 10 months after my grandmother’s arrival).
So, let’s paint the picture. My grandmother sets off from Riga, Latvia, in 1913, on a voyage that will take three weeks.
The boat stops in Hamburg, Germany, Southampton, England, and then slowly makes its way across the Atlantic to Quebec City.
This is a year after the Titanic sank. Shipping companies are being very careful to avoid icebergs, lest there be another tragedy.
My grandmother and my aunt spend their time in second class, out on a vast ocean, bound for a new country, with a quick visit to another one.
At the time, Canada allowed through passage for immigrants bound for the Midwest and Western United States.
But, suppose it didn’t. Suppose my grandmother arrives in Quebec City, expecting to take a train to Montreal and then on to enter the U.S. at Detroit, only the Canadian authorities stop her.
Imagine that they tell my grandmother, who speaks just a little English and French, that she has to hand over her daughter.
No, they cannot tell her when they will be re-united. Nor can they tell her when they will be allowed to proceed to America, if at all.
She would have been petrified. And who knows whether successive generations of my family, each climbing higher than the one before it, would have even existed.
Now, try this experiment with your family. Track their journey to the United States. Then, assume it is interrupted.
Does it change your mind?
If you still think the policy is sound, you have a powerful ally in a president who says he never admits when he makes a mistake.
You also have an ally in Congress, which at the moment doesn’t look likely to change it.
The rest of us shiver in fear, as my grandmother would have done. As my aunt would have done. As people are doing right now, along our border with Mexico.
Try it, and see how it feels.
Micheline Maynard is an author and writer who tweets @mickimaynard