Opinion: Family Separations Are a ‘Moral Issue’ That Cannot Be Ignored

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Separated immigrant children sleeping on the floor of a Border Patrol facility. Courtesy Sen. Kamala Harris

By Colleen O'Connor

There is a quicker resolution to the newly implemented Trump Administration policy of separating children from their parents than waiting for wisdom to emanate from the usual power players.

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They are committed to the current policy—regardless of its cruelty.

They defend the current dive into base inhumanity with tortuous explanations about “child actors” and “Trojan horses for cartels.” The reality-bending, non-stop, often hate-filled tweets roil the waters.

These school yard “spit-wad feuds” demean us all. And are unstoppable.

So, let’s move on.

In order to advance the discussion and reach an understanding—even of those ideas and events that one deplores—it is faster to try the following approach.

Assume everyone is right and it is all true. Then ask, “now what?” How do we get out of this dangerous cyclone?

Here are three simple suggestions.

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1. The President can sign one of his many executive orders and end this immediately

John F. Kennedy was slow to end segregation, but when running for office, he promised that he could eliminate housing segregation with the stroke of a pen. After the election, people in the civil-rights movement began sending him pens, because apparently there were no working pens in the White House.

So let’s send pens to President Trump.

2. The President can tweet the directive. Or make a phone call. Instant results.

Tweet suggested language to President Trump. Or give the White House a call.

3. Tweet, call, or write your representative in Congress. They can also end the practice of separating children at the border.

Always suggest the “doable” first, then ask, “now what?”

  • Tear down the “cages” that currently house these chidren
  • Re-unite all minor children with their parents immediately. They can be housed together, pending adjudication of their immigration status.
  • Quickly appoint as many immigration judges as are needed to fast-track these cases. Bring them out of retirement if need be. If we can build whole cities overnight in war zones, we can surely accomplish this.
  • Provide transport back to their homes or to any Latin American countries willing to receive families that are refugees and are eligible for future entry into the United States.
  • Work on long-term immigration legislation. Congress: Do your job. You have abdicated your constitutional responsibilities for far too long.
  • Push the State Department to do its job
  • Find safe zones in the countries of origin for these families and work with them. Do the “Art of the Deal,” offering more or less foreign aid until they cooperate.
  • Staff up with more linguists, cultural experts and health care providers to fast track the transit
  • Work with (not against) all of the embassies and consulates that are open to solutions.

If the status quo is unacceptable—and it is—then cut to the chase. Assume everybody is right and it is all true.  So, “now what?” How do we get out of the deadly riptide?  Provide a workable solution.

If none of the above works, try prayer, vigils, marches and voting. Send your message so that we hear more than the children crying.

As Kennedy discovered in his slow walk to use “the stroke of a pen” to sign landmark Civil Rights legislation, this was a “moral issue” that he could no longer slow walk.

So, too, is this current heartbreaking disaster.


Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.

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