Torn from Her Mother's Arms

It was heartrending to see the little girl torn from her mother's arms. When the girl, probably two or three years old, realized what was happening, she broke into a terrified wail.  I was standing just a few yards away, and the effect was palpable, like having the air sucked out of my chest.

It happened many years ago on the steps of the Knoxville Public Health Department.  I suppose the woman had been treated or drug-tested after being charged with some serious crime.  After the child was taken from her, the little girl was placed in the hands of two human services officers.  I stood there for a moment, watching the girl in the backseat of the gray Crown Vic disappear while her mother dropped her head and slumped between the police officers on either side.

At that moment, I remember thinking – not thinking, exactly, but feeling – that it was wrong.  This damage to children should not be allowed to happen.  No sensible person could ever accept it.  But what took place was not the fault of the police or human services – it was the fault of the woman who had committed a serious offense.

It was obvious that the child could not join her in prison, so what was the solution?

That little girl would now be about 20 years old.  Hopefully, she was adopted by a decent family and grew up without the memory of that terrible day – and, most likely, some horrible days before that in her mother's "care."  I'll never know, but I hope it turned out for the best.

I felt the same when I saw the photo of the little girl being "torn from her mother's arms" on the Mexican border.  (Later, I learned that the photo was a fake.  The girl had not been separated from her mother at all, but the reaction it evoked in me and in millions of others around the world was real enough.)  I can understand why millions of immigrants wish to cross illegally – in most cases, not to commit crimes, but to escape poverty.  But in crossing illegally, they are committing a felony.  When they bring small children with them, illegal immigrants must know there is a good chance they will be apprehended and their children taken from them.  Maybe it was different under Obama, but that was when everyone who made it across the border was released.  Those days are over, and they must be over.  Otherwise, the very nature of American society will be transformed, and not for the better. 

The current situation at the border is the making of eight years of non-enforcement.  With the help of a complaisant Mexican government, trainloads of illegal immigrants are travelling to the U.S. border from Central America, crossing not at legal ports of entry, but via the dangerous route across the southwestern deserts or the Rio Grande.  Obama sent them an invitation, and they responded.

Between 2011 and 2016, in particular, the number of minors entering reached a record.  Under the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act of 2008, an orderly process exists for returning these minors safely to their home countries, but inevitably, there are delays in doing so – currently, 1,000 days for those claiming asylum.  These minors must either be released or be housed in detention centers until their cases can be processed.

The "system" under Obama was simply to release all who showed up.  That approach must end.  American society is in no condition or mood to accept the numbers that would otherwise cross an open border.  Between 1965 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, more than 16 million Mexicans entered the U.S., most of them illegally.  While the number of Mexican immigrants has declined, the number crossing via Mexico from Central America has increased.

The drama we are now seeing at the border, with children taken into custody while their parents are led away, is nothing new, either for illegal immigrants or any other class of persons charged with a felony.  What was new was Obama's reckless policy of open borders.  American society cannot accept millions of low-skilled aliens each year, and, inevitably, a certain percentage of those unvetted aliens are going to be gang members, drug-dealers, human-traffickers, and terrorists.  Obama's open border policy was a cynical political calculation to end enforcement so as to fuel the immigration issue for future political campaigns.

That said, the separation issue is President Trump's Katrina.  It was the pictures of stranded victims of Katrina, on rooftops and in shelters, and the media-contrived perception of President Bush as slow to respond, that sank Bush's second term.  Katrina was the defining moment of his presidency, more so even than the WMD fiasco in Iraq.  Trump cannot afford a political disaster of this kind this early in his presidency.

The solution is to deal with it, swiftly and forcefully.  Democrats are doing all they can to see that the president's hands are tied.  He must solve the problem now, or appear to solve it, and thus turn a political liability into a political victory.

Every time I see the separation images replayed, I see the shadow of Obama in the background, rooting for more of the same.  To harm an innocent child is a great sin, and those on the left who are now exploiting the issue are guilty of this terrible crime.  President Trump cannot allow himself to be politically compromised by this issue.  He must act to turn the immigrant "crisis," contrived though it may be, to his advantage.

Donald Trump is the Great Builder.  Now is the time for him to construct a dramatic solution to a large political problem.  

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

It was heartrending to see the little girl torn from her mother's arms. When the girl, probably two or three years old, realized what was happening, she broke into a terrified wail.  I was standing just a few yards away, and the effect was palpable, like having the air sucked out of my chest.

It happened many years ago on the steps of the Knoxville Public Health Department.  I suppose the woman had been treated or drug-tested after being charged with some serious crime.  After the child was taken from her, the little girl was placed in the hands of two human services officers.  I stood there for a moment, watching the girl in the backseat of the gray Crown Vic disappear while her mother dropped her head and slumped between the police officers on either side.

At that moment, I remember thinking – not thinking, exactly, but feeling – that it was wrong.  This damage to children should not be allowed to happen.  No sensible person could ever accept it.  But what took place was not the fault of the police or human services – it was the fault of the woman who had committed a serious offense.

It was obvious that the child could not join her in prison, so what was the solution?

That little girl would now be about 20 years old.  Hopefully, she was adopted by a decent family and grew up without the memory of that terrible day – and, most likely, some horrible days before that in her mother's "care."  I'll never know, but I hope it turned out for the best.

I felt the same when I saw the photo of the little girl being "torn from her mother's arms" on the Mexican border.  (Later, I learned that the photo was a fake.  The girl had not been separated from her mother at all, but the reaction it evoked in me and in millions of others around the world was real enough.)  I can understand why millions of immigrants wish to cross illegally – in most cases, not to commit crimes, but to escape poverty.  But in crossing illegally, they are committing a felony.  When they bring small children with them, illegal immigrants must know there is a good chance they will be apprehended and their children taken from them.  Maybe it was different under Obama, but that was when everyone who made it across the border was released.  Those days are over, and they must be over.  Otherwise, the very nature of American society will be transformed, and not for the better. 

The current situation at the border is the making of eight years of non-enforcement.  With the help of a complaisant Mexican government, trainloads of illegal immigrants are travelling to the U.S. border from Central America, crossing not at legal ports of entry, but via the dangerous route across the southwestern deserts or the Rio Grande.  Obama sent them an invitation, and they responded.

Between 2011 and 2016, in particular, the number of minors entering reached a record.  Under the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act of 2008, an orderly process exists for returning these minors safely to their home countries, but inevitably, there are delays in doing so – currently, 1,000 days for those claiming asylum.  These minors must either be released or be housed in detention centers until their cases can be processed.

The "system" under Obama was simply to release all who showed up.  That approach must end.  American society is in no condition or mood to accept the numbers that would otherwise cross an open border.  Between 1965 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, more than 16 million Mexicans entered the U.S., most of them illegally.  While the number of Mexican immigrants has declined, the number crossing via Mexico from Central America has increased.

The drama we are now seeing at the border, with children taken into custody while their parents are led away, is nothing new, either for illegal immigrants or any other class of persons charged with a felony.  What was new was Obama's reckless policy of open borders.  American society cannot accept millions of low-skilled aliens each year, and, inevitably, a certain percentage of those unvetted aliens are going to be gang members, drug-dealers, human-traffickers, and terrorists.  Obama's open border policy was a cynical political calculation to end enforcement so as to fuel the immigration issue for future political campaigns.

That said, the separation issue is President Trump's Katrina.  It was the pictures of stranded victims of Katrina, on rooftops and in shelters, and the media-contrived perception of President Bush as slow to respond, that sank Bush's second term.  Katrina was the defining moment of his presidency, more so even than the WMD fiasco in Iraq.  Trump cannot afford a political disaster of this kind this early in his presidency.

The solution is to deal with it, swiftly and forcefully.  Democrats are doing all they can to see that the president's hands are tied.  He must solve the problem now, or appear to solve it, and thus turn a political liability into a political victory.

Every time I see the separation images replayed, I see the shadow of Obama in the background, rooting for more of the same.  To harm an innocent child is a great sin, and those on the left who are now exploiting the issue are guilty of this terrible crime.  President Trump cannot allow himself to be politically compromised by this issue.  He must act to turn the immigrant "crisis," contrived though it may be, to his advantage.

Donald Trump is the Great Builder.  Now is the time for him to construct a dramatic solution to a large political problem.  

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).