By LaKeshia Myers
Children are under siege. Many in states that border Mexico have been ripped from their parents’ arms and held in detention camps for months. Reports of malnutrition, widespread illness, and unbearable hygiene have surfaced in the news. Older children are said to be taking care of younger children who have been left to fester in their own vomit, tears, and mucus. Others have been farmed out to foster families; with no knowledge of their whereabouts given to state officials, it is likely that many of these children will never be reunited with their parents.
All of the children in question are not immigrants, some are American citizens. Born on U.S. soil, enrolled in American public schools, and being treated worse than criminals detained at Guantanamo Bay.
On last Friday, President Trump made it known that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) would begin conducting raids in targeted cities across the United States. Through the raids, all illegal immigrants would be arrested and detained with the goal of eventual deportation. Though the ICE raids did not materialize as the blitz that was expected, Trump claimed they were quietly successful and stated they would, “continue in coming days.”
While there were no confirmed reports of ICE raids taking place in the state of Wisconsin, raids did occur in the city of Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, three children who are U.S. citizens were held by border protection officers for several hours at O’Hare International Airport. Activists asserted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers detained the children—aged 9, 10 and 13—as a means to bait and then arrest their parents when they came to retrieve them, because the parents are in the U.S. illegally. Activists rushed to O’Hare attempting to raise questions about why the children were being held. The children were eventually released to their mother after intervention from the Mexican Consulate, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot. They helped negotiate an agreement that the girls’ mother could retrieve them without fear that she would be taken into custody herself.
The raids, whether in the form of home invasions or public detainment are a disgrace. They are also not new. During the 1920s period known as the “Red Scare,” these raids—nicknamed Palmer Raids after the then-U.S. Attorney General Mitchell A. Palmer—targeted Russians, especially members of the Union of Russian Workers, anarchists, communists and people loosely defined as “aliens.” About four thousand people were arrested, and eight hundred were deported.
While the Palmer Raids did not accomplish what the government wanted. It is a textbook example of American response to fear. Many scholars note that fear of outsiders had grown alongside the great wave of immigration that came to the U.S. in the early 20th century, and those fears increased during World War I.
I can only hope that as a country we will learn from our past mistakes and reverse the tide of mass raids, fearmongering, and the criminalization of migrants. After all, locking up American citizens for no reason other than their parentage is extreme and un-American.