A Personal View of Child Separation

There is a lot in the press about the Trump policy of separating children from their parents, some of it abstract and theoretical, some blustery and power-based — Bannon and Steven Miller, for example. Some of those who weigh in on Trump’s behalf are delusional: Ann Coulter thinks the children weeping for their parents are child actors, and the internment facilities are just like summer camps. This piece, from the Guardian, is highly personal and for me, undeniably persuasive:

“The events occurring now on our border with Mexico, where children are being removed from the arms of their mothers and fathers and sent to foster families or “shelters”, make me weep and gnash my teeth with sadness and rage. I know what they are going through. When we were children, my two siblings and I were also taken from our parents. And the problems we’ve experienced since then portend the terrible things that many of these children are bound to suffer.

My family was Jewish, living in 1942 in the Netherlands when the country was occupied by the Nazis. We children were sent into hiding, with foster families who risked arrest and death by taking us in. They protected us, they loved us, and we were extremely lucky to have survived the war and been well cared for.

Yet the lasting damage inflicted by that separation reverberates to this day, decades hence.”


My own separation from a parent came with the sudden death of my father. I was fourteen, my older sister seventeen, and my younger sister seven. We were left with the less emotionally healthy parent.  I have to agree with the writer of this article that the effects, regardless of how the separation comes about, last a lifetime.

For me, it’s meant being excessively planful, as if by anticipating and countering every possibly adverse event, I could have staved off the random death of my father — and, a little over 40 years later, of my husband. I’m also highly anxious when I don’t know where my loved ones are, how long they’re going to be away, whether they’ve arrived safely, when they are returning. This is a challenge with an adult daughter and son who travel extensively for both work and pleasure. When you’re 40, give or take, it’s hardly an obligation to let your mother know where you are. That they do shoot me a quick text with “at hotel” or “home in 36 hours” is a kindness, not a requirement.

For many of us, having Trump use children’s lives as a bargaining chip is an unspeakable cruelty, with powerful personal reverberations. Nothing Trump can do — no tax cut, no conservative judge — is worth that price.

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