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Local View: Voice abhorrence to zero tolerance

A close-up photo of police lights by night

From May 6 through May 19, nearly 700 children were taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to John Keller, director of the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota in St. Paul. That came to 47 children a day — or about one child every 30 minutes.

Mary SitekAfter May 19, the numbers only went up — all due, of course, to the zero-tolerance policy of President Donald Trump and his administration.

These children were packed together, reminiscent of atrocities in other countries, not ours. Despite Trump's executive order to end the policy, there even has been talk of tent cities on military bases where child-protection laws likely would be lacking — that is, there could be few if any trained child-welfare workers, as Keller wrote.

The United States legally protects asylum-seekers, but the zero-tolerance policy was applied to them, too. Kids of border-crossers were taken away and treated as unaccompanied minors: 11,000-plus kids in 100 facilities in 17 states, many of them allowed no communication with their parents. Some younger than 4, Keller said.

This wasn't a situation where migrants were smuggling kids, according to Keller. Rather, so deplorable are their countries, they were risking all to save themselves.

The trauma experienced by these families is unimaginable. Did you ever lose sight of your child for even a few minutes? You know how traumatic just that is.

I cannot imagine this in the United States. We all must voice our abhorrence. We must. This is a moral issue that demands all our voices, no matter our political persuasion. With a normal administration, the U.S. would condemn such practice, not initiate it.

We can start by ceasing to criticize and demonize "the other side," no matter how wrong we may think they are and no matter how disappointed in or angered at them we are. We can use our energy instead to act.

We can call on our representatives in Washington, D.C. In Duluth, that includes Rep. Rick Nolan. His local office number is (218) 464-5095. Tell him that zero tolerance at the border is unacceptable. Ask him to tell President Trump that zero tolerance at the border is cruel and inhumane; that no child should be separated from his or her parent, particularly if they are trying to flee life-threatening conditions in their native country; and that this policy can inflict lifelong trauma on parents and children.

We can get informed. Misinformation only fuels contempt and hurts refugees and those fleeing. Reliable sources include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Service and the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

We can help organizations financially which help migrants, including Catholic Charities USA.

And we can advocate publicly, unafraid of speaking up, of speaking the truth.

The U.S. has a long history of being an immigrant-welcoming nation. We are better than zero tolerance. Our efforts against such actions are not in vain.

Mary Claire Sitek of Duluth studied English education and theology and is a graduate of the College of St. Scholastica. She volunteers at the Holy Rosary campus of Stella Maris Academy, Duluth.

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