Joseph Kerschbaum’s 1980s song Where Have All the Children Gone? is about child suicide and abduction and the words have poignant applications today. But the lyrics also distressingly apply to kids of asylum seekers who are penned up (caged) in today’s migrant detention centers, euphemism for concentration camps. One refrain in the song is especially pertinent: “All of the children once running around have evacuated or maybe they’ve just disappeared.”
This raises the question: Where are the children of parents who illegally crossed the border between Mexico and the United States to legally apply for asylum? In June, Trump reversed his executive order to separate children from their parents, but there was a catch. Attorney General Jeff Sessions decreed that those seeking asylum due to gang and domestic violence were not eligible for asylum and should be deported. If expelled, they must make a Solomon-like decision (about cutting a child in half to satisfy a paternity case): Should the migrant parents take their children back to their homeland to face danger and possible death or leave them behind to wend their way through a complicated legal system to gain asylum and live safely in the United States?
Whatever the decision, they FIRST must find their kids. In a recent case, a father who was about to be deported had no idea where his three-year-old child was located. The father himself had been sent to five different concentration camps. His child could be thousands of miles away inside a cage, tent, foster home, or who knows what kind of facility. And it is highly possible as time goes by that if unaccounted for, his child could be housed at a military base. The Trump administration has told the Pentagon to prepare housing for thousands of migrants, an estimated 20,000 of them children.
Recently the Associated Press reported that asylum-seeking parents have on rare occasions been able to meet with their children for short periods. But most have only been able to contact their children by phone calls that are restricted to 10 minutes each. Social workers at detention centers determine who among the children can call their parents and when that can happen. Parents do not have that option. As a result, many asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador sit by telephones waiting anxiously for calls from their kids.
To this day, no one, including the U.S. government, has accounted for all of the migrant children and when they will be reunited with their parents. The UNaccountability, in my view, is immoral and unacceptable. Soon, very soon, the federal government needs to provide an answer to the question “Where have all the children gone?” But I’m not holding my breath for a response!