One day, during my daughter’s last hospital stay, she needed an MRI. She couldn’t be fully sedated for the procedure, but the doctors and nurses assured my husband and I that we could go with her, to help keep her calm. This was important because she was two years old and living through months of extreme medical trauma. She was terrified of anyone who wasn’t us. But when we got to the radiology lab, the rules — abruptly and inexplicably — changed. Our daughter was whisked into the procedure room on a gurney, and before I could slip in behind her, the door slammed in my face. Dan and I stood on the other side of that locked door for twenty minutes, listening to her scream for me from the MRI tube.
It stands out in my memory as one of the most painful days in a very dark year. The reasons for keeping us out of the MRI lab were mundane and bureaucratic. We had asked for a reasonable exception to a rule that didn’t make any sense. We were denied for no good reason other than the people making that decision were over-worked and under-resourced and couldn’t figure out how to care a little bit more that day. They couldn’t recognize the trauma unfolding before them because they saw it all the time. It looked normal to them.
I knew then, and I know now: It was only twenty minutes. Our daughter was, of course, returned to us. And because we are white, educated, and speak English, someone at the hospital had to listen to us and apologize for the confusion. We were able to kiss her and talk to her through her tears. The long imprint of that summer on our lives was likely not made much better or worse by that one incident.
But now I know something else: I was lucky that day. Because I could stay on the other side of the door. Because I got to hear her scream.
The families who have been ripped from over 2,300 children at the border don’t get to do that. Parents are told that their children need a bath and it’s not until that first twenty minutes pass that they even begin to understand that their kids aren’t coming back. The children are being held in prison-like conditions, in old warehouses, box stores and tents. They are scared and miles away from their families. Their parents don’t know where they are.
Which means we have to help, because this cannot ever be allowed to look normal.
- Call your representatives, especially if they’re Republican. This site makes it easy.
- Donate to legal aid funds: ACLU, the Florence Project, RAICES, Young Center Immigrant Child & Family Rights Project, or ACT BLUE, which will divide your donation between 14 such groups.
And if people on your Facebook or in your life are arguing that this is “just the law,” or that we should blame the parents: CupofJo has an excellent summary of the key talking points. This isn’t about politics. Or about who passed which law (there is no law). This is about government-mandated child abuse. And now, we can all hear those children screaming.
(Photo: My daughter playing at the beach this weekend while I read about children her age in cages. I want to emphasize that this post is not about her. I’m using this image because I don’t have rights to the various images of children in custody; but they are the faces we should be holding in our hearts right now. Follow John B. Moore to see them.)