The anguish of child separation: 1869, 1938 and 2018

The current maelstrom of child separation from parents trying to enter the United States from its southern border is tearing families apart.
Many critics of the Trump administration charge that family separation is being used as a “weapon” in an attempt to frighten would-be undocumented aliens with children from entering our country, seeking sanctuary from gangs and violence in their native lands.
Approximately 3,000 children have been separated from parents who are unaware of their child’s location. Children cry themselves to sleep at night, not knowing where their parents are.
As Jews, we cannot forget that ”child separation” is also part of our history.
Jewish families in Nazi Germany and Austria also suffered family separations soon after Kristallnacht, Nov. 9-10, 1938, when Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, leaving mothers to consider where to send their children for greater security.
Some children were sent to Palestine while others were sent to Great Britain by way of the Kindertransport. Here too, children cried themselves to sleep, no longer able to hug their parents.
Among the Jews unable to exit Germany early enough, well over 1 million children are estimated to have died in the Holocaust.
From the Native Americans’ perspective, their post-Civil War fight for survival ended in defeat and they were forced onto lands not considered desirable by white America.
If it is wrong and heartless to separate children from their parents, then we must also not forget the more than 100,000 Native American children who were forced to attend church schools as part of President Ulysses S. Grant’s 1869 “Peace Policy.”
Children as young as 5 were shipped off to Christian boarding schools in order to learn English and get rid of their tribal heritage.
Later investigations reported numerous abuses of forced labor and widespread physical and sexual abuse throughout the entire boarding school program.
One only need to read the annual tribal statistics to see the depressing results of our nation’s mistreatment of its native peoples.
While poverty, crime and joblessness are the highest on many tribal reservations, enlightened native youth are struggling and some are succeeding in the modern world while retaining their native heritage.
Child separation is never the answer. It is an abomination.

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