Over the past couple of weeks, Donald Trump has truly shown us the depth of his cruelty, at least I hope he has.
Trump’s administration has been separating children – including babies and toddlers – from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border on the flimsy excuse that the parents have committed a crime by trying to escape the violence at home and provide a better and safer life for their families.
Under political pressure, Trump stepped back a bit with a presidential order, but hasn’t lifted a finger to help reunite broken families. Instead, he doubled down.
Children are reportedly being detained across the United States, thousands of them with no idea where they are, where their parents are or even if they will see them again.
And despite Trump’s racist insinuations that these extreme measures are needed to keep the kids out of “gangs”, there are reports that a 15-year-old boy jumped a fence and ran away from a Wal-Mart that had been converted into a children’s holding pen.
In a strange country after being forcibly separated from his family, scared and hungry, I fear the boy is now a prime prospect for a gang that can offer him some level of economic security – exactly the outcome Trump said he was trying to avoid.
Talk about a failed policy.
Now comes word that Trump is saying that those showing up at the border seeking asylum should be deported “immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases.”
It is truly shocking to see the President of the United States so casually brush aside the due process of law as protected by his own country’s constitution. It is even more shocking to see his supporters cheer him on – even quoting the Bible as justification.
I am the child of immigrants. I can tell you that it is never easy for anyone to decide to take their family away from the only life they have ever known.
For the parents from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and other Latin American countries showing up at the U.S. border, the decision is even more difficult. Many had to cross several borders just to get there, risking confrontations with violent gangs and police all along the way.
The cruel policies of this administration have been condemned around the world, including by my own union, Unifor.
Compassion must be part of any country’s immigration policy. Trump tries to justify his cruelty by saying the U.S. needs an orderly and merit-based immigration system.
Every country needs that, but it should not get in the way of showing compassion where needed to ensure the safety and security of others.
It was in this spirit that Canada welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees in 2015. As we celebrate Canada, we should be rightfully proud of this mixed immigration system that both allows for compassion when that is needed and sets rules.
We can’t be too smug about this, of course. Canada has a disturbing history of separating families itself – particularly Indigenous families with residential schools and the Sixties Scoop that placed children up for adoption with white families against their parents’ wishes.
What’s important is that we repair the damage done by such horrendous policies, and remain vigilant to ensure that it never happens again - here or anywhere else.