Stop Comparing Family Separations at the Border to the Holocaust

People are comparing the current boarder situation to the holocaust. It isn’t right; both factually and morally. Immigrants who cross the border without permission are not being detained for torture. Children are not permanently separated from parents for spite. It’s being done in the name of both due process and safety; while our government agencies try to navigate laws that are difficult to execute.

Due process is so important to us in the US, that we guarantee it to those who cross the border without permission. Here’s a good article to follow the process in place and how it’s evolved over previous administrations. In short, we don’t just turn them right around and give people the boot (which the President is, unfortunately, now suggesting). There are many questions which need to be answered before making a decision on whether or not to deport someone:

  • You have to find out why that person crossed the border; maybe they’re refugees with legitimate reason.
  • You have to figure out where they live; maybe they aren’t from Mexico (which many are not).
  • You need to figure out who they are; maybe that person is on a terror watch list.
  • You have to follow protocols and laws established by our government and its’ various agencies to make sure these (and other) very important questions are answered.

All this has to be done while being short staffed; which makes it impossible for a timely decision. In the meantime, this person needs a place to stay. Sometimes “that person” is a minor, sometimes traveling unaccompanied. In this case, there are no easy solutions.

We could let undocumented families go and then ask them to show up later in court. That’s what happened in 2015, during the Obama administration. A judge ordered to stop holding minors in detention centers for longer than 20 days. They just let people go expecting them to show back up to court. That was certainly humane in the short term. However, it didn’t solve either the humanitarian, or legal problem. This approach only pushed the issue to local police; who now have to grapple with quantifying the unquantifiable. 

With respect to crime, data from studies is mixed. Some say rates of crime are more prevalent among undocumented immigrants, some less. The problem is in the name; undocumented. We don't actually know exactly how many people this word refers to. It's hard to analyze incomplete data with a reliable degree of accuracy. Yet illegal immigration causes crime in it's very nature. Undocumented immigrants often become undocumented workers. Such employees are not protected by the law and, therefore, are often taken advantage of; being paid well under minimum wage and forced to work hours that even a well-paid American citizen would complain about. People in such situations are also less likely to turn to the police when witnessing a crime, or when becoming a victim of crime themselves. It's not a personality flaw. It's for fear of deportation; being put back into the very system that failed to give them speedy due process. This puts local police in a predicament.

Unlike the military, FBI and other federal agencies local police have to gain the trust of communities they serve. Local Officers often work in their communities every day, not just for a case or two. They may need the help of someone who is here illegally to give testimony or information about a crime; the victim and/or perpetrator may themselves be undocumented or a US citizen. So, it isn’t as simple as publicly condemning local agencies that refuse to inform the Federal government when identifying such people. Forcing cities to do that will make it harder for local police to do their job and will, in turn, endanger Americans.  

So, the current administration has chosen the route of not releasing people for fear of flight. Here again, comes a problem. You can’t put kids in detention centers or prison, especially ones who haven’t been convicted of a crime. So the kids were temporarily separated into other facilities, foster homes or turned over to relatives; something more conducive to taking care of them than the places their parents are temporarily held. Even this, however, posed a problem for the previous administration. Several children were given to human traffickers for custody because the traffickers were “identified” as family.

But intent matters, and the intent of our government is not to destroy the lives of immigrants, legal or otherwise.

Those traffickers who posed as sponsors were identified, prosecuted, and are in jail now; done during President Obama’s term. There was also a Senate investigation, led by Republican Senator Rob Portman; the same Republican Senator who recently criticized the government for not following his recommendations from 2015 to improve screening of sponsors. The current policy, when it became enforced, was done so with the idea of NOT detaining children in “cages”. The reversal of that policy was demanded by the public (and granted by the President, whatever his motives) also in the interests of treating children right and keeping families together.

The results far from perfect, but it isn’t the holocaust. It’s not even close.

I'm sure by now you've seen videos and articles such as this one of holocaust survivors talking about the border situation and drawing parallels. Then there's this gentlemen saying the opposite. I respect both their stories and can see how they both would come to such conclusions. Respectfully, however, I disagree with the former, and agree with the later.

The holocaust happened for many reasons. The biggest one is because people let it happen. Neighbors, fellow citizens and "friends" watched as Jews were rounded up and sent away, train after train. In the US today, the mass protests to re-unite families at the boarder prove this country isn't at that point at all. Also proof is that the separation itself was not born of ill will; rather a desire to avoid putting minors in situations they shouldn't be in. Neither are we exterminating people. 

My grandfather's entire extended family was intentionally buried alive during the holocaust. His brother survived but was killed by Nazis while serving on the front lines in eastern Europe. No one cared to save their lives. No one cared to re-unite anyone left alive afterwards. No one cared about due process; there simple wasn't any to follow. To say that this is far from the current situation is an understatement.  

It simply isn't America.