Arizona – I met Fermina in 2010, in the heat of the anti-immigrant law SB1070. The Guatemalan cried inconsolably of guilt when she learned that her son Nelson had crossed the border illegally, crossing the devouring desert of Sonora, all to see her again. Praying for him every night for three years; she also prayed for her, so that her hope to find him alive would not die and that tears would wipe away the damned guilt of having forced him to disappear for a dream that was not his. “If I would have brought mijo,my son”, she thought.
She questioned God, day after day, until he answered her prayers; In a remote area in the desert in Arizona they found the remains of the Guatemalan teenager. The calendar marked 2013.
Fermina, became for me, the face of family separations, the expense paid in an attempt to escape misery. When in 2014 the wave of young children crossing the border without their parents was reported, I remembered her and her Nelson. Now that more than 2 thousand children have been “caged” victims of the system, I think about her and her fears again. Fermina and the 67 children who are separated daily by their parents on the border of Mexico and the United States are the testimonies that the American nightmare also exists and has a date of birth, nationality and race.
The “zero tolerance” border security policy implemented by the Trump administration does not change immigration laws, but forces agents to interpret it in a different way; like it or not. And that interpretation was the one that gave rise to those stores converted into “kennels” where minors are detained, waiting to be processed in the United States. That same interpretation was the one that allowed the parents to be deported and the children placed in shelters or foster homes, without a quick or easy way for reunification. That is, with the rush to fulfill the orders of the executive branch, it was not established how, or where or by how much. Thus, the thousands of children today in government custody, who knows when they will see their parents again. The legal pathway, is in those cases, the longest way.
But family separation at the border is not a novelty. Each year, hundreds of children are separated by their parents when crossing. In the 2014 crisis, parents were criticized for sending them alone; in 2018, they are condemned for coming with them. In any case, there is a rupture of the family nucleus, of which we are partly responsible; the blame does not belong to single government. So do not applaud executive orders such as the one signed this week by President Trump to avoid family separation, because in reality it is putting a bandage over a self-inflicted wound by the system. The problem is not solved. There are children who continue to cry, “caged” or eaten away by sadness far from home.
It is good that the desperate cries of children begging for their parents go around the world to show the reality that continues to happen every day in our society. It was necessary that the crude images of the children covered with aluminum foil inside a detention center forced us to see the wound that bleeds day after day. It is imperative that we not forget that pain suffered by migrant children and refugees who pay to live the dream of others, here in Mexico, Europe and the world. We already open our eyes, please, do not close them again or turn our eyes away.