People around the world have been shocked and repelled by the behavior of the Trump Administration in separating children from their families at our southern border. Children under five were taken from their mothers, while almost three thousand other children were separated from parents and placed in detention centers hundreds and even thousands of miles away, The public outcry has been bipartisan and has included Melania and Ivanka Trump, along with the House and Senate Republican leadership. The video and audio of children crying as they were taken from their mothers has been stomach-turning, as has the imagery of children being held in cages, detained and treated like animals. Over the past few weeks, there continue to be dismaying reports of children abused in these same centers with forced medications, the use of restraints, withholding of food, solitary confinement.
In spite of a federal judge’s order to reunite all children with their families, the Department of Homeland Security has slow-walked the process, missing court-ordered deadlines, while simultaneously deporting their parents. Using children as political pawns in a cynical effort gin up his base, President Trump is personally responsible for orphaning young children and clearly could care less. He is assisted in this process by a handful of dedicated appointees whose fallback position is that they are only following orders and the rule of law, though no law is actually broken when a migrant requests asylum. Incredibly, no less than our Attorney General called the implementation of these heartless policies a Christian act using Romans to justify enforcing the law. What he overlooked in his remarks was that we are not a theocracy and he has no business inflicting his personal religious beliefs on all Americans. Furthermore mistreating children is anything but Christian. A reminder, Jeff, it was Jesus Christ who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
The Administration continues to refuse due process to migrants seeking asylum, has attempted to farm out the reunification process to the ACLU (an effort rejected by the court) and clearly has no record of the whereabouts of the hastily deported parents. As of now, there are still hundreds of children held in illegal custody, including almost 100 children under five years of age.
I say illegal, because the United States is violating a series of United Nations Declarations on Human Rights that includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959), and the Convention on the Rights of Child (1989). In the aftermath of World War Two, where an estimated 65 to 80 million people perished, these framework documents were established to express a global consensus on the inherent dignity of humankind, regardless of race, gender or nationality. In the process, children were singled out for special care, as they are wholly dependent on adults for security and the basics of a decent life.
Here are some provisions of these documents that the Trump administration violates daily in practice and in spirit.
For me fairness would be treating working children the same under US law. Since 1938 and the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the US has discriminated against children who do farm work, allowing them to work unlimited hours at the age of 12.
It’s not uncommon to see migrant farmworker children at 12 working beside the impoverished parents for 12-14 hours a day.
On very small farms kids are allowed to work at even younger ages.
A 12-year-old is not allowed to work in an air-conditioned office, but the law permits them to do back-breaking work on a farm for 14 hours in 100 degree heat.
And loopholes allow children working for wages on farms to do dangerous tasks at 16 when they have to be 18 in all other work places.
To make things worse, the Trump administration has signaled that it is considering trying to remove protections that help keep kids stay safe in dangerous jobs on roofs, in wood-working shops, in machine shops, in meat-processing plants, and at excavation sites.
The administration is even trying to reverse the ban on children applying pesticides on commercial farms.
Let’s fight for fairness and for equitable child labor laws. Let’s fight for regulations that protect all children and don’t expose impoverished children to needless occupational dangers.
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