A disturbing Associated Press report shines a light on what happens to immigrant children separated from their parents and forced into foster-care settings mandated by the U.S. government. In a small number of cases, foster-care networks have yanked permanent custody of young children from their natural parents to serve the adoption wishes of American families.
These horrendous separation policies predate the Trump administration. The fact that Democratic and Republican administrations were responsible for such atrocities means both parties are responsible for fixing it. The Trump administration has, however, made the problem worse by escalating the family-separation policy while coldly telling parents that permanently losing their children might be the price for entering this country illegally.
Perhaps worse is that pious, pro-family, pro-life groups like Bethany Christian Services have become enablers for policies that are anything but Christian and pro-family. Separating children from their parents, and then putting them up for adoption, destroys lives and leaves indelible psychological scars.
A 3,900-word Associated Press investigative story tells the nightmare of Araceli Ramos Bonilla, a Salvadoran mother who was abused, threatened and badly beaten by the father of her then-toddler daughter, Alexa. Ramos decided to flee with Alexa to the United States in 2015. They were separated by authorities after being arrested in Texas.
Ramos was deported. Alexa was handed over to Bethany Christian Services, which enthusiastically answered the government's call for foster-care help. Sarah Zuidema, a former Bethany supervisor, told the AP, "They just felt that if these kids could know Jesus, everything would be OK."
Enormous constitutional questions arise when the government seizes children and hands them over to groups seeking to indoctrinate them religiously. Ramos was assumed to be some kind of heathen. She said she was forced to sign away custody of her child before being deported back to El Salvador. Her persistent pleas for help from U.S. authorities went nowhere.
The Department of Homeland Security played dumb about the case, telling the AP it was unaware of "anyone contacting embassy or consulate in a foreign country to be reunified with a child. This is unsurprising given the fact that these parents made a knowing decision to leave their child in a foreign country."
Ramos wasn't alone. In Missouri, another case involved a baby separated from a Guatemalan mother arrested in an immigration raid. A seven-year legal battle ensued, and the mother lost permanent custody to the child's adoptive U.S. family. In Nebraska, the AP reported, another Guatemalan mother prevailed and got her kids back, but only after an expensive five-year court battle.
Yes, illegal immigration is an offense under the law. But it has never been, and never should be, an offense punishable by such Dickensian measures. These are tactics that made Argentina's dictatorship so abhorrent. Has the U.S. government stooped to that level?
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