Education & Children's Issues

June 22, 2018: #WhereAreTheGirls (and their rights)

Posted on June 22, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Many questions remain about the heart-wrenching separation of parents from their children at the Mexico-US border. From questions about our national identity asked in TIME’s July 2 cover story (“What kind of country are we?”) to the immediate and crucial #WhereAreTheGirls?, a hashtag that calls attention to the lack of girls in photos of children separated from their parents provided by the Department of Homeland Security. The hashtag has been tweeted at least 125,000 times since the April 6 imposition of “zero tolerance” has been used to justify separating children from their parents at the border. The question is all the more powerful after the administration’s dehumanizing, pre-genocidal language  against Latin Americans (“animals,” “infest,” etc.), the characterization of this policy as a negotiating tool, and continued manifest disrespect for the law, women, and people of color.

The executive order of June 30 may end this practice. Yet urgent questions remain:

  • “Where are the girls (and other children)?” The release of photos and audio by brave journalists and citizens have only amplified concerns about the 2,300 children separated from their parents. Have they been placed in cages? Were they placed in detention centers or with relatives? How do we know they not been trafficked? Which leads to …
  • Where is the oversight to ensure they are kept in safe and humane facilities with appropriate support? Is there 24/7 video that shows that they’ve been kept safe with their human rights met (to the extent they can be in a policy that has been widely described as “child abuse”)? What are the guidelines and evidence to ensure they are kept in places that, in terms of facility, staff, and emotional perspective, are protective of their human rights? Are they/should they get physical and other evaluations to ensure they were not abused? What is the evidence that there is a process to investigate and address abuses, even in the light of new revelations from an immigrant youth center in Virginia?
  • What will happen to them now? What is the process to reunite them with their parents? Where will they be? Will press be present? This process appears far too complicated and slow, given our government has been instrumental in disrupting the lives of these children.
  • Why should any of them be in facilities? What is the rationale for where they will be?
  • How on Earth could $775 have been spent on them per night if they were not in one of the nicest resorts nationwide with free food, activities, and education and support? This is stated ironically; financial concerns are far less important than the health and wellbeing of these children. Still, we will note that a number of airlines and corporate employees have spoken out against supporting these inhumane policies, placing people above profit.
  • And, finally, who will tell the complex story of foreign policy decisions, including NAFTA and US support for undemocratic, oppressive, or corrupt governments, that have contributed to the ravages of these nations and the scores of children fleeing them?

All this is unfolding while we have happier news about world leaders and little girls: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first world leader to give birth in 28 years; an affirmation we can move beyond human rights to equal opportunity for women at the highest level. But for now, we must demand answers, accountability, and an affirmation of who we are as a nation.

— PPC Task Forces on Global Women and on Social and Economic Justice


Many of the earliest voices of moral outrage about the Trump immigration family policy came from women! Specifically, the former First Ladies of America spoke clearly and forcefully against the “zero tolerance” immigration policy that is leading to migrant families being separated at the US-Mexico border. The former First Ladies, joining a chorus of criticism, called this practice “immoral,” “disgraceful,” and a “humanitarian crisis.” They are appalled by how the Trump administration has used children as pawns in this immigration policy-border situation.

President Trump, under tremendous pressure for this controversial immigration policy (ordering immigrants being taken into federal criminal custody, at which

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