Five US first ladies hear the children's cry

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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If the Bible's injunction to “suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God” is to be heeded, then there will be hell to pay for what is happening at the United States-Mexico border.

Every country, including Jamaica, has the right and duty to protect its borders and to enforce laws regulating immigration, and so we have no issue with the US carrying out what is its responsibility to its own citizens.

But we draw the line where innocent children have become the pawns in a horrific game being played between would-be immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries and the President Donald Trump-led Administration.

Adults have to find a way to resolve even difficult issues, especially when children are being hurt by being forcibly separated from their parents fleeing oppressive regimes and extreme poverty.

For this reason we applaud the five living US first ladies — Melania Trump; Michelle Obama; Laura Bush; Hillary Clinton; and Rosalyn Carter — for refusing to remain silent as children are being held in detention reminiscent of World War II conditions.

Mrs Bush, the wife of the previous Republican President George W Bush, is quoted by The Washinton Post as saying that she lives in a border state and appreciates the need to enforce and protect the US borders.

“But this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” Mrs Bush wrote, adding that the images were “eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history.”

The reference is to what transpired after the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbour that dragged the US into World War II, leading to the rounding up and detention of Japanese living in the US.

Mrs Trump, who is known to be reluctant to comment on ongoing public issues, has spoken out, telling CNN she “hates to see children separated from their families” and is hoping that lawmakers from both parties can agree on immigration reform.

Mrs Trump was moved to join the other first ladies as someone who in May embraced what is being called the “Be Best” platform to champion the well-being of children. Indeed, women are leading the way in crying out against the separation policy.

Latest reports out of the US media suggest that the children are being used as political hostages to secure stricter immigration measures, such as funding for a US-Mexico border wall. Some reports say several of the parents have been deported, leaving the children behind.

This cannot be acceptable. There will always be strong differences between political parties, difference of policies and programmes. But whatever those differences, space must be created to protect children who have no choice or say in the matter.

Civilised societies do not use children in this way. If there is one constituency that must be shielded and protected from the cruelties of humanity, it must be the children.

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