Relief as Mr Trump hears the children's cry

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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We received with great relief yesterday news that United States President Donald Trump had reversed himself and decided to sign an executive order ending the process of separating children from families at the US-Mexico border crossing.

On Tuesday we wrote in this space that every country has the duty to protect its borders and to enforce laws regulating immigration, but we draw the line where innocent children have become the pawns in a horrific game being played between would-be immigrants and the 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,” we insisted and remain so persuaded.

We would have felt even more relieved if Mr Trump had not appeared to have been pressured into taking his decision, after Pope Francis spoke out against the policy and a video of wailing children taken from their parents went viral.

The news in recent days had been dominated by painful images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents, sparking anger and concern from even Republicans about a negative impact on their races in November's midterm elections.

Still, we are pleased with the turnaround by Mr Trump and his Administration officials, who had been insisting that they had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision.

“We're going to have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together,” Mr Trump was quoted as saying, adding that he didn't like the “sight” or “feeling” of children separated from their parents.

He said his order would not end the “zero-tolerance” policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally, but would keep families together while they are in custody.

Mr Trump's action could be interpreted as a repudiation of his supporters who described the children as “young rapists” and “child actors”.

We also applaud the role played by the five living United States first ladies, including Mrs Melanie Trump, who spoke out against the policy and no doubt moved the president and his allies to change their position.

Pope Francis was wise in suggesting that “populism is not the answer to the world's immigration problems” and describing the policy of separation of families as “contrary to our Catholic values” and “immoral”.

The pope said populists all over were “creating psychosis” on the issue of immigration, even as aging societies like Europe faced “a great demographic winter” and needed more immigrants, adding: “Without immigration, Europe will become empty.”

It was reassuring to see that, based on the widespread outrage, the majority of Americans and the world could not stand by and watch as innocent children were callously used as pawn by adults whom they look to for protection and example.

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