Last Thursday, over 600 women were arrested in the nation’s capital as part of a day of civil disobedience organized by the Women's March. In response to the separation of children from adults at the border, march organizers and progressive leaders made their ire with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Trump administration known loudly and clearly. More activism was carried out nationwide over the weekend, including rallies organized by the National Organization for Women.
The irony is that these activists are ignoring the vast majority of children who are separated from their parents — and for good reason. Government agencies have had to remove those children because their parents made terrible decisions, from committing crimes to substance abuse to child abuse.
The New York Times has explained three major ways that law enforcement and the government intervene to separate American children from their parents. Some 430,000 children were in the foster care system in 2016, many of whom are prohibited from any parental contact, and the vast majority are in the system due to neglect. A staggering 5.1 million children have had a parent incarcerated over their lifetime, and children of color are more likely to be separated from their parent because of incarceration. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children are detained in juvenile facilities for their own crimes or misdemeanors.
If the response is, "I feel bad for the American kids in foster care, but that’s a consequence of their parents’ actions," is it not also reasonable to apply that standard to illegal border crossings?
Let’s not just be angry about the children brought here illegally, let’s be angry about the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children in our nation who are separated each day from a parent because their parent breaks the law.
The anger spilling out onto the streets is really about more than just children and families at the border, it’s an opportunity to express a frustration with the current political scene, and an attempt to secure political power.
Organizers on the Left are using this issue as another log to throw onto the anti-Trump fire. They hope by constantly stoking that fire, it can be sustained through the long summer, and into the fall midterm elections.
These protests are also a way to groom activated women to run for office on progressive platforms. Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour said as much at this week’s rally noting, "If you are a woman and you’re thinking about running for office, stop thinking about it and just do it.”
We should encourage women to run for office. However, it’s not helpful if those women are unwilling to work in a respectful, bipartisan manner or advocate for policies that flout the rule of law.
It is also troubling that organizers on the Left are ignoring the overarching problem of illegal immigration, while most of the country is not.
According to one protester quoted by Reuters, “Their parents shouldn’t even be locked up. This is not a bad enough crime to lock them up and take their children away.” Sarsour herself explained, “When we were advocating to keep families together and end family separations, we were not advocating for family incarceration. Camps for children is just as wrong as camps for children and adults.”
Does this mean just allow everyone in with no accountability? Children, parents, and criminals parading as adult caregivers?
Although over two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans are not on board with separating children from families, according to an Economist/YouGov poll, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) want children and adults to be either arrested or detained (whether together or separately). There is little appetite (19 percent) for them to just be released and hope they report back at a later date.
For many of the protesters, illegal immigration may not seem to be a big deal, but for 81 percent of women and 82 percent of Americans overall, it is viewed as a real problem.
The answer is not to allow migrant families to enter illegally — jumping the line ahead of those waiting patiently, tied up for years in the tedious immigration process — and give them a pass to roam freely with no justification for why their entrance merits faster entrance than anyone else's.
There is a solution that is palatable to the populace. Congress could pass both a short-term solution to this program of family detentions, and pass long-term reforms to our immigration system to make the process of legal immigration more transparent, with measures to allow people to work here temporarily as well as live here permanently. Then, there would be no need for women to get arrested while marching on the streets of Washington.
Perhaps we could then turn our attention to the policies and programs that would help American families stay together, such as keeping parents out of prison by treating their addictions or helping them find work and strengthening communities to intervene when someone is heading on the wrong track.
Someone needs to do the hard work of actual community building rather than vote gathering.