Over the last week, as I expressed strong opposition on Facebook to the policy of separating children from families at the border, I became truly saddened by the polarization in our country today and the rigid adherence to confirmation bias – where people simply look for information to confirm what they already believe to be true.
Several responses to my statement advanced false information and some asked for more information about my position, so here goes.
I am a conservative and always have been. Historically, conservatives have stood up for families – knowing that all people and cultures are better off when families are strong.
The recent policy of separating children from parents at the border (which thankfully has been overturned by President Trump’s Executive Order) was in fact a new policy.
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Prior to this, families were kept together when detained while they went through the process of being deported, with rare exceptions. Under the new policy, separating children became standard practice – which was immoral, unjust, heartbreaking, and unAmerican. Of course children should be separated from abusers and traffickers, but there was a lot more than that going on.
Over 2,000 children were taken away from their mom or dad, inflicting even more trauma on an already traumatic situation. There is absolutely no reason for children and their parents to not be kept together while waiting to be deported, and I am relieved that we have returned to that as standard practice. Now, the feds should return the separated children to their parents as quickly as possible.
I have never argued that non-Americans should just be able to cross our borders at will; of course we must enforce our laws and secure the border. But there is absolutely no justification for separating children as part of such enforcement actions.
To those who seek to defend the Trump Administration in this area by saying President Obama did the same, I am sorry but you are incorrect. It is true that Obama holds the record for detaining and deporting more immigrants than any other U.S. president, but his administration did not separate children from their parents while doing so. On rare occasions when circumstances necessitated such a separation, yes – but in small numbers and never as standard practice. I am certainly no fan of President Obama’s policies, but in this area of law, he did the right thing.
Do we need to do a better job of securing our border? Yes. Do we need to enforce our laws? Yes. Do we need to fix our broken immigration system so that individuals and families have a clear, legal, affordable way to immigrate to America – the greatest country on earth? Yes. Do we need a robust, legal immigration system so that our economy grows and remains strong? Yes. Do we need to separate children from their parents to stem the tide of illegal immigration? Unequivocally no. Ends do not justify means.
To close, may I encourage all of us to remember that healthy democracy requires us to look at all sides of an issue before making conclusions. We must be bold, civil, and kind in advancing our policy positions, but we also must be open to being wrong on occasion and calling out injustice. Hero worship of political leaders – among the left and the right – is a frightening place to be, and I fear too many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum have fallen into such hero worship over the last decade. I hope as a country and as voters and engaged citizens, we return to the place where we praise what should be praised and critique what should be critiqued even if it means one side isn’t right 100 percent of the time.
Kristin Olsen is a Stanislaus County Supervisor and former minority leader of the California Assembly.