In a guest column posted online Tuesday, Eladio Bobadilla, an immigration historian and a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University, compared the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of separating children from their immigrant parents at the border to slavery, the removal of Native American children from reservations and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. We asked our Facebook readers what they thought.
Suzanne Haff: The white man is very aggressive and dominant. Not too many brains but a bully. Who ever wins is not important, we all lose when compassion and empathy are thrown out the window.
Buddy Kelly: Crimes against children are crimes against children, fair, seriously?
Rodrigo Dorfman: In some ways the humanitarian crisis at the border is worse than our past collective crimes because in 2018 we cannot hide under the cover of ignorance and “those were different times.” The fact that these families are seeking asylum should override any concern as to where they are crossing the border. They cross where they can, and we as a country of immigrants and the so-called beacon of democracy should welcome them in a humane and compassionate way. We need to face our collective responsibility and be willing to acknowledge that this has been going on for centuries and needs to stop. Right here, right now.
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Paul Bonner: Well, sure, "there are parallels." I do object to the meme making the rounds that Americans have no right to say family separation at the border is not who we are, because as a nation we've practiced similar or worse in the past. "Who we are" is, or ought to be considered, an aspirational statement.
Mark Traphagen: I get what you're saying, but at the same time we shouldn't hide the uncomfortable truth that throughout our history our actions have not always matched our aspirations. I think the majority in our country still aspire to us being a "city on the hill" of moral inspiration, but given what's happening now, the past is sadly repeating. It does us no real good to try to sugar coat our history.
Jerry Salak: Now is the time to stand up to the Republican Party's atrocities the way some stood up to the Nazi Party's atrocities of WWII. I urge everyone to call your two U.S. senators and representative in the U.S. House and ask them to let you know what they plan to do to stop the horrendous practice of separating children from adults as they cross the southern border. If we do not voice our opposition, we are allowing this to happen. This is a time when our voices can make a lasting effect.
Kathryn Sabbeth: This is an excellent article – one of the few to discuss the issues in historical context, which is essential to an accurate account. Thank you for this excellent journalism.
Tom McGonnell: Sadly, these children become pawns because President Trump actually enforces immigration laws written and/or ignored by his predecessors. Read Reno v. Flores and the various Flores v. Lynch cases where the previous administrations tried to circumvent the courts. No mention is made in the media of the fact that international law requires immigrants to apply for asylum in the first country they arrive in other than their own. Mexico loads them in cattle cars and sends the north.
Dan Leonard: I had read that the internment of the Japanese was by family groups. The children were not separated from their parents.
Mark Traphagen: That is generally correct as confirmed by George Takei in a post he wrote about his own experience as a child in a U.S. internment camp. He makes the point that this present situation is so much worse than his (as traumatic as his was) because he at least had his parents there to comfort him and shield him from much of the horror.
Will Wilson: Our entire approach to undocumented workers has, I think, direct parallels to slavery: A class of people contributing to the labor pool at substandard wages without access to social and legal protections, living in fear of institutional penalties because of their status. Our economy depends on their presence, yet we refuse to recognize them and grant them legal protections. Our nation was founded on such “moral” principles.
Pat Heinrich: I think that the comparisons are fair if they are taken in a temporal context. Unfortunately they often are not which makes the comparisons difficult. We were a country of slavery and internment. We are a country that is struggling with issues like child separation at our southern border. We are also a nation that is struggling with the scars and effects of past transgressions that we acknowledge but regret. Our current crisis on our southern border is yet another referendum on what kind of nation we aspire to be. Do we aspire to be different from our past and hold our nation to a higher standard? Or do we use the past as justification for our current actions? Our future identity as a country is defined how we address the crises that we encounter today.
Editor Mark Schultz regularly asks readers to comment on current event on his Facebook page. To join this and future conversations, send him a Friend request.