Friday, November 23, 2007

Women and Children First

Yesterday, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day by coming together for a family meal and giving thanks for our good fortune and privilege. Here’s another thing to be thankful for – that you’re not an undocumented immigrant subject to the whims of the Department of Homeland Security. Last month, for example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrested a woman who was, at the time, breast-feeding her nine-month old baby. The agents dragged the woman away from her child, who cried and cried as her parents were taken away. “The baby cried incessantly over the next several days as she went without breast milk and [her mother, Sayda] Umanzor suffered soreness from engorged breasts.” More recently, ICE officials separated a detained pregnant woman from her eight-year-old daughter, transferring the mother to a different detention facility. The mother and daughter, who had fled Honduras seeking protection from domestic abuse and gang violence, cried inconsolably after being separated. While ICE claims it has implemented a new policy “to show greater consideration to breast-feeding mothers” in response to the first incident, as human beings, it seems hard to fathom how ICE officials could separate a nursing mother from her baby and why they would find it necessary in the first place to jail someone they knew how to find. Moreover, given the widespread complaints about ICE separating breast-feeding babies from their mothers this March, one has to ask why this policy wasn't created six months ago. And in the second case, ICE officials were sued earlier this year already for threatening to separate misbehaving children from their families; a settlement reached in August bans the practice. How do you stop a problem like ICE? (photo courtesy of Matt Penning)

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