I Know What It's Like to Be Separated From Your Child

Don’t let the executive order fool you: Donald Trump may have agreed to detain families of immigrants together instead of separating children from their families, but there is no real plan for reuniting children who have already been removed from their parents. And that’s without even getting into how inhumane Trump’s proposed plan to detain families indefinitely — even together — is.

I’m a (white, middle-class, American citizen) birth mother who relinquished my son for adoption willingly, and it still tore me apart. I can only imagine what these families are going through.

Let me say it again: I relinquished my son voluntarily. I’d known for months ahead of time that it was going to happen. I also knew the first time we said goodbye that I was going to see my son in three days. I knew that I had the option, for the next 30 days, to change my mind and raise my son if I decided to — and that upon finalizing his placement, the adoption would be an open one, and I’d get to see him often.

The immigrant parents who remain separated from their children got no such assurances —just abrupt, violent separation. And most of them have no idea how to get their children back.

Most of these families are immigrating from countries devastated by violence. Some have been separated after requesting asylum — which is legal and what you’re ostensibly supposed to do. These families just wanted to give their kids a better life — or any life at all — and can you blame them? Not wanting your child to die or get hurt is a damn powerful motivator. But when the detention facilities your kid might end up in are literal cages and/or nests of abuse and torture, immigrant parents are left with no way to protect their kids.

Contrast that with my process as a birth parent: I knew my son’s adoptive parents’ medical history, financial status, the parenting styles of their parents… everything. I knew what a good environment I was sending my son into. And yet, the pain of separation still made my body collapse.

Here’s what happened when I handed over my son: My “core,” that thing they’re always telling you to tighten in yoga class, gave out. My torso wouldn’t hold me up any longer. The minute my son left the room, I folded in half, sobbing. And I remained a wreck for a long time after the fact.

Now imagine that your child might experience unspeakable violence no matter what you do. Really imagine it. However bad you’re imagining it, I promise it’s worse.

Nothing about this “zero-tolerance” policy is OK. At absolute minimum, immigrant families should receive the same courtesies I received as part of my white-birth-mother-in-New-York-City privilege, like how I had a compassionate social worker walking me through every step of the process and explaining everything to me thoroughly in my language

It should not seem “humane” to detain families. It should not be a foregone conclusion that the state is going to traumatize them. It should not be necessary to even have this conversation.

It is bullshit that the most painful event of my life — the loss of my son — is a walk in the park compared to what our government is currently doing to immigrant families. The executive order was 0.001 percent of a step in the right direction, but we cannot accept it as the only (tiny, pathetic) step. If you’re not calling your representatives and demanding change, you’re doing it wrong. Find their info here — and let’s all get to work.

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