“Papa! Papa!” the heartbreaking voices of a young Spanish-speaking child was captured in an audio recording as he was hopelessly crying out their parents at a U.S. immigration facility. Trying to deter illegal immigrants, Trump recently adopted immigration policies that punish those illegally crossing the border by separating them from their children, creating an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in US history.
Forcibly taking children away from parents amount to child abuse and torture. It has raised our eyebrows in disbelief that such cruelty could happen in the US, the country with a so-called deep commitment to human rights cause. The brutal and polarizing tactics run afoul with Western principals that protect children’s rights to parental love and care. Such policies could only find their place in an autocratic regime and are adopted by dictators in their desperate attempt to cling to power.
The child’s disturbing pleas in the audio recording has brought back the painful memories of many of us, who were forced to separate from our parents during the brutal Chinese Cultural Revolution. To reassert his authority over the Chinese government, China’s Communist leader Mao Zedong launched a movement to eliminate the impure element of the society. As a result, millions of intellectuals, educators, government officials were purged, locked up or sent to the countryside, being forced to leave home and abandon their children.
I was 5-year-old when I was thrown into a children camp after my mother was forced to work at a farm and father sent to jail. There I spent several years of my childhood in loneliness and despair, suffering various kind of abuse by stern-faced “caregivers.” But the saddest and most painful aspects of it was the separation from my parents. Being deprived of my parents’ love and care, I was constantly struggling with emptiness, insecurity, and fear, feeling my world was falling apart. My repeated attempts to escape and run away to home ended in vain, fueling my anxiety of whether I would ever be able to see them again.
Apparently, amid the widespread destruction wrought by the horrific movement, my story was just a tip of the iceberg, and millions of other children experienced similar torture and abuse. But five decades later, and in a democratic country far away across the ocean, over 2000 innocent children, many being younger than 5-year-old, suffered a similar fate. They have been taken from their parents and thrown into detention facilities as Trump’s zero-tolerance policy prosecutes their parents who tried illegally entered the border. To get funding for building his long-promised border walls, Trump ruthlessly used innocent children as pawns, creating a crisis that inflicts additional traumatic wounds on them. For most of these kids, they have already endured an ordeal in their young lives, suffering from extreme poverty, violence or persecution in their home country.
Trump’s move has sparked an uproar from the international community, leading to strong condemnations from global leaders and human rights groups. But for those who fled the gross human rights violations in an authoritarian state, the heart-wrenching weeps from young children at a Western country’s facility are beyond their belief and comprehension, conjuring up their memories that are too painful to remember, and too hard to forget.
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