Suffer little children to come unto me . . . .
--The Gospel According to Saint Matthew
Children are in the news yet again.
Not the 12,800 immigrant children that were in shelters for migrant children in the United States in September 2017, a significant increase from May 2016. In that month there were 2,700 immigrant children in detention facilities that Trumpsters describe as similar to summer camps.
And not the 85,000 children who Save the Children believes have died of starvation in Yemen since the U.S. assisted bombing began in that country in 2016.
Today we focus on just two little girls, each the beneficiary of the Trump’s hatred of immigrants, a hatred given life by his thankfully now departed, mean-spirited and quintessentially evil, former Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.
Jakelin was 7 years old. She came to us from Guatemala in the company of her father. Yeisvi is 11 years old. She came to us from Guatemala in the company of her mother. Their experiences were quite different.
Jakelin arrived in the United States on December 6, 2018 at 9:15 P.M in a remote stretch of desert in the Bootheel region of New Mexico. Immediately upon arrival, she and the 161 other immigrants accompanying her and her father, were placed in the care of the Border Patrol. That agency took them by bus from the remote border crossing to Lordsburg, New Mexico. When they arrived at 6:30 A.M., Jakelin had a temperature of 105.7 and was having seizures. She was flown to El Paso where she died later in the day.
Describing her condition when she arrived at the border crossing, the Border Patrol said she had had no food or water for several days before entering their custody. Her father said, through his lawyer, that he had made sure “she was fed and had sufficient water.” It is hard to imagine that a 7-year-old girl could walk through the hot desert for “several days” without food or water. Border Protection people have better imaginations than this writer.
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The White House called Jakelin’s death “a horrific, tragic situation.” When asked by a reporter whether the administration took any responsibility for Jakelin’s death, the spokesman had a quick response: “No.” He was not thinking about how administration policies had created the conditions that led to Jakelin’s death. He had not read the Washington Post report published after Jakelin’s death. It reported that in November 2017, Border Patrol agents had picked up 25,172 “family unit members.”
Jakelin is no longer with us. Yeisvi is still with us. Yeisvi was born in the United States when her parents, Vilma Carillo, and Juan Bernardo, were working in fields and warehouses in Vidalia, Georgia, having arrived in 2003 as illegal immigrants. Yeisvi was born in 2006 and is, therefore, an American citizen. After living in Vidalia for three years, the family returned to their home village in Guatemala in order to care for Vilma’s mother. After the family had been back in Guatemala for a few years, Juan became abusive, beating and biting Vilma, knocking out four of her teeth and, on one occasion, throwing hot coals at her. The violence became so great that at one point Veisvi begged her father not to kill her mother.
Vilma and Veisvi fled their tortured life in Guatemala to the United States. Vilma hoped that since Veisvi was a United States citizen, and since she, Vilma, feared for her own safety, she would be granted asylum and they could both stay in the U.S. She could not have imagined how it would all turn out thanks to the monstrously evil policies of the Trump administration.
When Veisvi and Vilma arrived at the Arizona border on May 10, 2018, immigration officials noticed that Veisvi was an American citizen. Within hours, Veisvi was taken from her mother. As explained to a New York Times reporter by Customs and Border Protection officials: “When a removable foreign national arrives in the United States with a U.S. citizen minor, the minor must be permitted to enter while the foreign national is processed. If there is no relative to take the child, C.B.P. will contact state or local child welfare services to assist with appropriate placement.” Vilma was sent to a detention facility in Georgia. It is against the law to hold an American in one of those facilities. Therefore, Veisvi was transferred to Arizona’s Department of Child Safety and given to a foster parent in Yuma, Arizona. Here is the present status of mother and daughter.
Vilma’s claim for asylum was based on the treatment she received at the hands of her husband. Her claim was denied and the judge ordered her removed from the country. She is appealing, a process that could take months or years. If Vilma is ultimately deported, Veisvi may not be permitted to accompany her. That is because the domestic abuse her mother fears from her husband, though not adequate grounds in the Judge’s eyes to grant her asylum, is sufficient to cause the U.S. justice system to determine that it is unsafe for Veivsi to return to her home with her mother. Instead, the government may decide to terminate Vilma’s parental rights. If that happens, Veisvi will be taken out of foster care and put up for adoption.
If the United States government deprives Veisvi of her mother, by terminating Vilma’s parental rights and giving Veisvi a new mother and father, and if Veisvi learns of Jakelin’s fate when she arrived in this country, Veisvi may very well wish she could trade places with Jakelin. Who would blame her?