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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

PERSPECTIVE: Suffering Children at the Border Are Not Legislative Pawns

I’ve been venting my spleen over on Twitter over this situation at the border. I’m heartbroken. For the kids, for my former colleagues at DHS who have to implement this policy, but mostly for America.

Having been one of the “originals” who sat in a windowless room for what seemed like months putting together DHS, I’m pretty familiar with what was intended with the law. It wasn’t this. And even if you take the words in the law literally, I know that we built in so many ways to give the secretary of DHS wide latitude in this area. There is always “another option,” as Secretary Ridge would say. To say they are only “enforcing the law” is just too easy a way out to justify these actions. Nice try.

To be clear, what the administration is doing is a discretionary policy choice. A. Choice. Most times when we faced something like this, families were kept together. Of course there are exigent circumstances where there are potential trafficking issues, gang-related activities, or domestic abuse problems. But by the most part, these families are coming to the U.S. as asylum-seekers because they wanted better. They were escaping horrors only a small percentage of us could imagine. Are there bad elements who are exploiting the kids? Yes, of course. But it’s not everyone. And there are better ways to deal with this.

So to see and hear kids crying for their moms or dads makes me crushed. There are some who wanted this outcome. They think this kind of display will deter people from coming to America. They are perfectly fine using these people as props in their long-term strategy to limit immigration from Central and South America. Shame on you. Shame. America deserves better than to have you in policy-making roles.

To my former DHS colleagues: You are doing your job. And you have been chronically underfunded in this area. Your systems that would allow you to communicate with your colleagues across multiple platforms have always been shortchanged. You are doing the best you can.

To those that are blaming Congress or the Democrats: stop. That’s so convenient, isn’t it? The administration announced this policy in April. You all said you were going to do this. Well, you can reverse it that easily as well. One statement makes this stop.

And to those who have said they are using these kids as pawns for a larger immigration deal, I hope there is a special corner of hell waiting for you. These are children. Not legislative pawns.

I’ve been to this border too many times to count. I’ve seen the frightened faces looking at me for consolation, but also hope. I’ve also been to the Syrian border and watched people fleeing into Jordan for the very same reasons. Their look is the same. Hope.

I’ve spent the better part of the last week in Israel and have had a lot of time to think about situation as I walked where Jesus walked. Where he took in and welcomed everyone from all places. Without judgment. So to anyone who wants to quote the Bible to me, save it. In the immortal words of one of my heroes, Bono, “For those who would use the Holy Scripture to justify tearing children from the arms of their mother… we put the record straight: Jesus said ‘Suffer the little children, forbid them NOT to come onto me’… Not make the little children suffer!”

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email [email protected] Our editorial guidelines can be found here.

Sally Canfield
Sally Canfield is senior vice president at Definers Public Affairs. Canfield has also held various senior positions including deputy chief of staff for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, counselor to the secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, and senior policy advisor to the Speaker of the House. In the 2000 campaign, Canfield served as domestic policy advisor to then-Gov. George W. Bush and in the 2008 campaign cycle, she served as policy director to Gov. Mitt Romney. Canfield holds a degree in Political Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and has studied at Saint Catherine’s College, Oxford University. Canfield is also a Board Member of the Panzi Foundation USA, a charitable foundation that raises awareness about the challenges in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, engages in strategic advocacy to end violence against women, and provides grants to Panzi Hospital to heal women and restore lives.

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