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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Children at the Crossroads

It seems that nothing about the Trump administration has hit the public imagination – especially Republican women – as much as the separation of children from their parents during the immigration process. Former First Lady Laura Bush even wrote a piece for the Washington Post decrying the new policy imposed by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). She compared it to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, but that is not a correct analogy, as men, women, and children were allowed to live as families in those camps. It’s more akin to Hitler’s concentration camps, where Jews and others were separated by gender and age. Think Sophie’s Choice.

Immigrants at Ellis Island and other entry points also could be detained, usually because they could not pass health tests, but again there was no policy of taking children from their parents. If it was a child who was ill, mothers were allowed to stay with them while fathers and siblings went on to set up a household. Yes, there were people with infectious diseases, especially glaucoma, who were forced to go back to Europe, but the steamship company that brought them had to pay the cost. You can read all about it in my Foreign and Female. Although no one has sent me any royalties in years, I see it’s still available online and has some nice reviews. Too bad that doesn’t count at Publix.

But I was cheered to see once again the nearly spontaneous rallies that arise with new issues these days. On Father’s Day, thousands of people and dozens of members of Congress -- all of them Democrats -- brought attention to this imprisonment of children. Fascists employed by ICE had the temerity to try to block these highest elected officials who pay their salaries, but that simply reinforced the point that Trumpsters prefer an authoritarian state. No questions allowed, not even by our elected representatives.

Some of the signs that protestors carried on the Father’s Day marches were clever. I found especially appealing the little girls who looked like my Mexican great-nieces and held signs saying “Nobody is Illegal.” Another connected it to the currently popular film and read, “What Would Mr. Rogers Do?” To say nothing of Jesus, I might add. It’s been a century now since Democratic President Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations proposed “Open Borders, Openly Arrived At.” That still should be our goal. We all live on the same planet, and people should be free to go where they choose.

How We Got Here and How We Move Beyond

Republican PR spinners tried again to pin the blame for this child separation on the previous administration, but that is false. It is true that back when teenagers -- desperate to leave the drug lords who would kill them -- hopped on trains to get to the Texas border, the Obama administration stopped that danger by encouraging asylum seekers to immigrate as families, not as individuals. And now cynical ICE officials are claiming that children are merely posing as part of a family. How does that even make sense, especially when they cry for their mamas and papas?

We got to this point because we enabled the rise of drug cartels throughout Central America. Under the aegis of our CIA, Oliver North’s contras, and other dark entities, we supported dictators there whose motivations are solely money and power – while we demeaned Cuba, which has no drug problem. The way to get out of this situation with Central America is to send United Nations troops there to protect peacemakers and civil rights -- and even more, to invest there. People with access to good jobs will not leave their homes, but instead we impose tariffs and threaten an end to NAFTA, so that these poor economies become poorer, and people become desperate.

I dislike conspiracy theorists, but it seems that the only reasonable explanation for this exodus from Central American is that North American businesses, and especially those in the food business, want illegal immigrants. I know for a fact, from my contacts in the poultry industry, that Tyson and others recruit Mexicans to do the chicken plucking that Anglos are unwilling to do these days. You’ve seen them toiling in the hot sun of Plant City’s strawberry fields and Ruskin’s tomato fields. They pick apples in Washington and cherries in Michigan; they herd cattle in Texas and endure the butchering required in Iowa pork-packing plants. They pay taxes, yet because of their illegal status, they never file a claim. Employers are able to impose whatever conditions they wish because no one dares to complain.

It is indentured servitude of the type that we had in the 17th century. Now as then, newcomers willingly enter into this status because it is better than what they had at home, but it is semi-slavery, and we as a nation should be ashamed of ourselves. Instead, born-again Confederates happily fund an administration that keeps asylum seekers fearful and terrorized. Our current prosperous economy could not survive without these hard workers, but those at the top prefer racism and rage.

More Re Father’s Day

Not as many in my inbox as there were on Mother’s Day, but I think the Father’s Day messages were more meaningful. I especially liked the ones from Elizabeth Warren and Donna Shalala. Neither had any request for a donation, and both revealed much about their backgrounds that none of their guy-in-a-suit opponents would want you to know. Shalala’s showed a picture of her family when she was still young enough to be holding a Howdy Dowdy doll, and the message was so short and on-point that I’m going to quote it directly:

“My dad was a special man. Despite having only an eighth-grade education himself, he understood the power of education to transform lives, especially for women. He insisted that my twin sister and I go to college and even graduate school, at a time when women were told they were better off staying at home. He later encouraged my mom to go to law school; she went on to start her own firm and practice law well into her 80s. His staunch advocacy for women’s education bucked tradition in our Lebanese-American community in Cleveland, but we were all better off as he encouraged other fathers to send their daughters to school.” You probably know that after a stellar career in academia and in government, Donna Shalala is running for Congress from a Miami district. You could go online and send support.

Elizabeth Warren is running for reelection to the US Senate from Massachusetts, but she is so popular there that she will win without donations from us out-of-staters. Although Republicans love to associate her with “the Harvard elite,” she grew up far from there, in Oklahoma City. Her Father’s Day message was good, but I’m going to quote from the Mother’s Day one that I saved:

“…After he got out of the hospital, Daddy looked grey and tired. He was out of work for a long time. The bills just piled up… My mother usually picked me up from school in our station wagon. One day she showed up driving the old Studebaker… I asked where the station wagon was. “It’s gone,” she said. “We couldn’t pay. They took it…” And then one day, my mother put on her best dress – the one she wore to weddings and funerals… She said, “We are not going to lose this house. She walked to the Sears Roebuck down the street, and at 50 years old, got her first job outside the home.”

Those are real family values. So, do you know how The Donald spent his Father’s Day? And why doesn’t the media ask? And do you think that if Michelle Obama hadn’t been seen with her husband for weeks that the story would be ignored? The slightest peccadillo in their relationship would have been endless headline news, but with the Trump family, we are back to the “boys will be boys” philosophy that should have died a half-century ago.

The only thing that turned up in a search for “Donald Trump” and “Father’s Day” was the news (to me) that Donald Trump, Jr.’s wife, Vanessa, has filed for divorce. She kindly sent the five kids they had during a 12-year marriage to spend the day with their father, and like his father, Junior felt compelled to tweet. “It all started out nice and friendly and then the bottom fell out!!! Only my little monsters would turn a fam picnic into a wrestling match.” Yep, words of wisdom on Father’s Day.

Okay, one more because Democrats can be jerks, too. Gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine of Miami sent an e-mail showing himself with a dog, his new wife with their infant son, and two older kids who are hers by an earlier relationship. The preteen boy had the classic signs of depression, with his unsmiling face looking downwards. I wouldn’t mind if Levine’s message had acknowledged the reality of his newly acquired stepchildren, but instead he deceptively headlined it, “My kids keep me going every day.” A little honesty, please? He doesn’t even have the sense to include these two kids on his website, which only cites the baby born before he married the mother earlier this year. Again, what if it were Gwen Graham?

Please ask yourself that question over and over again with any breaking news. What if this were Hillary? What if it were Michelle? It goes back to Eleanor Roosevelt, this double standard for Democratic women. We can start ending it in August, and follow through in November.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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