Former President Barack Obama joined the national conversation about the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, writing Wednesday that the “cruelty” of such actions is un-American.
Pegging his Facebook post to World Refugee Day, Obama implored his former constituents to imagine themselves as immigrants “so desperate to flee persecution, violence, and suffering” that they’d attempt to bring their families into the U.S.
“[T]o watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?” Obama wrote. “Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?”
Humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders also marked World Refugee Day by condemning the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, saying in a release that the U.S. government was “effectively dismantling protections … designed to protect refugees and asylum seekers.”
“Seeking safety is not a crime,” said Jason Cone, executive director of the group’s U.S. team, which has been providing medical services to migrants traveling to the U.S. through Mexico for the past five years. “No other government in the world is deliberately and systematically separating refugee children from their mothers and fathers as policy.”
President Donald Trump’s administration separated almost 2,000 immigrant children from their parents at the border over the span of six weeks from mid-April through May. Held in caged detention centers where employees are not allowed to comfort them, the children ― many of whom are young babies and toddlers ― are experiencing something traumatic enough to trigger lifelong health consequences, doctors say.
Obama’s post comes the same day Trump reacted to national and international outrage over the border policy by saying he’d be “signing something in a little while” that would resolve the concerns about the border policy.
In his Wednesday statement, the former president suggested Americans should hold their lawmakers accountable to such promises.
“[We] have to do more than say ‘this isn’t who we are.’” he wrote. “We have to prove it ― through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes.”
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman contributed reporting.