As a Mexican Immigrant Whose Kid Has Down Syndrome, I Beg You to Put Politics Aside
Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Ellen Stumbo, The Mighty’s parenting editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.
The internet has been abuzz with horror following a Fox News clip of political correspondent Corey Lewandowski saying, “Womp, womp,” to news of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome and her twin brother being separated from their mother at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Did you just say ‘womp womp?’” Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas asked Lewandowski Tuesday night. “How dare you? How dare you?”
It was not hard for me to put myself in this mother’s situation.
I am a Mexican immigrant. I have a 10-year-old with Down syndrome.
I cannot imagine being forcibly separated from my daughter. I cannot imagine the fear, confusion and agony she would experience, unable to communicate clearly, unable to speak up, unable to make her needs known, unable to understand why she was violently taken from me as she watched me scream and plead for her. I cannot imagine the horror and trauma of such an experience and how it would destroy me.
I cannot fully comprehend what this child’s mother is going through now. I can only imagine what it would be like for me.
I echo Petkanas’ sentiment. I want to scream, “How dare you? How could you be so heartless to make a mockery over a traumatic and inhumane situation, and call it lawful? How can you toss the most vulnerable children to the side as if they did not matter? How dare you?”
How can any parent look the other way?
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, this mother entered the country illegally on June 3 with her five children. Three of the children are U.S. citizens and were released to an aunt. The mother admitted to entering the country illegally and is being held as a witness to a smuggling crime. She is not being prosecuted. The twins, who are not U.S. citizens, are sitting in a Texas shelter, even though their father, a legal U.S. resident, lives just 60 miles away. Mexican officials are urging the U.S. government to reunite the children with their father, whom U.S. authorities say they are still evaluating.
Though President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that ends the part of his “zero tolerance” policy that separates children from their families, it is unclear if and when those already separated will be reunited.
The Trump administration separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults from April 19 to May 31, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Friday. How and when those children will be reunified with their guardians is unclear.
As a Mexican immigrant and someone who came to this country with my father, I cannot imagine if someone had taken me from him simply for showing up at the border. While we were not seeking asylum and our situation was different from the immigrants being detained whose children were taken away, I cannot imagine what it would have been like if patrol officers ripped us apart before we had a chance to speak. I cannot imagine what would have happened if we both did not speak English and my dad was not a man with white skin and blue eyes who instead had a pleasant interaction with the border patrol officer.
I don’t believe political affiliation matters when we are talking about children being forcibly separated from their parents. I don’t care when this started or under which administration. In all the arguments presented on either side, we cannot forget the children. Where is the compassion? It is despicable that some would go as far as mocking those in this devastating situation. We cannot allow the dismissiveness of vulnerable children to be acceptable.
How can someone say, “womp womp” and make a mockery of a vulnerable child being taken from their parent? A child who has extra needs and may require a level of care that cannot be provided in a detention center full of strangers and other traumatized children? A child who, if asked, might give answers, yet her speech may be hard to understand. A child who may want to communicate yet be ignored because her words are labored or not present at all.
Powerful enough to knock me to my knees and sob over the abhorrent situation happening.
Images of a little girl with Down syndrome ripped from her mother, confused, crying and alone.
How dare you?
Story image via YouTube