It seems as if overnight the world has been consumed with a new movement calling for an end to the separation of immigrant children from their mothers at the border, but have we forgotten our own children?
Every year thousands of American women, U.S. citizens, born and raised on this land, have been forcefully separated from their children and sent off to various prisons throughout the nation while their children fall under the jurisdiction of government agencies like the Department of Family and Children Services. In some cases, the women are lucky enough to have family that will take care of their children until they complete their prison terms, but what about American women who don’t have families willing to assume this responsibility?
Sometimes, women serving long prison sentences have their children adopted out, and the records are sealed, leaving mothers, once released from prison, at the start of a long and often unsuccessful journey to find their own flesh and blood. Where is the outrage over these children being separated from their mothers?
You might say that those being sent to jail have committed crimes and should be sent to prison. And you would be right. But just as it would be wrong to discard the crimes being committed by American women simply to keep them with their children, it is equally misguided to advocate discarding the crimes of those breaking the law to come into this country illegally just so families can be kept together. Tossing the law aside is not the answer. The answer lies in reform, reform of the immigration system and reform of the prison system.
The situation causing the “children being torn from the parents’ arms” lament was created by laws proposed and passed by Democrats. So, too, were many of the laws causing our current criminal justice crisis, including laws more heavily enforced on black offenders; private prisons that prioritize profit over humanity, and harsher sentences for first offenders.
Case in point: Angela Stanton, a young woman I have been mentoring for the last twelve years, is a national bestselling author and television personality for BET-HER’s new reality show “From the Bottom Up.” Before she found her recent success, she spent some time in and out of Georgia prisons, involved in a life of crime with defamed reality TV star Phaedra Parks of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
On her last stint in lockup, she found herself handcuffed to a bed while giving birth to her fifth child, all while a sheriff’s deputy stood nearby, watching in amazement. Twenty-four hours later, Angela was separated from her newborn and sent back to a cold cement block cell. Hemorrhaging, and with only three pads a day she improvised by using her white t-shirts as sanitary napkins and cleaning them by washing them out in the jail toilet. The experience of being separated from her child at birth left Angela depressed and suicidal.
There are even more children whom those outraged over immigrant children have kept silent about for decades – those who are ripped from their mother’s wombs in abortion. Where is the outrage over these children?
Who’s to blame for snatching American babies from the arms and wombs of their parents? We all are.
Our children are our future, and we, as a society, need to do all we can to ensure they have the best chance at a good life. That best chance begins with the family.
As everyone across the country and throughout our government is focused on mothers and children, this is the moment to advocate for all babies. Clearly we need immigration reform, and just as clearly, we need prison reform. But the first change I would like to see is a nation that welcomes children across the border of the womb, rather than demanding the right to deny that child the rights he or she is entitled to as a member of the human family.
Today is Juneteenth and a great opportunity to begin to fight for the freedom of all those enslaved by unjust laws. Let’s work together to save all children. Their lives matter. Pray for America’s children too!
Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the founder of King for America, Inc., consultant to the Africa Humanitarian Christian Fellowship and Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries.