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Home / Opinion / Commentary / U.S. has long history of unfairly separating children from parents

U.S. has long history of unfairly separating children from parents

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The U.S. has a long history of separating children from their parents without regard for parents’ rights or the children’s welfare. (Photo by Pexels)

Border agents have found a new way to separate children from their parents. They falsely charge that a refugee/asylee assaulted them, arrest them for a felony, and take the children. By the time the charges are dropped, and the parent is out of jail, the child has disappeared into the U.S. child “welfare” system.

The U.S. has a long history of separating children from their parents without regard for parents’ rights or the children’s welfare.

During slavery, wives and children were still property of their husband so the children took their father’s nationality, meaning the children were free. In 1662, the law was changed to say that “Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother …” (Virginia Statutes: ACT XII (1662).

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Dianne Post (Photo by Martha Lochert)

Approximately one-third of enslaved children in Maryland and Virginia experienced family separation due to sale. In more recent times, Black children made up nearly 14% of the child population in this country in 2018, but 22.75% of children in foster care then were Black, according to The National Conference of State Legislatures.

As early as 1600, Native American children were captured by colonizers, who sold them into slavery, forced them to become religious novitiates or made them work, or they let Euro-Americans adopt them. From the late 1890s to the 1950s, Native children were taken from families to boarding schools. After boarding schools closed, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League launched the Indian Adoption Project (IAP). The IAP moved between 25% and 35% of the Native children into interstate adoptions and foster care placements mostly with Euro-Americans.

As late as 1969, white, born-again Christians founded a rescue mission near Tucson. The House of Samuel dispatched its staff to remote reservations to “offer assistance” to new, unwed mothers or those with multiple children and little means. In 1975, tribal court judge Anna Early Goseyun was so outraged by what was happening to her community’s children that she led a raid on House of Samuel. The Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe later hired Bertram Hirsch to represent the tribes in a successful lawsuit alleging that House of Samuel was kidnapping children from reservations and unlawfully terminating parental rights.

During the Great Depression, authorities participated in a mass deportation of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans whom they blamed for the economic downturn. Between 500,000 and 1 million Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans were pushed out of the country during the 1930s “repatriation.” Many parents were separated from their U.S. citizen children and many children never saw their parents again.

Today we are again separating children from their parents. Soon we’ll apologize for our behavior and pay reparations but in the meantime thousands of children suffer trauma, thousands of parents ache with grief and thousands of lives are derailed. Why do we never learn?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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