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Philadelphia, USA, June 2018 © Jana Shea

In America, Children Are Stuck in a Black Hole

When there is no government response to do what is right in the face of what is wrong, what is wrong feeds on that void and grows.

I have a story to tell. I just found a 5-year-old child from El Salvador. He is being “cared for” by Christians in Maryland under contract to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, US Department of Health and Human Services (ORR). His name is Miguelito. He is not sure of his last name. His mother’s name is “mama.” He is not sure of his father’s name. He doesn’t know where he is from nor where he is now. He doesn’t know where his mother is. He cries a lot but tries to be brave.

I am trying to assist the Christians who are caring for Miguelito to reunite him with his mother. I have tried working with the State of Maryland Department of Human Services that licenses the Christians to take care of him. And I have tried to engage other Maryland state officials who should be taking full responsibility for the welfare of all children within the state — even Miguelito, who doesn’t know his last name or that he is in Maryland. His welfare is not his job; he is 5 years old.

I am a retired attorney who has done pro bono work with undocumented immigrant children, so I am not completely new to this. I speak Spanish; I can speak to Miguelito. I have been trying for almost two weeks to unite one child with one parent. I have failed.

The US government will not provide me with any information about who Miguelito is, how he was separated from his mother, who she is or where she is. All I want to do is help Miguelito’s mother find Miguelito. Once I can do that, I’ll figure out a way to get Miguelito to his mother and then hopefully on to someplace safe together.

If I were the only one willing to do this, it would be good for Miguelito, but not much else. But there are thousands of people like me who would gladly help one child reach one parent and try to get them both to a safe place.

Maryland Officials

So what about Maryland officials? I am just a pro bono guy working out of a home office. They have paying jobs and status that should give them access to the information being denied to me. But they don’t seem to care enough about Miguelito to shout loud enough for anybody to hear.

The office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, was particularly unhelpful, referring me to ORR where no one answers the phone. The office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, was a bit more helpful. His office noted that Maryland has joined a multi-state lawsuit to confront Trump’s family separation policy and that the attorney general has lodged Freedom of Information Act requests with the US Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services in an effort to find out basic information about who is being “held” and where, in facilities licensed by the state of Maryland. The requests for information were sent on June 20. To date, there appears to be no response of record.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office was also kind enough to refer me to the Maryland Department of Human Services for more information. This Department licenses childcare and foster care facilities in Maryland and actually has something called the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees. I called the department twice, and am still awaiting a promised return call from the deputy secretary for programs.

That brings us to the Christians who are taking care of Miguelito while he is separated from his mother. For the moment at least, they may be the only good guys. Some of them say publicly that they are taking care of some of the separated kids. What they won’t say publicly is who they are caring for and what they are doing to reunite any of the separated children in their care with a parent. Someone may have said something about reunification to Governor Hogan, but he won’t tell me or the press what they said.

Speaking of the press, both the The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post have provided similar sporadic coverage of what is going on with separated immigrant children in Maryland. Perhaps most instructive is the following from Baltimore Sun coverage on June 27:

“Ten children who were separated from their families at the border under President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy against illegal immigration are being cared for in three Maryland facilities, federal officials told Gov. Larry Hogan this week.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services said the three facilities provide foster care services and are in good standing with the state. Spokeswoman Paula Tolson declined to identify them.

Tolson said Hogan was briefed on Monday by the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the children. Another 52 children who arrived at the border by themselves are also being held in Maryland.”

Neither Governor Hogan’s office nor the state Department of Human Services has acknowledged any responsibility to date for reuniting any of the “10” children with their parents or for ensuring the welfare of the other “52” children being “held” in Maryland.

Miguelito

Now it is time to tell you that “Miguelito” is not a real child. Rather, he is thousands of real children, “held” against their will in a US government-sponsored black hole. In Maryland, there may be some kindness inside the black hole, but next to nothing is being done to actually find the “10” mothers of the “10” kids.  Maybe, just maybe, if some government official told me the name and location of one of them, I could find his or her mother.

Maybe, if there were no black hole to begin with, reuniting parents with their children would be easy. Often, when there is no government response to do what is right in the face of what is wrong, what is wrong feeds on that void and grows. In today’s America, all of the Miguelitos want something right to happen to them so they can be with their parents again.

I have watched and waded through too much for too long to believe that America will ever fulfill its promise. But now we are reaching new moral nadirs almost daily. Our children and “their” children are today’s big losers.

*[A version of this article was also featured on the author’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Jana Shea / Shutterstock.com