Although the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services are justly being hammered for separating immigrant families at the U.S. southern border, the policy of splitting apart families was previously enacted by Donald Trump’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, in the case of FEMA, the families separated were U.S. citizens.
Hurricane Maria, which devastated and continues to impact Puerto Rico, saw 200,000 Puerto Ricans being transported by FEMA to the U.S. mainland. They were forced to leave behind parents, some of whom were too sick to travel, in squalid post-disaster situations in Puerto Rico. Now living in FEMA-subsidized cheap apartments or motels in the Orlando, Florida area, these separated Puerto Ricans, many with children, cannot afford the air fare home. One Puerto Rican mother, suffering from cancer, lives in such an apartment in Florida, tended to only by her son, another refugee. As far as FEMA is concerned, Puerto Rican families separated by Maria can remain that way.
No amount of paper towels thrown by Trump at Puerto Ricans can change the plight of these devastated families.
It is ironic that the Republican Party, which adopted a “family values” mantra, now represents the party that splits apart families with no hope of reuniting them anytime soon.
In the case of asylum-seeking immigrants from Guatemala, whose children, including babies, were taken from them at the southern border, they are not able to understand their legal status or the whereabouts of their children. Many are Guatemalan Mayans, who speak only their native tongue of Mam, not Spanish. There are no Mam interpreters working for ICE or HHS to assuage their anxieties and fears.
Many of the children of asylum seekers have either been placed in caged-up facilities or in “Christian” and for-profit foster care facilities, some with records of committing acts of sexual and physical abuse of their wards. These include the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas; the Comprehensive Health Services-run migrant shelter in Homestead, Florida; The Children’s Village in Dobb’s Ferry, New York; His House Children’s Home in Miami Gardens, Florida; KidsPeace in South Portland, Maine, and other facilities in Texas, Minnesota, and Virginia.
The reason Mayans are seeking refuge in the United States is the policy of Guatemala’s successive right-wing regimes, periodically installed by the Central Intelligence Agency since 1954. These regimes’ policies have aimed to eradicate the Mayan culture and language through genocide.
The recommencement of regime change operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela by the Trump administration will result in more civil strife asylum seekers, particularly indigenous people, seeking refuge at the U.S. southern border.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).