Column: Undocumented immigrant children do not belong in cages

In a recent press conference, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that the United States is and always has been the most welcoming country to immigrants, though Central American undocumented migrant children are currently being held in cages in America.
Two female detainees lie in a holding cell at U.S. customs and border protection’s placement center. Courtesy of

Claire Huber is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

Years from now, our generation’s children will look into their American history books in a class that teaches them that the United States of America knows best, and they will see Central American children seeking refuge in 2018 being put in cages by our government.

This is the legacy our America is leaving. According to The Washington Post, unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border from Mexico are being put in a “central processing center” in McAllen, Texas. Said “processing center” holds nearly 2,000 children who have been separated from their families, according to a Business Insider article posted June 17. This is all under President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which criminally prosecutes anyone who crosses the border illegally. On June 20, Trump signed an executive order ensuring that families will no longer be seperated.

Separating families seeking a better life in the U.S. is the worst way to be remembered, even if the policy has since changed to keep that from happening. The fate of the children separated from their families in the first place is unknown. These people had their living, breathing children torn from their arms all because they came to America, the country that Vice President Mike Pence claimed is “the most welcoming home for immigrants in human history” in a joint press conference with the president of Brazil.

Tell that to the Irish immigrants of the 1800s who were not given jobs because of their nationality, to the Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s who were blamed for crimes they did not commit, and to the thousands of Central American children in cages right now, Mr. Vice President.

It is true that the mothers and fathers in jail and the children in cages came here illegally, but ripping families apart does nothing for the greater good of the United States. Pence talks of respecting borders in the press conference, saying that people thinking of coming here illegally should respect our borders as the U.S. respects their’s. Inhumane treatment of children does not exactly scream respect.

This country is supposed to be some sought-after land of dreams, but every step our government is taking is a step towards despair. Treating children like zoo animals and taking them from their parents is the farthest thing from “welcoming.”

Pence claimed that the U.S. wants to help Central Americans thrive “in their own countries” while contradictorily stating that America wants to welcome documented immigrants. This country is supposed to be the land of acceptance and helpfulness. We should not send people in need of help back to their home countries where gang violence thrives. We also should not put their children in cages.

Elementary school students are taught that the U.S. is a “melting pot.” Children are raised to believe that, in the U.S., we mix cultures and love one another. As children grow, some open their eyes and teach themselves that the United States has countless flaws, while the rest turn their cheeks when undocumented immigrant children are caged up.

This country needs to look at the ideals we claim to stand for and live them out. The U.S. is supposed to be a home for people in danger, for people facing prosecution and for people seeking the greatest future possible. This idea becomes less and less plausible as the government continues to treat undocumented people like they aren’t people at all.

This is not the America we were raised to love. While Pence stands on a pedestal and preaches about how welcoming the United States is to legal immigrants, history speaks for itself. The present speaks for itself. While the Central American children in cages are not legal citizens, they are people nonetheless. What this country put these children through is ruthless and disturbing, and we will be remembered for this.

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