Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam Undimmed by Human Tears


Katie Annand writes,

I work as an attorney with an organization called Kids in Need of Defense, or KIND, devoted to working with unaccompanied children. I hear firsthand stories that illustrate the severe impact of family separation on children; to say they are terrorized and completely devastated is an understatement. This new terror is compounded by the trauma already experienced by these children — the violence, persecution, and other harm they faced in their home country that caused them to seek protection in the US in the first place.

Among our cases of family separation are two siblings, a 7-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy, who traveled with their mother to the United States from Central America and were apprehended in September 2017 in El Paso, Texas. On the cold January day when they came into our office, the 12-year-old was wearing a green raincoat while his sister wore only a rainbow-adorned blouse because, as she told us, she was “too young to get cold.” We learned from the children that Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, had taken them from their mother at the border. The 7-year-old told us how she cried and begged to be with her mother — she was clearly still in shock.

We later learned that their mother had been detained, transferred between various detention facilities over the course of about two weeks, and then deported. The children were told their mother had committed a crime by bringing them to the United States, and were promptly transferred to a shelter.

A few months later, as these two children sat in KIND’s office telling their story, their emotions were still raw. They are currently living with a member of their family whom they are not close with; it hardly feels like home to them. They remembered every detail of the horrifying moment when immigration officials took their mother away. The 7-year-old kept saying over and over how she was having trouble going to school because she missed her so much. Only her mom knew how to do her hair just right each morning, she said. Her brother, a few years older, told us he had to take care of his little sister after their mom was taken away. They were terrified of never seeing her again.

What could we tell them? We didn’t know if or how they would see their mother again, either.