Gary Horton | Kids in Cages: Is That the American Way?


Americans are aware that the U.S. has some pretty nasty skeletons in our closet.

Locking up our Japanese citizens during WWII. The slaughter of millions of Native Americans and forcing the remainder into impoverished camps and reservations. 

But we’d hoped we were beyond all that. That the promise of liberty and justice for all had finally taken hold.

Not yet.

Kids in cages, far out of view, with no soap or toothbrushes, sleeping on concrete or dirt floors. Right here in America. Verified, and all over the press.

Today, in our time, under our noses, we have some 14,500 migrant kids, separated from their families. 

We’ve got a White House arguing to eliminate English lessons, physical exercise, and rights to see legal representation. Justice Department lawyers, arguing all this is – OK. It’s fine. It’s within prescribed U.S. law to hold these kids in concentration camp-like condition. 

In tents, cages, separated from parents, no soap, personal hygiene, scarce blankets, with access to legal representation next to go.

This can’t be, can it? 

It is, and it’s verified by Congressional visits and interviews with service providers and third-party contractors.

Journalists aren’t allowed in these camps. Photos are not allowed to be taken. The immigrant kids are cut off, as are we cut off, the American public. 

When authority systematically hides the truth, you know there’s something to hide.

So far, there’s outcry, but little change.

“The send us their criminals, their rapists, their drug dealers.” 

“They come from s—hole countries…”

Trump has dehumanized these refugees in the minds of his supporters. 

“They’re here illegally.” 

“They’re looking for an easy handout.” 

“They had disease.” 

“They’ll steal our jobs.” 

We’ve heard variations on all of this. Worst is:

“They have it coming.” 

Whatever degradation we throw at these vulnerable ones, “They have it coming.” 

There’s blame shifting, too – as though that’s a balm on the conscience that makes the problem vanish. 

“It’s the Democrats’ fault.” 

“We don’t have funding.” 

“We don’t have resources.” 

Damn, if they would just stop fleeing their countries none of this would be happening. (Except, they’re fleeing countries with the worst and most threatening conditions for children on the planet…)

Kids in cages in faraway places, with no soap or blankets and barely room to move. Locked inside fences, in tents, warehouses, for-profit human exploitation machines.

It’s a far mental leap from kids in cages to folks packed in boxcars – more dehumanization of these kids, these dirty refugees and they’ll become mere objects we’ve got to “process and make to go away.” Frightening. 

The Trump presidential response is to make conditions on our side the wrong side for them to come to. Make it so bad, so miserable, so debilitating, so terrifying as kids are ripped from parents – that they’ll stop coming. 

It didn’t work. We’ve got them, whether we want them or not. Real kids, real humans, real lives, real potential for good – or bad. And the determination of how their lives turn out will significantly be made by the decisions we, America makes, right here, right now.

Will we look the other way, continuing the degradations, made easy for us by the prohibition against cameras? Will we “suffer the little children” to suffer – because, hey, “They broke the law”?

It’s increasingly hypocritical for America, the Land of the Free, to claim human rights violations against other nations, when we ourselves hold kids the world sees as refugees from violence in conditions most describe as worse than American prisons.

How far will we go? Could border violations ever morph to a capital crime? 80% of Evangelicals support Trump and can only see him for “the greater good” he delivers. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s an enforcer of our way of life. “Make America Great Again – by any means necessary…” 

I doubt, in this immediate generation, we could stoop that low. But you surely get a sense of how it could, when we’ve got a vulnerable, trapped scapegoat population, with no legal representations, facing an angry mob following an angry Strong Man – and they need targets toward which to focus their bile.

For today, it’s kids in cages in faraway places with no soap, blankets, scant representation, hugs, or love. 

Right here, right now, in our America. 

Are you proud of this?

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006.

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