True sons and daughters: Immigrants in Trump’s America


Conrad Richter’s 1953 novel “The Light in the Forest” tells the story of John Butler, who is kidnapped by the Lenni Lenape Indians in 18th-century Ohio when he is 4. His Lenape father, Cuyloga, loves him, raises him and renames him True Son – a name that resonates with irony and poignance as the story progresses and True Son confronts nature and nurture amid the realization that when you come from two worlds, you often wind up belonging to neither. Thus marooned, True Son asks, “Who is my father?”

It’s a question that some 2,000 undocumented children may be asking in the future. The Trump Administration has said it will need more time to reunite them with their parents. But already parents of 19 of the 101 detained children who are under the age of 5 have been deported. The parents of 19 others have been released and seemingly vanished – all of this according to The New York Times.

The government had until Saturday to come up with a list of these 101 children and the reasons why it can’t reunite them with their parents. As it stands the deadline for reunification is set at Tuesday for the youngest children and July 26 for the older ones.

Coming up with the reasons why the Trump Administration can’t comply should be easy. Begin with the venal notion that the administration could leverage kids as a way of deterring undocumented immigration. This idea did not factor in a. the desperation of people fleeing violence in their own country; b. the disconnect between the refuge immigrants are looking for and what the United States actually is, with some people willing to be deported in the hopes of being reunited with their children that much faster, which, of course, did not happen; c. the bureaucratic nightmare of reuniting families, with many departments, agencies and lawyers involved; and d. the role that fear and hatred of “the other” play in gumming up immigration reform.

Look, President Donald J. Trump didn’t invent the challenge of undocumented immigrants. But he created the current crisis by taking the children hostage to deter their parents most cruelly and, at the same time, try to exhort money from the Democrats in Congress for his wall. To say that this is the result of any law is specious. Had he, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior adviser Stephen Miller not cooked up this scheme, there’d have been no separation and no need for Herculean reunification.

And now the Trumpettes run the real risk that many of these kids will be scarred for life and may never be reunited. Trump talks a lot about the Central American-inspired gang MS-13, but isn’t he just encouraging these children to hate the United States by what he’s doing?

Or perhaps like True Son they will wind up in political limbo, caught between the countries their parents fled and the desired country that doesn’t want them.