Commentary: We live in a video era.
On Feb. 15, 2014, then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his girlfriend in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. The incident was extensively reported in print, online and broadcast outlets. And the nation gave a collective shrug.
Then, in September, 2014 video was released showing Rice doing what we already knew he had done. And the nation gave a collective roar.
Video changes everything.
For the past several weeks, our government has been taking immigrant children of all ages away from their parents and warehousing them in federal facilities all across the country.
We can only imagine what that must be like for the kids ... literally. None of us are allowed to see inside these shelters.
We’ve seen an aerial view of the tents erected in Tornillo, Texas to house detained children. But the only images we’ve seen from inside these facilities have been government handouts.
Thus far, we’ve only had a glimpse of the reality of this inhumane policy, provided by ProPublica – an audio tape of an adult man mocking wailing children as sounding like an “orchestra,” while a young girl desperately repeats the phone number of her aunt, which she had memorized just for this purpose.
As I write this Friday, there hasn’t been much more yet, but there will be. This operation is far too widespread, and the interest in it far too great, to keep secret the unnecessary misery being inflicted on babies, toddlers and children.
And, the problem is not fixed. The executive order stopping family separations calls for detaining children for an unlimited amount of time, in violation of a standing court order. It remains to be seen what the president will do when the court strikes the down.
The executive order does nothing to explain how the more than 2,000 children who have already been taken away from their parents and siblings will eventually be reunited. It seems clear to me that many will never see their parents again. They will, instead, grow up in our child welfare system, being cursed by the very same people who put them in that position.
Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker wrote last week about women who came here with their children seeking asylum, and are now being held by themselves in the Otero County Detention Center in Chaparral.
Wesliane Souza, a Brazilian woman who had been separated from her 13-year-old son, told the reporter that there were about 50 mothers in her wing of the jail, and most of them did not know where their children were.
Souza said she was able to contact a cousin living in the United States, who was able to track down her son and speak to him for a few seconds. But she has not been able to see or hear from him.
Reporters aren’t allowed to bring cameras into these facilities, so we have to rely on Blitzer’s description:
“Her eyes were bloodshot from crying, and she rocked back and forth while we talked. During pauses in our conversation, a vacant look crept across her face, and she muttered to herself.”
We don’t need video to understand what that woman and her child are both going through.