Opinion

Sins at southern border will haunt our country

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Maybe this time will be different.

But I’m skeptical, disappointed and angry.

The plight of children stolen from their parents at the border has generated a national moment of outrage.

But we’ve seen moments of outrage before. People massacred in schools, on college campuses, in church and at movie theaters. Little kids, high school kids, worshipers, concertgoers, normal people gunned down, their only sin stepping out into a public place.

There were marches and protests. But the laws haven’t changed; Congress is unable or too afraid to act. State governments haven’t done much better.

Today we are watching a different kind of tragedy as kids with brown skin are taken from their parents, shipped around the country, locked up in cages — all as part of a sick negotiating tactic by President Donald Trump, hoping to win … something?

It’s cruel.

It’s despicable.

The cries of children, in a recording obtained by ProPublica, are real. The cages are real. The big box store turned detention center is real. But we’re asked not to believe our eyes; not to hear with our ears; not to see the truth.

If the best you can do is argue that a cage is not really a cage, but instead a chain-linked enclosure, there is no hope for you. You are lost.

The president and his administration have hopscotched from one lie to the next about the inhumane actions that are being done on behalf of the American people at the southern border.

They say their actions are required by law. They are lying.

Just like he has with the “Dreamers,” the president is hoping that the unacceptable can spur Congress into doing his bidding on immigration, maybe give him the money he wants for his damn wall.

Maine’s congressional delegation is saying the right thing.

Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree are the most outspoken. Pingree called it “inhumane.”

King recorded a message on Facebook and wrote:

“The last several days, we have seen a truly awful set of developments along our southern border, where children are being taken away from their parents. I understand we need to control our borders, but we don’t need to do it this way. It’s unacceptable and un-American.”

Sen. Susan Collins has had tough words for Trump’s policy, calling it “inconsistent with American values.” But she doesn’t support a Democratic bill to end the practice. She says the fastest way to get action for the unacceptable practice is for the president to change his policy.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, acting like his typical shy self, said the right things when asked by a Mainer about children being taken from their parents, followed up by video of him trying to get away from her quickly and then complaining about being recorded.

Turns out, the very wealthy and comfortable congressman is the real victim. He doesn’t believe he should have to answer questions, especially if his answers might be recorded.

There’s so little support for the practice of taking kids from their parents outside of Trump’s closed information loop of sycophants and Fox News, that Congress should be able to take action.

But if the mass murder of elementary school kids at Sandy Hook can’t shake our country into action, will anything? Will kids in cages, crying out loud for their mamas and papas? Will anything move us to action?

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin offered a list of 10 things Republicans can do to force action. She focused on the Republicans because they control all the levers of power in the federal government.

Her ideas include resigning from positions within the administration and for members of Congress to join with Democrats to amend and pass legislation.

But I’m going to start simpler. Republicans, and particularly those in Congress, need to start by telling the truth. They need to be clear that “metal enclosures” are cages; that Trump is separating kids from their parents because he wants to, not because of a law; that kids separated from their parents suffer real trauma and that it’s not tolerable. Then they must acknowledge that they can make it stop and take real action.

There are thousands of children suffering today. If we fail to take action — if Republicans fail to use their power to stand up to the president — the sin will haunt us all for years to come.

We cannot let this moment pass — like it has with the tragedies of gun violence — without making this right. History will judge the equivocators and the excuse makers harshly.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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