Separating Children From Their Parents Is Wrong

The focus of this blog is usually politics and social issues here in China, since that is where we live. But we are also Americans, and we very actively follow politics back home. This is not just because we are interested in what is going on back in the States, but because as American citizens, the actions of our government impact us in very real ways every day. So some things that are happening in America I just have to talk about.

The separation of migrant children from their parents at the border is horrifying, disgusting, and wrong, and America – and anyone who supports such policies – should be deeply ashamed.

Let me tell you a story.

About four years ago, while driving his motorbike to a dentist appointment, my husband was pulled over by the police in Shenzhen, put in the back of a police car, and taken to jail. I was able to find him at a local police station where Zoe and I spent several hours, until almost midnight, trying to get him released to no avail. Eventually, I had to watch my husband put in the back of a police van and be driven away.

I had no idea where he was going, what would happen to him, or when I would see him again.

We were told he would only be detained for ten days, but that after that he would be deported. I called the consulate in Guangzhou the next day and they sent a representative to the jail to talk to him. He mentioned at one point that while my husband should only be held for ten days, they could “escalate” the case and hold him indefinitely, so he should be on his best behavior.

We were both frantic and terrified. It took several days before I was even able to see him and make sure he was okay, and then we could only talk for ten minutes.

The next ten days were true hell. I called everyone I knew, begging for help. I talked to dozens of people and had to make many trips to the bank to collect enough funds to pay certain people to help us. When I wasn’t working on securing my husband’s release and trying to keep him from being deported, I was physically sick in bed. I couldn’t function. I ended up having to take the two weeks off of work because I couldn’t think of anything except my husband.

And I was out. I was home. I had food to drink and Zoe to take care of me. What I went through was nothing compared to what my husband experienced inside a Chinese jail – but that is his story to one day tell.

In the end, my husband was released at 9 am on the 10th day and wasn’t deported. We survived and my husband sometimes tells other people about the experience at parties.

But it was a deeply traumatic experience. We still have separation anxiety and minor panic triggers related to those ten days.

And we are fully functional adults. I cannot imagine going through the same experience as a child. Of having your father or mother ripped away from you, not knowing when or if you will see them again.

While visiting my husband at the jail, I saw many mothers on the inside being visited by their children (the jail had a woman’s ward as well, mostly for prostitutes), who were often crying. I can’t imagine the terror those children must have been facing at being separated from their mothers even for a short amount of time.

I know that my experience in no way compares to what immigrants to America are facing today, but it did make me much more empathetic to their plight. That anyone thinks it is “okay” to separate families, even for a short amount of time, is unfathomable to me. Who are these soulless monsters?

Being an adoptive parent has also made me much more aware of the long-term damaging effect trauma can have on a child. All adoption starts from a place of loss and trauma that can manifest in many ways throughout a person’s life. Even someone adopted as an infant can experience loss and trauma. Trauma can even be inherited from generations in the past. That the US government would willingly inflict separation-induced trauma on children is abhorrent. To say nothing of the trauma inflicted on the parents. I can imagine nothing more horrifying than having my daughter taken from me.

Even though I am adoption advocate, I am a family advocate. We should all be taking every step to keeping families together. Family separation should only ever be a last resort.