What if the Children at the Border Belonged to You?

What if the children held in the facilities described in the ABC News report below belonged to you? Would you express your outrage? What would you do?

From the report on the ABC News website:

After assessing 39 children under the age of 18, she described conditions for unaccompanied minors at the聽McAllen facility聽as including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”

All the children who were seen showed evidence of trauma, Lucio Sevier reported, and the teens spoke of having no access to hand washing during their entire time in custody. She compared it to being “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

At the same time, the Trump administration argues that basic necessities aren’t basic at all.

As for the conditions at detention facilities, lawyers for the Trump administration last week argued that providing basic necessities, like soap, was not a requirement of the Flores agreement. Three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly asked if the lawyers if they were arguing that “safe and sanitary” did not include the ability to sleep soundly or use soap.

To Trump supporters: What if these kids belonged to you?

I realize this blog post won’t do much, but I ask my readers to tweet it and spread this on social media. I ask you, if you blog or write, to write stories about it. Ask friends with larger accounts to keep writing and complaining. Call your representatives and senators. Apparently, marches are planned. Go, if you can.

Court Evangelicals: Hear No Evil, See No Evil

We live in a time when the organized religion of the party in power is silent. Many religious right court evangelicals are sloppy drunk on power. They don’t speak for the poor and powerless and weak. They are arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned. How this administration can be lauded as pro-life, I cannot understand. I get the anti-abortion policies, but I don’t see how subjecting born, living children to these conditions simply for being refugees (for any reason) is pro-life.

For readers who might protest that all of this is the fault of Congress, I want to remind you that Congress for two years was in the control of the GOP. No, there is no excuse. Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell could have a deal tomorrow. Trump could today direct his agencies to treat children humanely. He obviously does what he wants on everything else. If he wanted children to be treated well, things would change.

If your son or daughter was in one of these places, what would you want someone to do? What did Jesus teach us? What we want others to do to us, do to others also. Surely this applies to our children. Would I want this kind of treatment done to my children? American Christians spend millions to send missionaries to these nations to help people. Now they are here. They are starving and sick and crying right in our borders. It seems like the least we can do is to treat them humanely as we would want done to our own.

To contact your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can give the operator your zip code and you will be routed to the appropriate office. The offices log the calls to assess sentiment so any expression that you want to see children taken care of humanely will help. If you know your Representative, you can also find the Twitter account, and send emails.

See also this New Yorker account.

Immigration Officials at the Border and the Milgram Experiment

I thought immediately of the Milgram experiment when I saw this interview with Tom Homan the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In 1961 and 1962, social psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to know if average Americans would follow the orders of an authority even if those orders led them to harm fellow research subjects. Milgram created an elaborate ruse to fool volunteers into thinking they were giving electric shocks to an accomplice of Milgram. Milgram created an experimenter role, an actor who had to learn word pairs, and the actual subject who had to teach the actor the word pairs. When the teacher thought the learner (the actor) got an answer wrong, the experiment called for the teacher to shock the learner for the wrong answer (who the teacher thought was strapped into a chair). The teacher-subject thought the shocks increased with each wrong answer until the learner finally indicated that his heart was hurting and wanted out of the experiment.

No shocks were actually being delivered. However, the teachers thought they were actually giving shocks. The experimenter was in the same room and exhorted the teacher to continue with the experiment over the loud protests of the actor-learner. Milgram’s question was: Would these average citizens continue giving what they thought was painful shocks to a helpless fellow citizen based on the direction of an authority figure?

There were various trials but about two-thirds of the subjects shocked subjects to 450 fake volts because they thought the experiment required it.

Now, ICE officials and workers at the border are refusing to take responsibility for their actions and saying that they do what they do because of the law. One of the factors that social psychologists typically point to is the defusing of responsibility. In the replication of the Milgram experiment, follow up interviews of subjects really highlighted this factor (Watch this clip to see subjects placing responsibility on the experimenters).

I realize that a person cannot just stop doing a job that is needed to support a family. However, over time, there are whistleblowing mechanisms in government and the ability to go to the press. Mr. Homan paused several times before he answered and fell back on the a frighteningly familiar rationale for doing something that has people on the right, left, and center ready to march.

How long will GOP politicians, ICE officials, and workers do what they believe their authorities tell them to do?

The Milgram experiment is an enduring caution that Americans are not immune to cruelty and defusing responsibility in ways that can lead to further tragedy. I think we are already there on the border and need to end the Administration’s zero tolerance policy now. It is inhumane.

See below for original footage of the Milgram study:

Social psychologist Jerry Burger and ABC News reported on this replication in 2007.