Friday, October 19, 2007

Suffer the Little Children

by Forrest Wilder

The Texas Observer blog

Is there a war on children in this country? When we’re not denying them health insurance or leaving them to wallow in feces, we’re telling them that they have to suffer the sins of their parents - in prison.

Eye on Williamson County turned us onto a video of Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long explaining last week why she’s not overly concerned about the morality of the for-profit T. Don Hutto family detention center in Taylor. Long thinks the immigrant families, babies and pregnant women included, at Hutto got it good.

“The conditions at the facility are light years better than what many of these people have come from,” Long said to an audience packed mostly with employees of prison operator Corrections Corporation of America. One guy unironically held a sign that read “T. Don Hutto is the American Way.”

In fact, the conditions have improved recently. But that’s only because the ACLU and the UT Immigration Law Clinic successfully sued the government and people raised hell. Before, conditions stunk.

But do go on, Ms. Long: “The thing we forget is the adults that are being detained have broken the law, and unfortunately as children sometimes we have to suffer with the sins of our parents,” Long continued, digging her hole deeper. “Those children are probably not there by choice. But their parents have made a choice for their family, and they have to deal, they have to be — or suffer, if you can call it that, because of their parents’ choices. But I think the worst choice would be to take that child away from their parents and put them to a situation that would be even worse.”

Is this what Republicans mean when they talk about family values? Is this what Williamson County means when it talks about “gittin’ tuff on crime”? Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

Long says the kids “probably” didn’t choose to be at Hutto. They might have, though. One day they woke up and said, “Mommy, let’s go to America so we can be in jail at the T. Don Hutto detention center. Please, mommy, please.”

Aside from being asinine and fairly calloused, Long doesn’t really have her facts straight. The immigrant detainees at Hutto haven’t in fact broken any criminal law. At worst, they have violated civil immigration code. And many of them are asylum-seekers, including Chaldeans fleeing persecution and war in Iraq. If these families are sinners, as Long would have it, then blessed be the sinners. We should be grateful such brave people come to America.


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