Reflecting on Caged Children: Family Separation Past and Present

Reflection by Samantha Wilson ’22, a communication studies major in Professor Amy Woodson-Boulton’s FYS class, “Art and Power”.

I have been lucky to grow up in Santa Fe, New Mexico; a place where I can experience Hispanic culture, Native American culture and learn about the white colonists who eventually made their way into the state. Our school field trips consisted of visiting the Pojoaque Pueblo or the Spanish market, which draws in thousands of people from around the world each summer. I grew up being surrounded by beautifully handcrafted turquoise jewelry that the Native American women would sell on the Plaza and the delicious sopapillas my friends and I would fill with honey at our favorite Mexican restaurants. These cultures have not always found peace with one another and some, especially the Native people in and around Santa Fe, have suffered greatly but these people and these traditions make up my home. So when I found out a student’s father at my school had been deported, I wanted to educate myself on why as a country, or more as humans we like to keep things, cultures, and people separate, even when that means tearing families apart.

Caged Children was a fantastic and educating panel. Listening to professors from all different fields allowed me to see this type of separation is nothing new to history. Listening to Professor Sandoval ask the question “what are we fighting for” resonated with me because we need to ask ourselves, as individuals, if that answer is for better detention centers, better immigration policies, or more compassion over separating and traumatizing families. I am not yet educated enough to speak about people seeking asylum or even the what the process is to become an American citizen but I do believe we as human beings all need more compassion, especially when it comes to crossing borders.

The shock that took over the country when news broke that Donald Trump was authorizing border control to separate children from their mothers and place them in horrific detention centers was massive and intense. As I learned in the panel though, this response was expected, but for those who have studied and listened to history were probably less shocked. This kind of separation and trauma rings long and deep in human history, especially so in our country. Even during the Obama administration, someone who I supported and followed, the same kind of acts occurred. During World War II the Japanese internment camps separated people with as little of 1/16 Japanese blood away from society. And of course, one of the earliest and most severe traumatizing act our country has participated in; slavery. Our American government for centuries has ripped apart millions of families, the example happening currently at the Mexican border is not our first offense.

The panel discussed a lot of questions and concerns that were boiling inside of me, but I still feel lost on the bigger picture. What are we fighting for? And what are the outcomes we are looking for as a country and as a society? I deeply agree with the fact that these families are experiencing extreme trauma, separated or not. During one of my middle school field trips to the Pojoaque Pueblo, they cooked for 63 students. All the families who lived on the pueblo opened their homes to us and feed my classmates and me. To me, that is the sincerest form of compassion; keeping an open mind and an open door. For children and families who want to come to our country, for whatever reason it may be, should not be put into detention centers that completely disregard human rights of basic care. We all must move toward another option because the trauma currently happening and that has happened in the past ignores compassion.