LOS ANGELES — Last week there were two conflicting stories.
One was related to MS-13, a particularly terrorizing gang that has made its way into the United States and recruits young people. At a roundtable discussion on Friday in Long Island, President Trump said: “Their beautiful daughters, Kayla and Nisa, were murdered by MS-13 gang members, many of whom exploited glaring loopholes — and we have the biggest loopholes of any country anywhere in the world. We have the worst immigration laws of any country anywhere in the world. But they exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors. They look so innocent; they’re not innocent.”
Trump also said: “MS-13 lives by the motto, ‘Kill, Rape and Control.’ … That’s actually their motto. “Kill, Rape and Control.’ … Democrats have to abandon their resistance to border security so that we can support law enforcement and save innocent lives. And I noticed recently, where Democrats — Nancy Pelosi, as an example — are trying to defend MS-13 gang members. I called them ‘animals’ the other day, and I was met with rebuke. They said, ‘They are people.’ They’re not people. These are animals, and we have to be very, very tough.”
One issue made very clear in the roundtable was that these young people who have been separated from their parents had a need to belong, and MS-13 provided for that need. It is an identity for them.
I listened to the entire roundtable after I had been on a conference call with the ACLU on how immigrant children are being abused in federal holding facilities. The ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act (known in the news business as a FOIA request). They got more than 30,000 pages of information.
One particularly horrible story happened during the Obama years. The ACLU reported:
On a December morning, Border Patrol agents confronted a 15-year-old high school student named Jahveel Ocampo at a rest stop in California while she and her friends were on their way to the mountains to see the winter’s first snow. Jahveel was a young child when she came to the United States from Mexico with her parents, and she grew up undocumented in southern California. She was a mother to a 2-year-old child, who was a U.S. citizen.
An agent in a blue jacket asked whether Jahveel was an “illegal.” He handcuffed her and drove her to a Border Patrol station in the border town of Campo. There, he slapped her twice on the buttocks and ordered her into a cell. He and another male agent told her to sign an “order of voluntary departure,” a deportation order. She refused.
Then the threats began. One agent said, in Spanish, according to the complaint she filed later, “Right now, we close the door, we rape you and f*** you. If you cooperate with us, we can deport you to Mexico. Otherwise, we will take you to jail and deport your entire family.” They told her that her child would end up in foster care.
Terrified and alone, Jahveel signed.
There are numerous reports of abuse, all within these government records. There are cases where teens are forced to the ground and females were sexually assaulted. According to the ACLU report, “In one case, an agent ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then got out and punched the child in the head and body. Often, children noted that other agents witnessed the abuse or saw the injuries but refused them medical attention. In one case, agents accused a pregnant minor of lying about the pain – which turned out to be labor contractions preceding a stillbirth.”
MS-13 is a horrible gang. It makes organized crime (which many of us grew up with) look tame. But the U.S. policy of separating children from their families – either at the border or later as in the case of Jahveel Ocampo – should not be considered a sound policy.
Children should be parented and families should not be separated. If this took place during the Obama administration, then shame on them. If it is continuing under the Trump administration, then shame on this current administration too.
MS-13 may be horrible, they may be taking advantage of the kindness of Americans, but two wrongs do not make a right. We as Americans should set an example, not be part of the problem.