Politics, Moderate



Why does the Department of Homeland Security refuse to reunite this mother and child?

By Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

I appreciate concerns about child trafficking, of course. Immigration officials have to do due diligence.

But that doesn't explain the case of the girl in Chicago. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and one of the attorneys representing the mother and child, said there has been no accusation that the two are unrelated and the mother isn't facing any allegation of abuse or neglect.

When they were separated, the mother was given no explanation.

A source who has been helping the mother confirmed that she arrived in California without papers -- she's Catholic and was rushed out of Congo, formerly Zaire, with the help of a Catholic church there -- but is willing to take a blood test to prove she's the child's mother.

It doesn't sound to me like the government is concerned about the child's welfare. It sounds like the government is doing what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly suggested it might do early last year when he was in charge of Homeland Security -- separate families at the border in an effort to deter immigrants and asylum seekers.

In November, Jose Fuentes and his 1-year-old son, Mateo, arrived at the U.S. border with Mexico seeking asylum, citing the threat of gang violence in their native El Salvador. The father had his passport and Mateo's birth certificate -- documents viewed and confirmed by several news organizations who reported the story -- but Mateo was taken away to Texas while the father remained in detention in San Diego.

The child was held for three months before being returned to his mother, who entered the country with the family's other child, also seeking asylum. The father's asylum case is still pending, and he remains detained in San Diego.

Ashley Houghton, tactical campaigns manager at Amnesty International USA, told me: "We're very concerned that this could become official policy. But the other concern is that they just do it no matter what."

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The Homeland Security spokesman said in his statement that we should view groups advocating for immigrants and asylum seekers with the skepticism they deserve.

I would argue that given President Donald Trump's harsh and hateful comments about immigrants, including his labeling of some African nations as "shithole countries," we should view the current administration with the skepticism it deserves.

That leads me to ask: How many other children like the 7-year-old in Chicago has our government separated from their parents?

And what kind of country are we if we allow this to happen?


(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)



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