Cruel and Inhumane?

Rosa Maria Hernandez … you are likely to hear that name a lot in the coming days, for she is, at age ten, one of Donald Trump’s “bad hombres”.

Rosa-MariaRosa Maria came to the U.S. when she was three months old and her family settled in Laredo, Texas.  She had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her parents brought her to the U.S. seeking treatment for her condition. Rosa Maria has the mental capacity of a child half her age.  Last Tuesday, Rosa Maria was in a great deal of pain and was ultimately diagnosed with a diseased gall bladder that would require emergency surgery.  However, the hospital in Laredo was not equipped to do the surgery on such a young special needs child, and she was sent by ambulance to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christie, Texas.

Along the way, the ambulance had to pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint.  I am unclear why there is such a checkpoint between two U.S. cities, but I will table that query for another day.  At the checkpoint, it was determined that 10-year-old Rosa Maria did not have proper immigration papers and would be detained.  Ultimately, officials allowed the ambulance to proceed in light of Rosa’s life-threatening condition, but they ‘escorted’ the ambulance to the hospital. They followed the ambulance, then stood outside the door while doctors performed the surgery. Even during her recovery period, four agents remained on guard outside her door, and visitors, even doctors, were not allowed to close the door.  The door was closed only once, when the family’s attorney, Leticia Gonzales, demanded attorney-client privilege. Can somebody explain to me why it takes four full-grown adults to guard one small, 10-year-old girl? 

Rosa-Maria-2The next day, Wednesday, doctors cleared Rosa Maria for release from the hospital, and authorities immediately took her into federal custody.  Imagine for a moment the terror this little girl must have felt.  Removed from her family, having just undergone a painful surgery, mentally incapable of understanding what was going on, why she was being taken from her family by a group of strangers to … who knew where?  When she stepped out of her room and saw the sea of unfamiliar faces … federal agents and lawyers … she tried to turn around and go back into the hospital room.

Rosa Maria was taken from the hospital to a children’s shelter in San Antonio, which typically holds children who come across the border alone from Central America — not children who’ve been in the United States for several years. Rosa Maria’s grandfather and cousin, both legal residents, begged to be allowed to take Rosa Maria into their homes, but the requests were denied.

Rosa Maria’s mother, Felipa De La Cruz, has not been allowed to visit her daughter, but was allowed to have a brief video chat on Thursday. “I told her she was only there because she was recovering and when she was recovered that she could come with me.” 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the discretion to release Rosa Maria at any time, but have chosen not to do so.  What will happen to Rosa Maria next is anybody’s guess, but I contend that this is cruel and inhumane treatment of a child who has committed no crime and is living in terror, not able to understand what is happening to her.

Has this nation become so insecure, so afraid of everyone and everything that we are now willing to stand by and watch small, special needs children taken from their families for absolutely no reason?  Is this what this nation has become … a nation without a heart, without compassion, an inhumane nation?  For if it is, if we do not stand up and speak for the human rights of young Rosa Maria Hernandez, then I contend that this nation is not going to hell … it is already there.

The United States of Inhumanity

‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ – Benjamin Franklin

lady liberty criesHas the above quote lost all meaning in 21st century America?


The headline reads:

TENNESSEE LAWMAKERS SUBMIT BILL THAT WOULD GIVE CIVIL IMMUNITY TO DRIVERS WHO HIT PROTESTERS –

The bill states: “A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way is immune from civil liability for such injury.”

The bill was introduced to the state senate by Republican Senator Bill Ketron, and in the House by Republican Representative Matthew Hill. Need I say more?


Think Progress tracked hate crimes in the U.S. for the three-month period since Trump’s election.  While it is true that there have always been crimes against certain groups of people, notably Jews, African-Americans, LGBT, Muslims and Hispanics, the increase during this three-month period is eye-opening.  And sadly, predictable.

hate-crimes.png

The report is narrower in focus than that of Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):

“Our standard for a hate incident was very specific, and the bar for inclusion on our list was high. We only tracked occurrences targeted against individuals or communities, which means that we did not cite the numerous instances of vague but unmistakably hateful speech scrawled in public places across the country. We also required accounts to be backed up by a news article, a police report, or an original investigation by ThinkProgress.”

An interactive map provides details by state.

I don’t have to wonder when it became acceptable for people to think they are better, more deserving, than others.  When the leadership of a nation utters hate speech, refers to human beings as “bad hombres” and “illegals”, it sends a signal to those who already feel a sense of entitlement.  This, my friends, is what this nation is becoming.

 

SPLC data


An excerpt from a Facebook post by a friend who teaches at a school in Arizona:

“Today, one my students asked me, “Mr. Bell, What am I to do if I go home and my mom is no longer there because she has been deported? You said he couldn’t deport all of us but I am afraid my parents will be next.” I had no answer for this student. I wanted to say everything is going to be ok, but I can’t say that any longer. I can’t guarantee anything for this student. This fear hasn’t been under just this president but the previous as well. But the talk and action is so real and so scary right now.

Its one thing to see this all play out, hear people say “Build The Wall” or refer to people as ‘illegal’ and not have any personal connection to someone impacted by it. But to experience it with students you love and care so much for makes it so real and frightening for me, as their teacher.”

Trump has pledged to deport as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records, and last week the raids began in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the Los Angeles area, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Texas and Northern Virginia. Under President Obama, such raids also occurred, but targeted only immigrants with felony convictions. As noted last year by FiveThirtyEight, there aren’t 3 million immigrants with criminal records. Unless … one expands the definition of ‘criminal’.  According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, there are roughly 1.9 million non-citizen immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.

On 25 January, Trump signed an ‘executive order’ to expand the definition of a criminal to include anyone the authorities believe has broken any type of law — regardless of whether that person has been charged with a crime. It is ambiguous and leaves much to individual interpretation. Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), says, “We’re talking about people who are threats to public safety or a threat to the integrity of the immigration system.” However, of the 160 people arrested in Los Angeles alone, 10 had no criminal record and several had only misdemeanors or traffic violations.

I will address this in more depth at a later date, as more firm information becomes available, but for now it is enough to say that for immigrants, even those who are here legally, this is a time of fear.

In Austin, Tex., undocumented women working in a laundromat cowered in the back of the room, petrified after seeing a video and a photograph of apprehensions outside a local grocery store and burger joint.

A day laborer and mechanic in Staten Island told his 17-year-old son where the list of emergency contacts were, including the name of the guardian who would take responsibility for him and his two younger siblings.

In Savannah, Ga., undocumented restaurant workers were asking for rides rather than walking home, afraid they might be stopped and questioned.New York Times, 10 February 2017

While I certainly do not support allowing convicted felons roaming free, whether immigrants or citizens, I find it abhorrent that in the interest of “keeping our country safe”, we are willing to arrest and deport the innocent, to sacrifice our humanity.


The three above stories all highlight the same thing:  that we are becoming a nation of people inured to the needs of our fellow humans.  Not all of us, to be sure, but enough.  Too many.  Too many are willing to live in a nation where one egomaniac can spread hate against human beings.  And let’s face it, folks … we are all members of one race:  the human race.  Those who forget that, who think they are somehow better or more deserving, have traded their humanity for something else … I know not what.

Winter Storm Warning!!!

Earlier this week, a winter storm moved through the eastern half of the U.S. … yes, another one … sigh. Now, I know this may come as a shock to some, but it is winter and that means that those of us who are not fortunate enough to live in Southern California or Florida will likely be treated to snow, sleet, freezing rain and cold temperatures when a winter storm comes. A century ago, people read the Old Farmer’s Almanac and tried to predict when a storm would likely hit, but today we have this marvelous thing called Doppler radar and meteorologists to interpret what the Doppler images might mean for various parts of the country. These meteorologists and their minions then proceed to warn us all via television, radio, and the internet of the impending storm, even to the point of telling us exactly when it will start, what will happen, when it will end, and how much snow or ice we can expect once it is ended. Now, I have two points I want to make on this subject

Point one is that meteorology as a science is yet imperfect and in reality, though it may appear that a given storm will take a certain path, Mother Nature has a really sick sense of humour and is just as likely as not to blow it a bit to the south, a bit to the north, or fizzle it out altogether. So, while it is wonderful to have the technology we have, one must always understand that what the meteorologist sees at noon may vary vastly from what he sees five hours later, all of which may have no connection to the reality of tomorrow. Additionally, the meteorologist you see on your television is not a pure science guy and is being paid big bucks for being the most popular “weather guy” in the neighborhood and thus earning ratings for his/her station. What this means is that he may find it necessary or desirable to … shall we say stretch the truth just a bit or expound on the effect of the coming weather, turning a forecast into a major drama, an entertainment event, causing people across the nation to write millions of Facebook posts along the lines of “did you hear that we are going to get two feet of snow?”. Then, of course, every man, woman and child in the area heads to the nearest Kroger to “lay in supplies” ample for at least two weeks of being snowed under. More often than not, the snow is a few inches or never shows up at all, but every household has a full pantry and overflowing refrigerator. Ever wonder why winter lends itself to obesity? Wonder no more. The whole point being that television ratings trump science and, while it is always a good idea to be prepared, if one believes everything he/she sees on Channel 9 or The Weather Channel, one will need psychotherapy by the time spring finally arrives.

My second point is that, while some are stocking up at the grocery store, the other half of the population seems to not heed the warning at all and goes on about their merry business-as-usual. Yesterday morning hundreds, perhaps thousands of motorists were stranded on I-65 south of Louisville, Kentucky, for nearly 20 hours when the highway was shut down due to snow accumulations, ice and jackknifed tractor-trailers. The highway crews, of course, were unable to clear the highway because they could not get around all the cars and trucks that were using the highway as a parking lot. One woman who was interviewed had a young child with her and had been stranded for ten hours. Where were these people when the aforementioned meteorologists were spreading their message of gloom and doom throughout the area? I certainly feel empathy for anyone who is stuck in a snowstorm on the highway for hour after hour, but I must ask why, having heard the forecast at least a hundred times during the 24-hour period before it hit, were these people traveling to begin with? Why weren’t they at home foundering on the potato chips and candy bars they bought at Kroger? Furthermore, my own opinion is that to travel in this weather with a small child in tow amounts to nothing less than neglect and irresponsible parenting, but I won’t delve into that here.

In the words of the immortal Mark Twain, “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”. We will probably never be able to alter the weather, nor should we, as there would likely be catastrophic consequences if mankind were given the opportunity to further decimate the earth’s climate. We do, however, have tools at our disposal that should make it possible for everyone to prepare in a rational way and stay safe during the worst winter storm. The key word here is “rational”. A trip to the store is rational, but except in the most rural areas, it probably isn’t necessary to buy every pack of disposable diapers and every stalk of broccoli. And planning ahead, whether it’s cancelling non-essential appointments, preparing to spend the night at the office, renting a motel room, or bringing extra work home, will enable most to stay off the highways so that road crews can do their job and restore some semblance of normalcy as quickly as possible. Winter happens every year and yet every year people seem to be caught off-guard. I don’t get it … I just don’t get it.