This past Tuesday morning, as I sat feeling the left side of my face go numb, I chatted with Vickie, my guide for a tooth crowning. We spoke of our children and grandchildren and the joys (and challenges) of parenting.
Which led, somehow, to the rescue of a dozen youthful soccer players and their young coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.
Vickie knew the story (who didn’t?) but hadn’t heard that the last of the boys and their coach had been rescued. We marveled at the survival of these children, praised the maturity, wisdom and dedication of their coach, and acknowledged how grateful we were that it was not us who had been trapped in that dark, damp, death-like place for more than two weeks.
The story had transfixed us all. Twelve school-age boys who must have wondered if they’d ever see their parents again. Twelve children so precious that divers risked their lives to find and rescue them; one, a former Thai Navy SEAL, lost his life in the attempt.
On that same Tuesday, our federal government faced a court-ordered deadline for reuniting all the “children of tender age” we had separated from their parents at our border. The Justice Department, the day before, had advised Judge Dana Sabraw that roughly half of the children would be reunited by the deadline and requested additional time for the rest. No, the judge responded on Tuesday, “these are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals.”
Can you imagine the Thai government asking for more time to rescue those kids from the cave?
Wait . . . scratch that. Can you imagine the Thai government needing someone to order them to rescue those kids in the first place?
It was pressure from the American public, and from the courts, that brought an end to the routine separation of children from parents at our border. There’s plenty of ongoing coverage in the press about these kids. But are we as transfixed by the fate of the children we have harmed by our border policy as we were by children half a world away who were endangered by nature?
Maybe it was easier to be emotionally engaged in the cave rescue. After all, it cost us nothing.
But our immigration policy, as it has been implemented, has cost nearly 3,000 children a great deal. They are trapped in the darkness of uncertainty, not knowing if, when or how they will be reunited with their families. They are hungry for the love and comfort of their parents; even the most caring of professionals cannot make up for that loss.
Some may argue that we didn’t cause this tragedy. The parents should have known not to cross our border without proper papers (I’m setting aside the whole question of asylum for now). They’re the ones who endangered these children.
But if those soccer players had been led into a dangerous cave by a foolish coach, would we have said that the Thai government should have been any less committed to a speedy rescue?
Of course not.
We should be counting the reunifications like we counted each soccer player who emerged from the cave. And we should be demanding that our government approach this task with the urgency of a rescue mission.
Because, in truth, it is.