Laura Bush Goes to War Against the New Immigration Policy That Separates Children From Their Parents

Laura Bush

Laura Bush | Paul Morigi/Getty Images

The Trump administration vowed to crack down on immigration, and their new “zero tolerance” policy is definitely doing that. But in addition to persecuting those who attempt to cross our borders illegally, the U.S. is taking heat from other nations (and its own citizens) for separating children from their parents as part of the process.

It’s rare for former first ladies to make statements in times like these, but Laura Bush has done just that. Recently, Bush took to Twitter and the Washington Post to speak out against the Trump administration’s new policies.

Many people were surprised to hear from Mrs. Bush since she is not what most would consider liberal. She’s married to former president George W. Bush, a staunch Republican who also called for logical immigration reform. But considering all five living first ladies, including Melania Trump, have spoken up, it makes sense that Mrs. Bush would give a statement as well.

Bush has a perspective that many of us don’t

When Mrs. Bush tweeted her initial statement, she reminded us that she lives in the border state of Texas. That means she does have a perspective that many of us do not — she witnesses issues from immigration firsthand. That being said, she did not justify what is currently happening at our borders. Her tweet read:

“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

During his time in office, President Bush took a moderate stance on immigration, calling for reform while reminding Americans that we should welcome new people to our country. In a 2006 speech, he stated:

“We are a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We’re also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time.”

She made her stance clear in her Washington Post op-ed

Mrs. Bush didn’t stop with her tweet. She penned an op-ed taking a stance against separating children from their parents during the process of prosecuting them for the misdemeanor of crossing the American border illegally. Some of her most heartbreaking points were:

  •  In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care.
  • More than 100 of these children are younger than four years old.
  • These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.
  • We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; those who have been interned have been twice as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.
  • Colleen Kraft, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter and reported that although there were beds, toys, and a playground present, workers were forbidden from touching or picking up the children to comfort them.

The last point is especially disheartening. While touching other people’s children does create certain risks, it is also cruel not to comfort a toddler or young child who is confused and scared, having no idea what is happening.

Bush is calling upon Americans to show some compassion

Mrs. Bush was quick to remind us all that, while people on all sides agree the current immigration system isn’t working, the injustice of this zero tolerance policy is not the answer. She stated, “I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this.”

She also told a story of her mother-in-law, the late Barbara Bush, visiting a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Washington. Even though the disease was a death sentence back then and the babies infected were regarded as “untouchables,” the elder Mrs. Bush had picked up a fussy, dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him. As a mother (and a human being with a heart), she knew that barriers didn’t exist when it came to children in need. And, Mrs. Bush reminds us, neither do borders.

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