The last time I was in Washington I spent an hour sitting on a bench outside the White House. It was three days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and a group of school students on a field trip from Chicago had gathered in Lafayette Park to give speeches. As secret service officers moved in to remove them, a 15-year-old boy stood on a box and pierced the eerie calm, shouting at the top of his voice: “My name is Mario Espinoza and I am the child of undocumented immigrants!” – an underdog against the might of the state showing raw courage without an ounce of fear.
It’s heartbreaking to return here in the very week that the president seeks to mercilessly crush that very spirit of resistance, survival and defiance with such unspeakable wickedness. Children seeking safety from conflict and violence have been ripped from the arms of their parents and locked in cages, families turned into bargaining chips by a president who rules through chaos and fear. This is a move calculated to fire up Trump’s base ahead of the midterms while forcing both Democrats and moderate Republicans to make an impossible choice: either let these children rot alone in cages, or deport them with their families to places where many face certain death. A shocking new low at a time when very little surprises us anymore.
But as a British citizen I cannot, in good faith, reassure myself with that time-old mantra that we are somehow more civilised and less cruel or brutal than our cousins across the pond. Nor do I think that condemnation from our government can carry any real currency. Since long before anybody had heard the words “Make America great again”, splitting up families has been official policy in Theresa May’s Home Office – and it has been carried out with a brutality and on a scale that would make even President Trump blush.
The Children’s Commissioner has found that at least 15,000 children growing up in the UK live without a parent because the…