All the talk of separating children from their parents brought back memories of doing just that. In the early 1990s, before I started my political gig, I worked as a child neglect and abuse investigator. During that time, I removed several children from their homes and saw it happen numerous times. Every time was traumatic. That our government is doing it as policy to deter illegal immigration instead of protecting the safety of children, is outrageous.

When we removed children from homes, we did it because we felt the child was in imminent danger or that the parent lacked the capacity to protect the child’s safety. We would first try to place the children with relatives. If none were available, they went into foster care. While some foster parents were great, others just wanted the paycheck that came along with the child.

Several times, my investigations included foster homes. The damage to the children was painfully evident, especially when we split up siblings because no foster homes were available to keep them together. My cynical and tasteless joke was that we were creating the next generation of criminals.  That cynicism was unfair to the children, some of whom survived and eventually thrived, but the system of breaking up families left lasting damage.

Now we’re doing it as a matter of immigration policy. Seeing the images of children in cages with no adults to comfort them, left me angry and questioning the values of our country. I’m especially disturbed by the people defending the policy. The lack of empathy and understanding and the rush to judgment is contrary to what I grew up believing about the United States.

I was taught that we were the greatest country in the world because of what believed and cherished. While we certainly had our flaws, we strived to be better and to value human life and dignity. We wanted to make the world a better place that encouraged freedom and spread democracy. While we were far from perfect, we had aspirations and people in our government who tried to restrain our worst instincts.

Today, we have people in our government who want the world to know that the ideals we hold dear only apply to those who are US citizens. We’ll humiliate and degrade people who try to breach our borders. They’re not people seeking a better life like our ancestors. They’re criminals who deserve to be locked up and have their families ripped apart.

We’re no longer a beacon of light but an abusive world partner. We’re breaking up families, locking up children, insulting liberal democracies and complimenting brutal dictators. And to too many of our citizens, this is making America great again.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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