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In recent weeks, the United States’ immigration policy of separating children from their parents when they tried to seek asylum or illegally enter that country caused enormous global outrage.
Although on June 20, President Donald Trump surprised to revoke the policy of his government, anger and concern for the situation of some 2,300 children who remain away from their parents.
But although many critics have pointed out that these measures have no parallel in US history, the truth is that this is not the first time that the US government has separated families.
This was highlighted by the African American Research Collaborative, an African-American think tank that, through Twitter, highlighted at least two more periods during which similar measures were taken.
“Until 1865 African-American children were ripped from their parents,” he said in a post at the end of May, referring to the years of slavery.
“From the 1870s to the 1970s, indigenous children were torn from their parents,” he added.
The Washington Post newspaper echoed the complaint and published an article detailing how and why both practices were carried out.
Sold to the highest bidder
In his note, entitled “‘Barbarian’: the cruel history of the United States of separating children from their parents,” the newspaper included historical documents describing with awful detail how to tear babies from their mothers, when they or their children They were sold as slaves .
“The enslaved fathers and mothers lived in constant fear that they or their children could be sold,” the Post said .
Some heartbreaking testimonies of slaves who suffered or witnessed these forced separations are included in a sample called “The Time of Crying” at the Museum of African American History and Culture of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
One of those testimonies is that of Henry Bibb, an ex-slave who related the moment when a woman was beaten to force her to give up her baby.
“The child was torn from the arms of his mother in the midst of the most heartrending cries of the mother and child, on the one hand, and the resentful rudeness and cruel lashes of the tyrants, on the other,” he said in 1849.
Many years later, in 1938, another witness of a slave auction, Susan Hamilton, would also tell how “day and night you could hear men and women shouting … mom, dad, brother, sister”.
“People were dying to have a broken heart ,” he said.
Many slave families escaped to avoid being separated but the penalty, if caught by slave hunters, was severe and could include death.
Indigenous boarding schools
After the abolition of slavery, USA He again adopted an official policy of separating families: at the end of the 19th century he began to force indigenous children to enter schools administered by the government or the church.
According to the Chicago Tribune , some 150 indigenous boarding schools were established throughout the country.
“The officials made the native children cut their hair and banned all indigenous languages, forced the children to adopt Christianity and tried to ‘Americanize’ them by teaching them the customs and history of whites,” the newspaper said in a published article. this week.
The founder of one of these boarding schools, Captain Richard Pratt, clearly explained his goal: ” Kill the Indian and save the man “.
According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Native American Museum, thousands of indigenous children were forcibly separated from their parents to attend these schools.
Although some tried to rebel, including burning schools, many children “were almost unrecognizable to their parents when they returned home,” says the Tribune .
The newspaper also listed other moments in which the US government separated families.
“At the beginning of the 20th century, the states sometimes took children from poor families and placed them in orphanages,” he recalled, mentioning the case of black leader Malcolm X, who in his autobiography told how he was separated from his mother, after the death of his father.
The Tribune also highlighted two more episodes of family separations indirectly caused by the State.
First, the massive deportation of Mexican immigrants in the 1930s, which led many families to hide their children (US citizens) with relatives in the US, so that they would not be forced to go to a country that does not they knew
And perhaps the best known: the detention of citizens of Japanese origin in US concentration camps during World War II. It is estimated that some 30,000 detainees were children.
Although they were not separated from their parents in the camps, many of these minors, upon reaching age 18, enlisted to fight for the United States. to demonstrate the loyalty of his family to that country.
According to the documentary “Children of the Fields” of 1999, the personal diaries and interviews granted by many of these Japanese-born soldiers show that they entered the army in a reluctant manner and did not really want to get away from their parents.