Chaos clamours in the background of audio clips broadcast on TV and radio stations. Often the sound of children shouting and wailing. Images of children crying through fences and chains. There were grieving parents, it was a picture of despair.
It is uncertain what exactly moved the millions of Americans and Canadians over the past two weeks from complacency to outrage. But it worked, and last week Trump issued an executive order to stop the practice of familial separation at the border. The practice of full prosecution, however, remains unchanged.
There has been plenty of back and forth and lots of blame laid across the aisle of Congress over what is undoubtedly an immigration mess. How to deter without detaining. A longstanding question with no clear answer.
MIREMS has been paying close attention to migration issues at the US-Mexico border since October 2017, and the Canada-US border for over 20 years. Our previous reports looked at the Safe Third Country Agreement, the implications of changes in DACA and TPS in the US and Canada and more.
The newfound outrage that suddenly gripped many North Americans had been commonplace for Spanish-speaking and other immigrant and minority news sources and populations, especially in Southern states like Texas, Florida and Los Angeles for many months—even years—now. This outrage, fuelled by reports of high numbers of children being separated from their parents with policies, previously in place but rarely enforced until recently, eventually poured over into mainstream media and spurred President Trump to make an executive order, cancelling the family separation policy.
Looking at multilingual and multicultural stories from the US and Canada, we saw piercing words expressing concerns for “humanity” and condemning “children in cages.” MIREMS examined reports from these sources to see what editors, writers and hosts had to say.
Reports like that of Prothom Alo a Bengali source out of New York saying “2,000 minors have been separated from their families at the U.S. border during the last six weeks due to Trump's anti-immigration policies. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have become stricter in the recent days.”
Mirabel Hastings, an avid advocate for better treatment of migrants at the southern border condemned Trump’s family separation policy in a column in Miami’s El Nuevo Herald saying “Trump's family separation is perhaps the most cruel manifestation of a government which is morally bankrupt at all levels.”
On CFMB AM 1280 an Italian morning talk show in Montreal, Paolo Fadda weighed in saying: “The United States is the focus of international outrage on account of its policy of separating children from their parents and detaining them after they cross the border in search of asylum. However, Canada has also detained migrant children and, in some cases, restricted their access to their asylum-seeking parents despite a stated policy of doing whatever possible to avoid this.”
An editorial in Los Angeles’ Spanish online source La Opinion called family separation “cruel, ineffective and potentially in conflict with the constitution” back in early June. A subsequent editorial in La Opinion called Trump’s executive order “a sham.” Saying that signing the order “continues the farce. The systematic dehumanization of immigrants by the President and his supporters is responsible for this cruelty.”
“When people are described as "animals", when they are said to "infest" as if they were insects when it is said that parents are "criminals" who hide behind minors, when they are said to be invaders, it becomes permissible to treat them in this way. The collective rejection of the brutality of dividing families is good news. The bad news is that the mistreatment of immigrants will not stop.” -La Opinion
In Miami, El Nuevo Herald voiced similar opinions in an editorial. Trump “thrives on chaos and uncertainty, and unfortunately, we cannot be sure that he really wanted to put out the flames when he signed an executive order to stop the separation of immigrant families on the border between Mexico and the US.” The editorial added that “Trump thought that separating immigrant families was a step to get funding for a border wall. His failed political strategy has caused a human tragedy.”
Chinese source Yorkbbs from Toronto also called readers to question Canada’s own immigration and asylum policies. It clarifies that Canada’s actions at the border are in no means the same large scale as the US “however, this doesn’t mean that there have been no human rights violations when dealing with the refugee wave.”
The Russian Canadian Courrier commented on Trump’s policy, quoting Trudeau calling it “unacceptable” to detain and separate children from their families. Adding that the Canadian Council for Refugees recently urged again that the Safe Third Country Act be rescinded because “the US cannot be considered a safe country for refugees because of the "disturbing" events unfolding on their border.” Calgary’s Pakistan Post West also reported that Canada is tracking the border crackdown and its impact on the Safe Third Country Agreement.
It is always interesting when a moment or a policy can grip the attention of a whole continent so swiftly, calling for unprecedented action such as an executive order from the President of the United States.
By listening to the media representing those most affected by these laws and decisions, policymakers and business leaders can actively become more informed and therefore make better decisions on the ground.
The immigration battle in the US and North America is certainly far from over, but this moment in time shows the power media has to influence change.