Finn and Dwight spent Christmas Eve with their families with visions of sugar plums or something equally delightful dancing through their heads – 8-year-old Finn at his home in South Carolina where the moon was a gigantic white ball suspended in space surrounded by bright stars promising magic in the sky; soon to be 8-year-old Dwight at his grandparents’ home in South Dakota waiting for a brilliant white snowfall that would provide a magical playground for him and his two brothers when they woke on Christmas morning. Both boys drifted off to sleep on Christmas Eve in warm beds surrounded by the love and protection of their families.
Meanwhile, another 8-year-old boy named Felipe Gomez Alfonso who walked to the United States seeking asylum from a Central American country known as Guatemala fell asleep in a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico where he had been taken a second time on Christmas Eve because his condition had worsened from an earlier afternoon visit to the hospital which had released him with amoxicillin and Ibuprofen according to an article in the New York Times on December 25th by Miriam Jordan. This little boy never woke up.
He is the second child to die in our custody in the past three weeks. The first was a 7-year-old girl.
According to the Times article, the children are placed in overcrowded facilities where they sleep side by side on mats with one mylar blanket. The children refer to their sleeping areas as “hieleras” which is Spanish for ice boxes because they are so cold.
The article went on to say that last week the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Neilsen, was unable to answer a question asked during a report to a congressional committee: how many people have died in our custody?
My question is why couldn’t you answer that question, Madam Secretary?
On the other end of the spectrum, TBS comedian Samantha Bee created her Full Frontal Christmas on I.C.E. special which brought attention to the deficiencies in our immigration and detention policies specifically as they apply to the children caught up in situations not of their own making. As a result of a visit she made to Lumpkin, Georgia which is the home of a small group known as El Refugio that ministers to immigrants, their families and friends held at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, Samantha and TBS donated a six-bedroom house that they renovated for the project. Check out the El Refugio website as well as another charity Samantha supported: Kids In Need of Defense (KIND).
Finn and Dwight today are happily enjoying the holiday season with their families because they were born in the United States to parents who were able to provide for them. The nameless little boy from Guatemala will be returned to his home in a coffin.*
Regardless of what we believe to be right or wrong about asylum seekers or the world in general at the end of 2018, geography often equals destiny.