DECEMBER 14, 2018
"ARE THERE NO PRISONS?" SAID THE SPIRIT TO SCROOGE, MOCKING THE MAN’S OWN WORDS. "ARE THERE NO WORKHOUSES?"
In the early morning she began having seizures. When emergency personnel arrived, they measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees. She was transported by helicopter to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso where she died within 24 hours.
There, in digest form, is the biography of a seven-year-old Guatemalan refugee who, with her father, came to America to escape the horrors of their own country; instead they found new ones.
We don’t know her name. We don’t need to. Here during the Christmas season her story evokes the Dickensian England of Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, a country where workhouses separated families as America does today.
And the irony of a hospital named Providence should not be lost on us, for nobody provided for this child until it was too late. In fact, as incredible as it seems, according to one report she “had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”
Where the father’s responsibility lies is a relevant point, of course; but we can easily imagine a desperate man afraid to complain about anything for fear of having their request for asylum rejected. Remember the reaction to Oliver Twist’s simple request: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Spoiler alert: he didn’t get any more.
Of course even to muse that a dolt like Donald Trump ever read a Dickens novel is ludicrous, but Jeff Sessions is well educated. That he patterned his treatment of refugees after nineteenth-century work houses is well within the realm of possibility.
And now, in December 2018, with our feeding frenzy accelerating over Trump’s many unethical and perhaps criminal misdeeds, we hardly have time to consider only one refugee from Guatemala. But let’s at least remember that her death is the legacy of Jeff Sessions as well as the man who appointed him and gave him carte blanche to fulfill his barbaric mission.
Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around—Trump, Sessions, ICE, the CBP—but much of it is ours. Yours and mine. Face it, Trump and his lawyers—as besieged as they may appear—can drag out these court cases forever, far longer than a seven-year-old girl can survive indifference and neglect. We can’t speed up the Mueller investigation, nor can we look to Michael Cohen’s imprisonment to define us as a nation, but our willingness to let a young girl suffer and die speaks volumes.