Dona Palmer in Milwaukee

Dona Palmer, of Delavan, at a recent immigrant family reunification demonstration in Milwaukee. (Contributed photo/Regional News)

To the editor:

“U.S.’s detention of children is a crime against humanity.”

I heard this quote by the last Nuremberg prosecutor, 99-year-old Ben Ferencz, in Milwaukee on July 2. I’d driven there from Delavan for the National Day of demonstrating for immigrant family reunification.

As a retired early childhood teacher, I know that a new born at nine hours can start mimicking facial expressions of an adult. I know that 3-year-olds, attending a day care where a language other than the language in the home is spoken, will most likely be bilingual by the time they enter kindergarten.

I am absolutely distraught at the thought of what children in the detention centers are learning. In the July 3 issue of the Atlantic, pediatrician Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier records visiting one of the many of these facilities. On Ursula Ave., in McAllen, Texas, it houses 1,000 babies, toddlers and children of all ages.

Because this facility was built as a warehouse to keep produce from rotting, it is cold with lights on at all times. There the doctor found unbathed children with unwashed clothes grossly overcrowded. Some infants were drinking from baby bottles that hadn’t been washed for weeks. Lacking soap, without toothbrushes and toothpaste, they were sleeping on cement floors with silver-plastic sheets for covering. Sevier records evidence of infection, malnutrition and psychological trauma.

By law these children may be held in such detention for no more than 72 hours. Some had been there nearly a month. Their rights to seek asylum are being totally ignored.

Sleeping in cages, what are they learning besides the fact that they are considered dangerous animals? A few 10-year-old children were given drawing materials for evaluative purposes; they drew themselves behind bars with no feet, hands, or facial expressions. Learning they are rootless, they are hopeless.

Depriving children from their secure care givers and healthy stimulation produces emotional and intellectual shriveling comparable to seedlings being deprived of water. One couple finally reunited with their child said that because of his trauma they were returned an entirely different son than the one who was taken from them.

Even if thoughts of these children leave you cold, please consider what we are teaching our children who are not in detention. They are like sponges who learn from T.V. and other conversations around them. What mirror are we giving them to view their own worth and our commitment to protect them? What kinds of roots are we giving them if we are complicit to this travesty?

Where is the outcry? Have we so lost our moral compass that there is no pull toward compassion even for the most vulnerable? Truly in my 74 years I have never heard of such an example of our species extinguishing any possibility of a healthy future for such a portion of their young.

Please call Sen. Ron Johnson, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Rep. Bryan Steil — or your representatives — and ask, “What are you doing to immediately stop this barbarism?”

Dona Palmer,


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