Let me tell you about the time that my daughter Skye was separated from me, and what it did to her.
In November 2001, I took my family on a trip to West Africa. We had a six-year-old (my daughter Skye), a three-year-old and a one-year-old with us. We landed in Nigeria, and crossed overland to Benin, Togo and Ghana.
When we arrived at the border between Togo and Ghana, it was late – past 9 pm – and it was dark. I got out of the taxi with our passports, and I went inside the border post. Inside, the border guard captain clearly was annoyed that I already had visas, which meant that he couldn’t “sell” them to me. He told me to bring my ex- into the building. I explained to him that she was watching three young children. He pointed his gun at me, made a racist remark, and clearly wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer. So I went out and brought her in.
While we were inside, the captain said something in a local language to his assistant, who went outside. He then made a great show of looking through every page of every passport. After his assistant returned, he smiled, handed me the passports, and waived his hand for me to leave. We left.
The taxi was gone. I asked the nearest guard where the taxi went. He pointed down the road.
I ran down the road. And I heard Skye screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!”
The car was a mile down the road. When I caught up to it, Skye jumped out of it, into my arms. She was sobbing uncontrollably.
The driver apologized. He said that the border guard who had left the building pointed a gun at him, and ordered him to drive away.
The two younger children were in the car, safe and sound. They had slept through the whole thing. But Skye continued to cry, long into the night.
I have heard that children can recover quickly from a bad experience. That’s not what happened. For years afterward, Skye refused to be alone – even when she was sleeping. Her separation anxiety was palpable.
Here in the United States, in April and May, 2000+ children were separated from their parents at the border. Some of them are younger than Skye was, when it happened to her. And some of them have been separated for more than 60 days.
Their scars will run deep.
Alan Grayson is a Congressman running for reelection in Florida, USA