NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

June 11, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Is this progress (New York Times, 6/7/18)?  On one hand, it may actually be that the New York Times has discovered fathers of whom it approves.  On the other, those dads are all Hispanic and from countries other than the U.S.

So it’s hard to know what to think.  The self-appointed “paper of record” has, to my knowledge, never before located a father it could stand.  Indeed, its descriptions of fathers in the past has run to words like “ornamental” (Maureen Dowd) and “inessential,” (Pamela Paul).  Others depicted dads as flummoxed by the simplest parenting tasks (Filip Bondy).

Now, all of a sudden, the linked-to piece finds fathers to be very important indeed.  The article at times waxes quite moving as it observes a little boy, newly arrived from his native Honduras and separated from his father who has been detained by immigration authorities.  

When he landed in Michigan in late May, all the weary little boy carried was a trash bag stuffed with dirty clothes from his dayslong trek across Mexico, and two small pieces of paper — one a stick-figure drawing of his family from Honduras, the other a sketch of his father, who had been arrested and led away after they arrived at the United States border in El Paso…

Staring intensely at the sketch of his father, with a slight mustache and a cap, he repeated his name out loud again and again.

It was “just me and him” on the trip from Honduras, he told Janice [his foster mother] one night as he lay in bed shuffling the pictures, taking turns looking at one and then the other.

“He holds onto the two pictures for dear life,” Janice said, through tears. “It’s heart-wrenching.”

What spurred the Times to run the article of course isn’t a new-found understanding of the importance of fathers, but a long-standing antipathy for President Trump and his administration’s policies.  It seems the policy now is to arrest and prosecute adults who enter the United States illegally. When they arrive with children, the kids are sent to foster homes to await disposition of their parents’ cases.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, emphasized that separating families was not the aim but merely the effect of a decision to step up prosecutions of those who cross the border illegally. “We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents. Our policy is, if you break the law we will prosecute you,” she told the  Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee  on May 15.

That’s fair enough, as far as it goes.  It’s an attempt to discourage people from trying to cross the border illegally.  Whether the policy will have much of an effect on that behavior, I have no idea. I suspect it won’t, because, after all, people don’t come here expecting to get caught.  They know that, if they do, they’ll be detained and sent back to wherever they came from. A new policy of housing them in prisons at a tremendous cost to taxpayers may or may not change much.  

But apparently, little effort is made to allow the children to keep contact with their detained parents.  Phone calls and Skype contact could be very important to kids, particularly those as young as the boy in the article.  But he’s been in foster care for months and only had one call with his mother who’s still in Honduras.

Calculated by the Times to tug the heartstrings and build opposition to the Trump presidency, the article perhaps inadvertently provides what’s seemed in the past to be strictly off limits, i.e. a positive depiction of fathers or their importance to their children.  The boy in the article desperately wants his dad, a fact to which Times readers are rarely, if ever, exposed.

That of course gives rise to an obvious question – “Why are Latino fathers important to their kids, but American fathers aren’t?”  It’s one the Times will never ask, much less answer. Are the editors even aware of their gob-smacking hypocrisy? I doubt it.

The truth is that all kids, not just those from south of the Rio Grande, attach to both their parents.  That means both parents are vitally important to children’s well-being and separating kids from either can have catastrophic emotional results.  Just look at the little boy in the article.

[Janice] tried to offer him his toys, but he erupted in anger, screaming and crying at the kitchen table for almost an hour.

“It was really hard to watch. The look on his face was anguish,” said Janice, her voice breaking.

When his fury subsided, the boy collapsed on the kitchen floor, still sobbing. “Mamá, Papá,” he said, over and over.

Nearby lay the family pictures, which he had flung on the floor.

Yes, that’s a pretty heart-wrenching view of a little boy who’s lost his father.  Maybe the Times could remember that the next time one of its columnists writes snidely about fathers or defends our system of divorce that routinely removes them from their children’s lives.


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