Maggie was devastated. Her little one had been molested, little doubt about that. That was awful, terrible, soul crushing, but DFCS was blaming her husband. She just knew he would never do such a thing. He loved that little girl more than life itself. He was a devoted daddy. Maggie couldn’t have asked for Devin to be a more stand up guy when their baby was born. Devin couldn’t do such a thing.
“But he did,” the DFCS officer contended. Because Maggie wouldn’t admit that Devin did it, their daughter was taken away and placed into foster care. Maggie was allowed to see her daughter two hours a week, supervised. Devin was denied any contact at all.
Maggie hired counsel. At the advice of counsel, Devin hired separate counsel. The attorneys did what DFCS wouldn’t. They investigated the crime. It turned out that one of Maggie’s nephews did it. He had molested his little sister about a year ago. His immediate family had buried that fact from everyone else.
But the DFCS officer was unmoved. “No, we know your husband did it. You can’t have your daughter back.” Maggie and Devin’s attorneys demanded a trial in court. In cross examination, it came out, the DFCS officer just knew that Devin did because he was “just that kind,” and Maggie was suspect anyway because why would she marry such as him unless she was scum herself. You see, Maggie is white. Devin is black. The DFCS officer wouldn’t look any farther than that because that proved all she needed to know.
At the end of the trial, with the facts out and argued, the trial judge set it all right, he returned the child to Maggie and Devin and dismissed DFCS’ case.
Not having their child was tough; it was even horrendous. But the due process guarantees of our justice system made sure that Maggie and Devin had their day in court, an opportunity to be heard, a right to have justice done.
How horrible, how unAmerican it would be to have due process denied. Imagine your child stripped from you with no opportunity to be heard, no opportunity to tell the judge why you should keep your child; why it is in your child’s best interest to remain with you.
There are some standards that the United States set for the civilized world. Since our founding, we have firmly believed in and adhered to due process of law. The idea of summarily executing an executive decision without impartial judicial oversight is the stuff of governments that we have fought against for the better part of a century.
But this is what is happening on our border. Children are stripped from their parents with no more justification than the executive branch hopes it will be a deterrent to people trying to come to our country. When evaluating what to do with children, we always require the best interest standard. What is in the best interest of that child. It is not a hard argument to make that when a parent flees a crime ridden, sometimes war torn country, a parent is acting in their child’s best interest. For the government to take that child is nothing short of a human right’s violation, answerable to the International Criminal Court.
It gets worse. Children as young as toddlers are being forced to represent themselves in court. They don’t have their parents. They don’t know what’s happened to them. They’ve been kept in cages for weeks. They have no right to an attorney. And now, they are hauled into court to defend themselves against the United States government. That is not the conduct of a civilized nation. That is not the conduct of a compassionate nation. That is not the conduct of a nation that cares for children. This is not the work of people who are concerned “for the least of these.”
Further, our executive branch is asserting that it may deny people entry to the United States without so much as a hearing, without due process of law. Deny one person due process and you make it easier to deny others due process. Even now, the executive branch is even beginning to take steps to strip citizens of their citizenry. The fundamental safeguards of being an American citizen are being dismantled. Our country is at risk of looking and acting like a country that few of us would ever want to live in.
It turns out, Devin’s crime was that he was black. For so many facing the injustices wrought by our once great nation, it seems also to be a crime to be brown.
The United States has institutional values. One of them is due process of law. If we throw that out, our nation will become as bad as any nation of the 20th century. Devin and Maggie got due process. The brown people trying to come to the United States are denied due process.
You want freedom? Demand due process for everyone. Accept nothing less. Due process protects everyone (and that includes you).