Following the uproar caused by the forced separation of undocumented immigrant families by ICE, the phrase, “this isn’t America” is being chanted by all those who oppose the abusive immigration policy imposed under President Trump. Though the sentiment is well-intentioned, these words speak volumes to how much of American history is actually known by the public, because the separation of families has been practiced countless times since the birth of the United States.
This country was founded on the oppression and slaughter of indigenous people, and Native American children were forcibly placed in prison-like boarding schools away from their families. After that, it is unarguable to say that no one who was not a white Westerner was spared. Black children were sold away from their parents.
Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps, Chinese were barred from bringing their families overseas and from becoming US citizens during the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which was put in place due to Americans worrying about outsiders taking their jobs—a familiar statement, even over a century down the line. Outside the country, the US has torn apart millions of families just through its terroristic bombings and continued military interference, which continues until this day without enough protest.
This is all not to say that what is occurring now, in this day and age, isn’t egregious. However, it is not a departure from what the United States is—rather, it is just another example of what it has always been. People can and must do better, but without forgetting their history.
By: Leah Soweid