THE HEARTBREAKING, LIFESAVING PRACTICE OF WELCOMING 'UNACCOMPANIED' CHILD MIGRANTS: A history lesson for Americans.

Author:Dalmia, Shikha
Position:HISTORY
 
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"TELL PARENTS IN Central America to stop sending their kids unaccompanied," Rush Limbaugh thundered on his radio show. Fox News' Laura Ingraham compared the children to "illegal" "invaders" and declared that "it's not our responsibility" to "house and feed and clothe and give medical attention" to them.

In response to an uptick in Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan children showing up at the southern border, some in the U.S. have rushed to condemn parents for sending their kids, alone, on a dangerous journey. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen demanded sweeping authority to deport these unaccompanied minors.

Handing them asylum, critics claim, will only incentivize more risky behavior by irresponsible adults. Therefore, they say, it's best to send these children back to their crime-ridden countries.

If such logic had taken hold in Europe after World War I, we may never have known the name of another famous child: Anne Frank. The woman who hid Frank's Jewish family in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years--and retrieved Anne's diary after the Nazis sent them all to concentration camps--was herself an unaccompanied minor who had fled to Holland. Her name was Miep Gies and she was Anne's father's devoted secretary.

Gies, whose original name was Hermine Santruschitz, was born in Vienna to Austrian parents in 1909, five years before the Great War began. The Allied food blockade in 1914-1919 of the countries comprising the Central Powers meant that Gies grew up on the brink of starvation, malnourished and stunted. In Anne Frank Remembered, she recalls that when she was little, her "legs were sticks dominated by bony kneecaps" and her teeth were soft.

Things only got worse when her parents had another daughter. With even less food to go around, Gies' parents turned her over to a humanitarian agency that placed hungry kids with foster families abroad. One bitter winter morning in 1920, they bundled her in every piece of warm clothing she possessed and put her on a train filled with other "transports," as the children were called. Signs bearing the names of their Dutch foster families, whom they'd never met, dangled from their necks.

Gies' stay was meant to last only a few months, until she recovered her strength. Instead, her foster parents--despite being of modest means and having five kids of their own to raise--embraced her as if she were family.

With much pulling of strings, Gies obtained Dutch citizenship after the...

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