When it came out that the Trump Administration was separating families at the border, I was heartbroken, but not surprised.
What did somewhat surprise me has been the level of chaos attached to the reunifications. Not so much the fact that they deported, what, 500 parents through various means, but that it would take hours or days to determine where the parents and children were in relationship to each other. It’s almost like they were using paper forms that were being filed in a cabinet!
My purpose for writing this letter is to highlight exactly where I think ICE and the Trump Administration should be the most damned:
When you check into a hospital, you are issued a hospital bracelet. It lists your name, birth date, and whatever other pertinent information necessary for your care (such as the color identifying what department you belong in and/or that you are a fall risk, dementia patient, etc). Most (if not all) hospital bracelets include a barcode or QR code that is scanned every single time a doctor, nurse, tech, whatever does anything. This is in addition to them verbally asking for your name and birth date to ensure that you are who they think you are. The scanned code links directly to your hospital medical chart and should link to your overarching medical chart if you are within your primary doctor’s system (and should link to your medical chart regardless of whatever affiliation the medical facility you are in has, but that’d make too much sense). In this way, with a few clicks of a mouse they can look at your medical history and see whether there’d be any harmful interactions with whatever procedures/medications they’re providing in the hospital.
(I’m pretty sure a bracelet system is done in most prisons, too!
This same technology should have been used with the separated families.
Upon being incarcerated, each family should have had an account opened and it should have listed every member of that family. Each member should have been given a bracelet with a bar/QR code that quickly accesses the file of that family and which is regularly updated with the pertinent details of the individual members:
They scan Mom’s bracelet when Mom wants to know where daughter Suzy is. “Oh! Suzy is currently being transferred to San Diego. She’s currently on XYZ Bus. The attendants on that bus have a phone number of (123) 456-7890. Let me call them real quick to double check that she’s there.” [calls the number, the attendant goes to the seat assigned to Suzy, checks that her bracelet matches the information provided, and confirms Suzy’s location all while still on the phone with wherever Mom is.] “The attendant has confirmed her location. They should arrive in San Diego at 8pm their time. Would you like to speak to Suzy? You have 5 minutes.”
It’s not freaking rocket science! The technology exists and has proven itself as nearly flawless time and time and time ad nauseum. On the rare occasions when the technology fails (yes, mis-identifications do happen at the hospital) it is always the result of human error: a simple typo, outright negligence, etc. This is why there are backup procedures in place: they ask your name and date of birth despite it seeming redundant; the surgeon writes on your skin while talking to you about the procedure so that you are able to correct him. I always double check with whomever is doing a procedure that we’re there for the same thing if they don’t volunteer that information themselves or use unfamiliar jargon (sigh).
Even in the case of the deported parents, the bracelet system would work. Their file (which would remain open so long as other family members are still in the system) would be updated to show that they were deported and include an address, phone number, email address, whatever where the parent can be contacted. At the very least, the parent will have an incredibly easy way to locate their children once they do find a stable place to stay; just walk in with the bracelet and have the bar code be scanned (or hell, type in an ID number!). That would still show where the child has been placed.
These bracelets can be equipped with a photo of the individual printed directly on it and are essentially photo IDs.
A (slightly) more expensive bracelet exists which can activate a security system.
We still rely on dog tags to quickly identify service members and access their records.
While I can kind of understand the use of DNA testing when there are definite suspicions that an adult is claiming to the the parent of a child that doesn’t act like most children do with their parents, but having to do a DNA test on every single parent and child is insane. BUT, that would mean that trained individuals would have to witness these regular everyday parent-child interactions which can’t be done if the child is in San Diego while the parents are in Houston.
In other words, in addition to not having a way to quickly find the records of the entire family group, ICE created the problem where they couldn’t monitor the parent-child interactions and determine unscientifically that the children are with their parents.
I’ll leave discussion of the harm caused by the psychological trauma of these separations to the experts. For anyone trying to blame the parents for knowingly “giving” their children away/putting their children at risk of separation simply for crossing the border, I’ll suggest you read The Cut Out Girl.