Yes or no: Is it morally acceptable to separate families at the border?
Both sides to this debate make valid points. It can be difficult to find the best arguments and the most important facts. So start by identifying — and then dismissing — the worst arguments: Holocaust analogies.
As if to prove that “opinions are like assholes,” some surprisingly prominent people — whose opinions are no longer respectable — have compared the federal government’s border-enforcement policy to the Holocaust.
Under current border-enforcement policy, every adult who is arrested for unlawfully crossing the border into the United States gets detained and prosecuted for that crime. Some of these adults are arrested with minors. Rather than detaining these minors in common quarters with adults, the minors are instead placed with caregivers or in government-run detention facilities until their cases are resolved.
Under the Holocaust, German Nazis culled the entire European continent. They killed disabled children and adults by starvation and poisoning. They arrested and killed nonconformists: communists, homosexuals, Christians, and labor unionists. They targeted Jews, stripping all their rights and sending them to concentration camps. The Nazis invaded almost every country in Europe, launching World War II. In the occupied countries, they killed hospital patients to make space for themselves, they forced civilians into ghettos, and they built a continent-wide train system that herded Jews, Russians, Poles, Roma, prisoners of war, and other marginalized people into an international network of extermination camps. There, they enslaved the able-bodied minority while pushing children, the elderly, and others into shower-like gas chambers before incinerating their dead bodies. More than 17 million innocent people were murdered under the Holocaust—and over 50 million more people died because of World War II.
When a person suggests that present-day American border-enforcement policy is like the Holocaust, he’s signaling to you that his opinion and his judgment are worthless.
Perhaps the person making the analogy doesn’t know what the Holocaust was. But the Holocaust is among the most internationally consequential, best documented, and collectively-remembered events in human history—and it happened just a few decades ago. Every child in the United States learns about the Holocaust in school. If an American adult doesn’t understand how uniquely evil and destructive the Holocaust was, there is zero chance he understands US border-enforcement policy: an issue that’s factually, legally, and morally complicated, and that changes almost daily.
Or perhaps that person understands the Holocaust but thinks it is a useful analogy to U.S. border-enforcement policy. “The Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere: first a few laws affected a few people that were vilified by a few politicians, nobody objected as it got worse, and eventually millions of people were sent to gas chambers.” But this tenuous analogy can apply to anything the government does — from levying higher taxes against rich people to incarcerating violent criminals to banning obscenity at public schools. A person who makes this analogy shows himself to be incapable of distinguishing conventional law-enforcement issues from military aggression, war crimes, fascism, political and religious persecution, and genocide. Again, if a person’s judgment is so inadequate that he cannot admit such obvious categorical differences, then how likely is it that he actually understands nuanced subjects, such as present-day U.S. immigration policy and its enforcement?
But top-level current and former government officials don’t know better. Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “This policy of family separation reminds us of the cattle cars of Nazi Germany when children were separated from their parents and marched to supposed showers.” Michael Steele, a former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, said “this a concentration camp for kids . . . and if this is where this country is going, the American people need to wake up and pay attention, because your kids could be next.” Michael Hayden, a four-star general and former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, said “other governments have separated mothers and children” and captioned his statement to an instantly-recognizable photograph of the Holocaust’s most notorious extermination camp: Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It’s scary to know that men with such poor judgment were making life-and-death decisions to protect Americans from foreign threats. It’s embarrassing to realize that they’ve represented half of this nation’s political interests. It’s sad to see that entire states’ populations depend on such minds for their representation in the United States Congress. But it’s helpful to be reminded, yet again, that their opinions aren’t authoritative — and that everybody has one.
Lew Jan Olowski is a married father of two and an attorney in Maryland.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.