Q: What’s the difference between innocent children trapped in a cave in Thailand and innocent children trapped in an immigrant jail in the United States?
A: In Thailand, rescuers are hurrying to free the innocents.
In America, the government is doing everything it can to extend their captivity.
It was thrilling on Sunday to watch the first of a dozen Thai soccer boys pulled from that flooded cave outside Mae Sai. The courage of the scuba rescuers, the exuberant celebration of the boys’ teammates, the heart-pounding cheers from around the world. Heavy monsoon rains were threatening. The danger hadn’t passed as rescuers raced against time for a full extraction. No one could breathe relief until all of the boys were safely out of there.
Meanwhile, at the U.S. immigrant-detention centers in Texas and elsewhere? Boys and girls, some just a few months old, are still apart from their parents and still being held behind bars despite court rulings and sputtering promises from the White House. The headlines report more excuses, more cruelty and more delay. “Trump admin lost track of parents of 38 young migrant children.” “Trump administration seeks more time to reunite some migrant families split at border.” “Trump admin hands over names of children under 5 separated at border.” “Judge rejects Trump request for delay to reunite kids at border.”
Are we really being bested by the decency of Thailand?
Once upon a time, America was a beacon of freedom and child protection around the world. Now is not such a time. Talk of a border wall. The press for a Muslin ban. The Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their immigrant parents even those arriving as refugees. The stepped-up prosecution of people entering the country illegally. That’s all come together to extinguish, at least temporarily, a glorious light that has shone for more than two centuries now.
As that inspiring soccer rescue unfolds before our eyes, we would all do well to recall the universal good feeling flowing around the globe from rural Thailand. It may be a while before we get another dose of it around here.
Metro columnist Ellis Henican is the author of a dozen books including “TRUMPITUDE: The Secret Confessions of Donald’s Brain.” Join Ellis on Twitter @henican.