OPINION: Our dystopia: children in cages and the hope for change


Courtesy of Wiki Commons

President Biden ran on a promise to end family separation and child detention facilities at the border.

During my first semester at St. Edward’s, all incoming freshmen were required to read the book, “Detained and Deported” by Margaret Reagan. The book tells the many true stories of individuals being held in United States’ detention facilities for crossing the southern border illegally. It highlights those arrested for trying to escape abusers, those who died by suicide in custody, those who were starved, beaten and separated from their families. For the first paper I wrote at St Edward’sI was asked to decide what genre “Detained and Deportedbelonged in. I argued it was a story about a dystopia. 

The news of the child detention facilities is nothing new. It was a major part of the discourse surrounding the 2020 election. Trump’s decision to enact a zero tolerance policy in 2018 separated thousands of children from their families and placed them into detention centers. These detention centers were reported to have horrible conditions with severe overcrowding and abuse, which led to the death of some of the detained children. 

On Feb. 22 2021, news came out about how Biden opened a new child detention facility. This was in response to an influx of migrants crossing the border in January. While the overcrowding is less of an issue now, and COVID-19 guidelines are now somewhat being taken into consideration, this is a hard change from what many were promised when they gave their support to Biden. 

Seemingly in response to this, the Biden administration has made several changes to their policy. Many of these changes are more in line with what his supporters wanted to see. They are working on converting these facilities into rapid background screenings and health inspections, which should allow people who cross the border illegally to get out of the detention centers in 72 hours, with a court date to determine what happens next. While this might not be ideal, it is a far cry from the border policies implemented during Trump’s presidency. However, Biden’s new policies have not yet gone into place. 

It is often the case in dystopian novels that the narrator finds themselves slowly discovering a wicked plot just below the surface of their society, something they have always known was there, yet never questioned what it meant.. I grew up oftentimes hearing rhetoric of fear directed at those who try to cross the border.

Dystopia is being taught to fear those who come here fleeing violence, abuse and political persecution. Dystopia is claiming that immigrants cause job loss and then gutting American industry in favor of cheap labor abroad. It is asking for your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and turning them away at the border. It is posting “save the children” on your Facebook page and saying nothing about kids in cages. 

I want to believe that this cruelty will end now that Biden is president, and I think public pressure will help for the time being, but when people’s eyes turn to the next issue, I wonder what will happen next. “Detained and Deported” was published in 2015, a full year before Trump was even elected. The horrors described in that book have been around for longer than four or eight or 20 years. It is an American issue, one that we can only overcome if we never forget that children died because of a system that put an arbitrary line over their lives. I hope we can change and never forget what it is to live in a dystopia.