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Retired FBI Official Kevin Kendrick: Hearing The Voices of Detained Immigrant Children Was ‘Absolutely Bone-Chilling’

The writer was as assistant special FBI agent in charge of the Detroit field office from 1999-2002 and retired in 2006 as head of the Charlotte Division in North Carolina. 

By Kevin Kendrick

Kevin Kendrick

Children matter. That’s something most of us can agree on. It doesn’t matter where the child is from or gender or religion. Children are precious. They are innocent. They are ours. They deserve to have a childhood and not to suffer for the actions of their parents. Nelson Mandela said it best: “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

It is these universal feelings toward children that have engendered a crisis in our nation, a point in our time that is all about humanity and decency and what the character of this country is all about.

This administration can’t even decide if this is a policy. Stephen Miller was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period…The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.” Yet, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted just two days ago, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

Whatever one decides to call it, it is something that most Americans see as “cruel and unusual.”

Most Americans see willful separation of children from their parents as simply mean-spirited and unnecessary. This is why we are witnessing such a diverse group of religious leaders including Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Jews, and Mormons coming together to protest this action; why more than 70 former United States Attorneys signed a letter objecting to these practices; why 21 Attorneys General signed a similar protest. This is why every living former First Lady including Rosalynn Carter, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton all condemned this practice.

Businesses have come out against this including Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Republican Governors are pulling back their states’ National Guard troops because they object to their use in support of what seems to be an arbitrary practice. And perhaps most significantly, the medical profession in the form of the American Medical Association at their 2018 Conference, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association all have come down against separating mothers and fathers from their children because of the long-term damage which can occur to children.

My Experience

I can recall as an FBI Agent planning arrests and searches in homes where we knew children were present. One of my goals as a manager with responsibility for planning those actions was to conduct them whenever possible at a time when the children would not be present and officer safety was not compromised. This was because I knew that the kids had nothing to do with the criminal actions of their parents and I did not want them to be adversely affected by seeing their mother or father arrested and taken away.

I have also had the great, good fortune to travel to Guatemala on some mission work and witness first hand the abject poverty of that country. Families subsist on an average of 300 USD per month. Life is extremely hard and many of these families are simply seeking to escape the overwhelming poverty and harshness and violence. Who can blame them for wanting something better?

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a crisis that has been generated for reasons we are still trying to divine but which certainly don’t seem to have a defined purpose other than to be punitive. I know that we can do better than this. We have to do better. Hearing the voices of those children who were incarcerated last night was absolutely bone-chilling. No child should experience that.

Nelson Mandela said something else very compelling about children: “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.


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