We the Irish should know all about the desperation of the undocumented, because once upon a time we too took to packed coffin ships by the tens of thousands to escape our homeland for much of the same reasons.

No one journeys through hell if the hell they're escaping isn't worse. No one climbs into a leaky boat if the land they're escaping from is less dangerous.

To get to the Texas border from any point in South America you have to pass through some of the most dangerous places on earth.

You have to travel through territories that are almost exclusively under the control of some of the most brutal drug cartels and human traffickers, places where you can easily be picked up and forced into sex work or other forms of indentured slavery, places where can't trust anyone you meet.

Women who travel through these hell-scapes on their perilous journey to America often bring contraceptive pills because they travel with the expectation of being raped. Ask yourself, who would subject themselves to that level of physical danger if the danger they were fleeing from wasn't worse?

So it's important to remember that when the undocumented reach the U.S. border most of them have already faced the worst that life can throw at them. They have successfully made it to the great line in the map that they have always been unlucky to live behind, the line that separates their dream from their nightmare.

Children held in steel cages

Children held in steel cages

That is why the cruelty of the Trump administration's immigration crackdown is making international news this week. Not only are they immediately locking up these families on Trump's orders, for the first time they are also taking their children away from them, them shipping them off half way across the country, with no explanation given, to various unnamed detention centers around the country that don't keep even basic records about who they are or who they belong to, news reports show.

Why is the Trump administration taking children and infants, even newborns, away from their parents and shipping them so far from safety and protection? What possible reason could there be for such an unforgivable abuse? Who does it serve?

We are talking about children, not gang members, not drug cartels, innocent children. Housing these kids so far away from their parents now costs the US taxpayer three times more than keeping them all together. So why is Trump still ordering it?

If you follow the money will you find out? Will all these for-profit detention centers make money out of all this human misery? Will the prison industries that wrote checks before the election enjoy some patronage now? Or is it something worse?

Just as these children are being targeted and separated, Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric has amped up to levels never heard before from an American president. He has referred to infestations and invasions, he has referred to the undocumented as rapists and animals. Is the lesson here that governments can maintain their power best by profiteering off the racism and resentment that they cynically incite? Why is Trump talking about poor people who have already lost everything as though they were drug cartels coming to kill us?

In Ireland we know what happened to the luckless children who were hidden behind high walls in those lonely old hellholes like the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and Castlepollard.

They were neglected, malnourished, or illegally sold for profit to unqualified adopters. Thousands of infants and children died and ended up tossed out like garbage into unmarked graves. In Tuam they were actually deposited into a sewer.

Facts are facts, your last Amazon order received better attention and documentation than all the crying undocumented children in the “austere” tent cities that are already being called Trump Hotels. Would you send your own child to a Trump Hotel, where he or she will be held under armed guard in Texas heat in a locked metal cage? If you wouldn't then what has happened to you that you will allow that to happen to anyone else's child?

None of this is an accident, it's intentional, it's been planned and it's being tested. When a government turns up the dial on cruelty they want to discover how much the public are willing to ignore. So far, Trump has only had reason to continue. It turns out we are willing to ignore the suffering of children kept in cages.

But all these undocumented people seeking sanctuary here were us during the Great Hunger years and even now. Impoverished, desperate, in need of a haven. All they want now is what we wanted then, the peace to live and grow.

Instead they have become the first victims of Trump's trial runs for a new form of American fascism. The undocumented are being targeted, dehumanized and cruelly abused right in front of us.

If you can sit through Trump calling these unlucky human beings an 'infestation' and an 'invasion' then you'll be primed and ready for his next round of brutal anti-immigrant propaganda when it hits - how long until he calls them 'vermin'?

And by that point you'll no longer be a citizen, you'll be a collaborator.

 

Children are being separated from their parents and held in steel cages in the United States nowRoss D. Franklin/AP