Dear Rachel Maddow

Sorry, Ms. Maddow, you are wrong. Under the Constitution, minor children are considered property and have no rights. When their parents are adjudged to have abandoned them and neglected to provide proper care, the children are removed by social workers and placed in foster care situations and made available for adoption, if anybody else wants them.

African American children are notoriously difficult to place in adoptive situations, so social workers tend to find them relative placements. The advantage there is that someone in the extended family gets both the child and a supportive stipend and the elderly get to stay in their subsidized rental units which require a child to be occupied.

So, the disposition of the migrants’ children, who were determined to have been either abandoned or placed in a hazardous situation is not anomalous. They simply joined the 475,000 children normally relegated to foster care in any given year. The only thing anomalous about earlier reports was the story about the child who had to defend himself in court. Normally, children, since they are property, not persons, are not entitled to legal representation in court. Their parents, if they cannot afford a lawyer, are provided legal aid. In some jurisdictions there are guardians ad litem, or CASA organizations, which represent the interests of the children and provide advice to the court.

Why don’t you know about any of this? Because the judicial proceedings are confidential and all participants are sworn not to provide any information mainly so the parents whose children are being removed cannot find them. Sometimes, the removal is prompted by child sexual abuse by a parent or close relative and the non-abuser is, ipso facto, found negligent for not having prevented the abuse. If the abuser admits guilt and promises to remove him/herself on a permanent basis, the rest of the family may remain intact.

The migrants’ experience is not peculiar. Which is why the objections have not been more persistent. There is a small army of poor people who figure “it serves them right. Why should migrants get better treatment than impoverished citizens whose children are removed on a regular basis?”

Do the children care? Depends. Children’s attachment to parents is largely an illusion or retrospective. None of the children I represented as a guardian ad litem expressed an interest in staying with their abusive or negligent parents.

Was foster care successful? Not really. A goodly number of the children ended up in juvenile court for having stolen things like pens, pencils, notepads, deodorant, etc. And this was in the ’80s, mind you. Here in Georgia there are occasional notices in the paper to absconded parents to notify them that their parental rights are about to be terminated. The notices are not very different from those announcing the sale of abandoned property in storage facilities.

A question you might research is whether, if the ERA is ever adopted, children’s human rights will then be recognized, or will they continue to be considered as property, comparable to cows and pigs. Actually, I have long opined that since animals have rights, surely humans are not far behind. But, I may be wrong.