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CNN- On this day in 1865 — commemorated now as Juneteenth — news of emancipation reached the enslaved people of Texas. The complete abolition of slavery, which became irrevocable later that year with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, meant the end of involuntary servitude and the beatings, assaults and torture that often accompanied it.

It also meant the end of forced family separation, in which children were wrenched away from their parents for profit. The legalized seizure of children was among the most dreaded incidents of American slavery. As one former slave wrote in a memoir, the “bitter and cruel punishments … were as nothing to the sufferings I experienced by being separated from my mother.”  

It is likely that no one celebrating the original Juneteenth could have imagined that family separation would again become officially authorized — in fact, required — by the United States government over 150 years later.

And yet here we are in 2018, watching the Trump administration forcibly remove children, including nursing infants, from their mothers, in the name of a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration. According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 2,000 children were taken from their “alleged” guardians in the past six weeks, so the adults could be prosecuted for the crime of crossing the US border illegally.

As explained on the DHS website, “The attorney general directed United States attorneys on the southwest border to prosecute all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children.”


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