Some of you may have read the novel Sophie’s Choice by William Styron or seen the film starring Meryl Streep that was based on it. It was based on events in Nazi Germany and the event that gave rise to the title was when Sophie, a Polish Catholic, was sent to Auschwitz and the doctor in the camp forced her to choose to send either her son or her daughter to be gassed immediately, while the other child would be permitted to remain in the concentration camp.
Sophie chose her daughter to die, thinking that her son who was blonde, blue-eyed, and German, had a better chance of surviving the camp. Although she survived the camp and ended up emigrating to the US, her guilt over that decision haunted her for the rest of her life.
We now have a real-life variation of that awful fictional situation, courtesy of the US agents at the border. This time it is a toddler Sofi who was forced to choose between her parents.
At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple’s youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.
“The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad,” her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. “And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, ‘You said [you want to go] with mom.’ ”
The agent insisted on the separation and asked Sofi which parent she wanted to go with, Tania [the mother] said.
“The doctor told me, don’t let them ask her because they don’t have the right to ask a minor,” she said.
The doctor stayed an hour after his shift ended at 9 p.m. Thursday trying to prevent the separation, Tania said.
When the three children realized the family faced separation, they latched on to Joseph — the son around his neck and a daughter around each leg, the parents said. Joseph was taken to another cell.
Thanks to the vigorous intervention of the camp doctor who said that because the child had a serious heart condition and had actually suffered a heart attack, the family should remain intact, the father was not immediately deported alone. Instead the entire family was sent to Mexico under the Trump program but an immigration judge said that they should be allowed in and they are currently somewhere with relatives in the Midwest.
I wonder about that border agent who asked a three-year old to choose between her parents. What kind of mind would come up with such an idea?