Sofi’s choice

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?

(Via scarce.)


  1. anat says

    The kind of mind that would be OK with continuing to work as a border agent under today’s policies. The human mind tends to justify anything we do, as we spiral further into corruption.

  2. says

    The human mind tends to justify anything we do, as we spiral further into corruption.

    Don’t know. My suspicion is that these border agents are just a self-selected sample of sadists who enjoy torturing other people rather than just a bunch of normal people who are justifying their actions. They are inflicting lifelong emotional trauma upon children, they know what exactly they are doing, and they do it intentionally.

  3. avalus says

    Wow, this … just leaves me with a cold rage.
    These people are heartless and spineless. They should subsequently loose possession of their own set of said organs.

    Also, I too suspect what Andreas said.

  4. Chris J says

    My guess is that the border agent thought of the idea the instant he heard the name “Sophi.” And I’ll bet he thought he was being real clever, too.

  5. bmiller says

    This just confirms the overall opinion I have of this mess. One CAN argue that “open borders” (legal or illegal) does have impacts on the job prospects of the native unskilled working class. The Trump base. (One can also note that immigrants are also responsible for a good part of the business formation and innovation in the United States, but…) But the bottom line….as long as conditions are so horrible in places like Honduras and El Salvador (partly the fault of the Benighted States) that there will be pressure to immigrate. The only way to slow this or stymie the reality of bad conditions is through a brutal, inhumane, Kafkaesque system of repression. Which is why I am so infuriated at Trump-adjacent left wingers that seem to hang out at places like Naked Capitalism when they blithely call for reduced immigration. THIS is the result of your policies, you smug tools. (I have been banned from commenting there due to my repeated questioning of Trump-sympathetic commenters)

  6. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for that link, though it makes for depressing reading. It is clear that the entire system is broken and is dehumanizing the detainees and the guards.

  7. John Morales says


    It is clear that the entire system is broken and is dehumanizing the detainees and the guards.

    Perhaps you’re not sufficiently cynical.

    Might it not be the case that the system is working just as intended?

    We do the same thing here in Oz: try to make it clear that if would-be refugees/immigrants get caught, they will suffer inhuman conditions. It’s supposed to be a deterrent for their own good.

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