DRAWING ON THE ADOPTION OF IRISH
CHILDREN BY AMERICAN COUPLES IN THE 1940s AND 1950s, AND THE
2018 U.S. POLICY OF SEPARATING CHILDREN FROM THEIR PARENTS AT
THE MEXICAN BORDER, TWO AREA PROFESSORS BEGAN TO THINK ABOUT
THE HISTORICAL ROUTES OF FAMILY SEPARATION. DAVID HERNANDEZ, LATINO STUDIES
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE AND THE DEAN OF
SOCIAL SCIENCES AT MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE RECENTLY SPOKE ON THE
TOPIC AT HCC AND JOINED ME IN THE STUDIO.>>I’VE BEEN WORKING, MY
RESEARCH FOCUS IS ON THE ADOPTION OF IRISH CHILDREN BY
AMERICAN COUPLES IN THE 1940S, 1950s AND 1960s. I GOT ACCESS TO SOME NEW
RESEARCH. I HAD BEEN WORKING ON THIS AT
AROUND THE TIME THAT THE NEW ADMINISTRATION OR THE TRUMP
ADMINISTRATION STARTED ITS NEW POLICIES AT THE MEXICAN BORDER,
AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT’S HAPPENING IN IRELAND IS THAT
PEOPLE WHO ARE ADOPTED BY AMERICAN COUPLES ARE NOW COMING
FORWARD DEMANDING ACCESS TO INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR BIRTHS
AND FAMILIES ANN REALLY STARTED THINKING, THAT GIVEN WHAT’S
GOING ON AT THE BORDER WITH CHILDREN BEING SEPARATED, IN
SOME CASES THEY ARE NOT BEING KEPT TRACK OF. SOME OF THEM ARE BEING REUNITED,
SOME AREN’T, IF WE DON’T FIGURE OUT THAT SITUATION AT THE
BORDER, THEN WE’LL HAVE THE SAME SITUATION WITH THESE KIDS 30
YEARS FROM NOW TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHO THEIR PARENTS ARE, WHERE
THEY CAME FROM, AND WHY THEY WERE SEPARATED
THE MORE RESEARCH I DID, I SORT OF SAW SOME INTERESTING
PARALLELS AND COROLLARIES, AND WHAT’S GOING ON.>>WE’LL DIG INTO THOSE
SPECIFICS. I WANT TO BRING YOU INTO THE
CONVERSATION. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS
PREMISE WHEN YOU LEARNED ABOUT IT?>>I FOUND IT VERY INTERESTING
BECAUSE I HAD ALSO BEEN FOLLOWING THE SEPARATIONS AT THE
U.S.-MEXICAN BORDER BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BUT I ALSO SAW IT
IN A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE. LOOKING AT — ESPECIALLY WHEN
THE PROCESS ENDED AFTER SIX WEEKS, THE IMMEDIATE CHANGE
WOULD HAVE BEEN FAMILY DETENTION. I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING THE NEW
PROCESS OF DETAINING THESE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN TOGETHER,
AND TRUMP’S INTEREST IN DETAINING THEM INDEFINITELY
THROUGH THE ADJUDICATION OF THEIR CASES.>>JUST IN TERMS OF THE TALK
ITSELF, IT’S CALLED KIDS — IMMIGRANT CHILDREN AS PAWNS IN
AMERICAN SOCIAL POLICY, AND AS YOU SAID IT LOOKS AT THE
HISTORICAL FAMILY SEPARATIONS IN THE 1940s AND 1950s, IN IRELAND. WHAT DROVE THAT HAPPENING?>>SO WHAT WAS GOING ON IN
IRELAND AT THE TIME WAS ON THE ONE HAND YOU HAD CHILDREN BEING
BORN OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE, WHICH WAS HUGELY PROBLEMATIC IN
IRELAND BECAUSE THEY WERE A CATHOLIC CHILDREN SO A LOT OF
CHILDREN WHO WERE BORN TO UNMARRIED MOTHERS DIDN’T HAVE A
LOT OF OPTIONS IN IRELAND. MOST OF THEM MIGHT HAVE ENDED UP
IN INSTITUTIONS. A FEW WOULD HAVE STAYED WITH
THEIR FAMILIES. THERE WERE FAMILIES WHO WELCOMED
THOSE CHILDREN AND DIDN’T STIGMATIZE THEM THE WAY IRISH
SOCIETY DID BUT A LOT OF THOSE CHILDREN WOULD HAVE ENDED UP IN
INSTITUTIONS SO YOU HAD A SITUATION WHERE CATHOLIC
AGENCIES AND INSTITUTIONS HAD A SURPLUS OF CHILDREN THAT THEY
DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH AND THEY HAVE GOT TO PAY
FOR THEIR CARE AND FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH THEM. MEANWHILE, YOU HAVE AMERICAN
COUPLES WHO ARE CHILDLESS FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS WHO WANT TO
ADOPTERS A HEALTHY WHITE BABY BUT THERE IS A SHORT SUPPLY IN
THE U.S. OF HEALTHY WHITE BABIES AND THE WAITING LISTS ARE LONG,
AND THE RED TAPE IS SIGNIFICANT, AND SO IN ABOUT 1947 AND 1948
THERE WAS A BIG STORY IN A NUMBER OF NEWSPAPERS AROUND THE
COUNTRY ABOUT A FAMILY WHO WENT TO IRELAND TO ADOPTERS ONE CHILD
AND THEY ENDED UP BRINGING HOME THREE AND THE PROCESS WAS LIKE
TWO WEEKS, YOU KNOW, AND THEY HAD BEEN WAITING FOR A LONG TIME
TO ADOPTERS. SO ALL OF A SUDDEN THE FLOOD
GATES OPEN AND AMERICAN COUPLES REALIZED THEY COULD GET AROUND
THE RED TAPE AND LONG WAIT LINES BY GOING TO IRELAND. IT WAS AN INTERESTING
JUXTAPOSITION, THE IRISH HAVE A SURPLUS OF HEALTHY WHITE BABIES
THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH AND THERE ARE AMERICAN CUPELS
WHO ARE ANXIOUS TO LEGITIMIZE THEIR STATUS AS PARENTS BECAUSE,
IN THE 1940s, 1950s, AND 1960s, PEOPLE GOT MARRIED TO HAVE
FAMILIES AND IF YOU WERE CHILDLESS THAT WAS A STIGMA IN
ITSELF. SO FOR THOSE COUPLES THESE
CHILDREN WERE SORT OF AN ANSWER TO THEIR OWN PROBLEMS.>>IS YOUR THINKING NOW THAT
WITH WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE BORDER, WHERE FAMILIES ARE BEING
SEPARATED, CHILDREN ARE BEING DETAINED, AND NOW AS WE KNOW, AS
THE MONTHS HAVE PASSED, SOME OF THESE KIDS AREN’T BEING REUNITED
WITH THEIR PARENTS BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN KIND OF LOST IN THE
SYSTEM. IS YOUR CONCERN THAT PEOPLE WILL
NOW, IN THE UNITED STATES, ADOPTERS THOSE CHILDREN AND THEY
WILL NEVER BE REUNITED WITH THEIR FAMILIES?>>THAT IS ONE OF THE CONCERNS. THAT’S ACTUALLY WHAT’S HAPPENING
WITH THE REMAINDER — THE DOZENS AND DOZENS OF CHILDREN THAT
REMAIN. THEIR PARENTS WERE DEEM
INELIGIBLE FOR UNIFICATION, EITHER BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALREADY
BEEN DEPORTED OR THEY HAD A CRIMINAL RECORD SO THOSE
CHILDREN ARE PERMANENTLY HERE IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN FOSTER
CARE. AND THEY CAN GO INTO THE
ADOPTION PROCESS FROM THERE.>>AND SO YOU POINTED OUT,
ANOTHER POINT THAT I UNDERSTAND YOU’RE GOING TO RAISE IN THE
DISCUSSION, IS THAT OVER THE PAST 70 YEARS IMMIGRANT CHILDREN
HAVE REPRESENTED THE BIGGEST HOAX BUT ALSO THE WORST FEARS OF
AMERICAN SOCIETY. LET’S START WITH THE FEARS. WHERE DO YOU SEE THOSE?>>I MEAN, I THINK THE PHRASE WE
OFTENTIMES HERE IS A VERY NEGATIVE PHRASE CALLED THE
NOTION OF THE ANCHOR BABY, THAT PARENTS ARE COMING HERE TO HAVE
CHILDREN IN ORDER TO GUARANTEE THEMSELVES CITIZENSHIP. THE MOST RECENT ITERATION OF
THIS IS TRUMP’S CLAIM THAT HE CAN CHANGE THE 14TH AMENDMENT
AND GET RID OF BIRTH RIGHT CITIZENSHIP WHICH IS WHAT
ESTABLISHES CITIZENSHIP, BEING BORN IN THE UNITED STATES AND
THAT’S THE LINK TO THE NOTION OF THE ANCHOR BABY.>>IN TERMS OF — WE’VE SEEN IT
IN THIS REGION, WHERE LARGELY, WE’RE AN AGING POPULATION IN
WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS, AND A SHRINKING POPULATION WHEN YOUNG
PEOPLE MOVE OUT OF STATE TO GAIN EMPLOYMENT ELSEWHERE AND WHAT
HAVE YOU, WE DO KNOW THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY IS A GROWING
SEGMENT OF OUR POPULATION SO DO YOU SEE THAT AS ONE OF THE HOPES
OR IF NOT WHAT DO YOU SEE AS ONE OF THE HOPES?>>ALL CHILDREN PRESENT THE IDEA
OF HOPE AND BEING RAISED HERE. WHAT THE DIFFERENCE IS, WHERE
OUR STUDIES DIVERGE IS WHERE WHITE ADOPTEES WERE SEEN AS A
CHILD THAT WAS DESIRED, LATINO CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS AND
FAMILIES AND THEIR EXTENDED FAMILY ARE SEEN AS CHILDREN THAT
ARE NOT DESIRABLE.>>I SEE YOU NODDING.>>THAT’S REALLY WHAT IT IS. ONE OF THE REASONS THAT IRELAND
WAS SO ATTRACTIVE TO AMERICAN COUPLES IS, AND, YOU EVEN SEE
THIS IN SOME OF THE CORRESPONDENCE THAT OCCURS
BETWEEN THE RELIGIOUS AGENCIES THERE AND SOME OF THE GOVERNMENT
OFFICIALS AND AND SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO ADOPTERS,
THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY OF A TAINT, MEANING THERE IS NO
POSSIBILITY THAT THEY WILL BE ANYTHING BUT PURE WHITE IRISH
BABIES AND THAT WAS THE BOTTOM LINE. THERE WERE PLENTY OF CHILDREN
WHO WERE AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES AT THE TIME
BUT THEY WEREN’T WHITE AND THAT’S WHAT THESE COUPLES
WANTED, WHITE CHILDREN TO ALLOW THEM TO LIVE OUT THEIR HOPES AS
PARENTS AND YOU SEE THEM NOT AS JUST WANTING TO RESOLVE THAT
CHILDLESS STATUS WHICH WAS PROBLEMATIC BUT IN A LOT OF
NEWSPAPER STORIES AT THE TIME YOU SEE PARENTS TALKING ABOUT,
YOU KNOW, ONE GUY TALKS ABOUT THE FACT THAT HE WAS A NOTRE
DAME ALUM BUT HE NEVER GOT TO PLAY FOOTBALL SO HE WANTS A SON
TO PLAY VARSITY FOOTBALL AT NOTRE DAME AND WOMEN TALK ABOUT
THEY WANT DAUGHTERS TO DRESS THEM UP AND DO THEIR HAIR NICE. SO YOU SEE PARENTS TALKING ABOUT
THESE CHILDREN AS COMMODITIES AND THAT’S WHAT THEY WERE. WHEN I TALK ABOUT IT I USE THE
WORD CONSUMPTION BECAUSE THESE CHILDREN WERE BEING CONSUMED. THERE WAS NO THOUGHT TO WHAT
THEIR BEST INTEREST WERE AND WHEN YOU SEE SOME OF THESE
PHOTOGRAPHS BECAUSE THERE WERE TONS OF PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE
AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS AT THE TIME WHAT YOU SEE ARE THESE PARENTS
WHO HAVE LOOKS OF JOY ON THEIR FACE AND CHILDREN WHO ARE
TRAUMATIZED. THEIR FACES ARE CLEARLY
TRAUMATIZED. THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING
ON AND THAT’S ANOTHER PLACE WHERE THERE ARE SIMILARITIES. THOSE CHILDREN WHO WERE BROUGHT
OVER HERE WERE TRAUMATIZED FROM THE START AND AS THEY GET OLDER
AND DISCOVER THAT THEIR ROOTS ARE NOT WHAT THEY THOUGHT THEY
WERE, PERHAPS THEY DISCOVER THAT THEIR MOTHER IS NOT THEIR
BIOLOGICAL MOTHER, THERE IS TRAUMA THAT’S NOT BEEN ADDRESSED
AND THAT’S SOMETHING WE’RE GOING TO SEE.>>WHAT ARE WE SEEING RIGHT NOW
IN THE LATINO COMMUNITY FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE HERE, WHO AREN’T
MAYBE — WHO DON’T HAVE A CONNECTION TO WHAT’S HAPPENING
AT THE BORDER? WHAT’S THE PERCEPTION OR IS
THERE A PERCEPTION AMONG THE COMMUNITY LIKE, IS THERE
SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE WANT TO HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT OR ARE
THEY AFRAID TO GET INVOLVED FOR FEAR OF BEING LUMPED IN WITH
SOMETHING THAT’S REALLY CONTROVERSIAL RIGHT NOW?>>I THINK THAT’S EXACTLY IT. I THINK WHEN ANTI-IMMIGRANT
SENTIMENT IS FRAMED AS AN ANTI-LATINO ISSUE IT SPILLS OVER
INTO THE ANTI-LATINO COMMUNITY WHETHER CITIZEN OR NONCITIZEN SO
PEOPLE — THAT CAN BOTH ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO GET INVOLVED
AND TO SEE THE HUMANITY OF THE SITUATION, THAT’S NOT BEING
TALKED ABOUT, OR IT CAN DRAW SOME PEOPLE AWAY AND PEOPLE WILL
GO UNDER THE RADAR, ESPECIALLY IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES,
MIGHT STAY AWAY FROM THE ISSUE AT TIMES BECAUSE, BECAUSE THEY
CAN BE TARGETED FOR VIOLENCE, FOR ANTI-IMMIGRANT HATRED AND
OTHER THINGS.>>ONE LAST QUESTION. AS WE LOOK AT THE COURSE OF
HISTORY AND LOOK AT IMMIGRANT POPULATIONS WHETHER IT’S IRISH
PEOPLE, WHETHER IT’S CATHOLIC, WHETHER IT’S JEWISH, WHO ARE
PERSECUTED THROUGH THE YEARS, AND NOW WE CIRCLE BACK AND SOME
OF THOSE GROUPS ARE MORE WIDELY ACCEPTED, DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE
OF WHAT THAT MIGHT LOOK LIKE FOR THE HISPANIC POPULATION RIGHT
NOW, THAT’S SORT OF BEING VILIFIED BUT IN X AMOUNT OF
YEARS MIGHT BE MORE BROADLY ACCEPTED?>>I’M NOT SURE IF THAT
ACCEPTANCE IS WIDESPREAD. WHAT YOU SEE IS THE SORT OF
ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT IS INTERGENERATIONAL SO PEOPLE ARE
BORN INTO A NEW WAVE. WHERE AS IN THE PAST, ETHNIC
GROUPS THAT CAME TO THE UNITED STATES,E THEY WERE CERTAINLY MET
WITH SVI VITRIOL, BUT THEY WERE ABLE TO
MAINSTREAM THEMSELVES. FOR NONWHITES, THEY STILL REMAIN
ON THE MARGINS OF SOCIETY.