It's hard to shake the image of the tiny girl with dark hair. She's a pink shoe-wearing 2-year-old doing what toddlers do - crying. Her mouth is open, and I imagine the agony of her shriek. A picture taken moments earlier shows the girl in the arms of her mother, appearing to study the person about to perform a manoeuvre in the name of the people of the United States. Agents at the Mexican border are about to separate a child from her mum.

The man who took the photos says he doesn't know what happened to the girl and mother from Honduras, who told him they'd been travelling one month. Getty Images photographer John Moore says transportation officers body searched everyone, including the mum. "She was told to set the child down while she was searched. The little girl immediately started crying. While it's not uncommon for toddlers to feel separation anxiety, this would have been stressful for any child. I only took a few photographs and was almost overcome with emotion myself. Then very quickly, they were in the van…"

I watched video of migrant youth detention camps in Texas broadcast on Kiwi TV. A news report showed air-conditioned tents and a brief shot of a cafeteria tray with a burger and fries. Someone commented online conditions couldn't be that bad, "...after all, they have hot chips".

Tell that to the crying toddler.


The same "hang-em-high" curmudgeons who believe in the holy trinity of hot chips, Donald Trump and zero tolerance assume every migrant trying to cross the US's southern border is getting what he or she deserves. Though many migrants are trying to make their way illegally, some are seeking asylum while fleeing gang warfare or domestic violence.

Moore says migrants probably were "totally unaware" of the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents.

It's likely migrants also didn't know US Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved the goalposts for asylum seekers, announcing earlier this month he'd order immigration courts to stop granting asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence who come to the country seeking safety. Sessions said the old rule was being abused. "Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems, even all serious problems, that people face every day all over the world."

Could it be the administration's latest move has garnered more international outrage than the asylum reversal because we can see the pain on children's faces when they're taken from their parents?

Many members of Trump's party have condemned the new policy, with former First Lady Laura Bush writing in the Washington Post how, on Father's Day (June 17 in the US) she, too, watched images of families torn apart. "I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart." She said the Government should not be in the business of warehousing children in the desert. "These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for US citizens and non-citizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history."

Trump's wife, Melania, also criticised the practice, saying the US should "govern with heart" and that she "hated to see children separated from their families".

Here at home, Labour's Kelvin Davis and National's Simon Bridges have described family separation at the border as "cruel" and "inhumane".

The Department of Homeland Security during a six-week period ending May 31 sent nearly 2000 children to detention centres or foster care. Adults are being detained and sent to separate shelters. Previously, many illegal immigrants were released while awaiting court proceedings. Today, hundreds of children are waiting away from their parents in a series of cages created by metal fencing.


The United Nations called on the US to "immediately halt" separation of parents and children, calling it "a serious violation of the rights of the child".

Trump, naturally, has blamed Democrats, though previous Democratic and Republican administrations chose not to split families at the border. The Donald issued a policy mandate, which he could undo with an ALL CAPS tweet if he chose to.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides are trying to reach consensus on immigration reform, one goal being keeping families together. Even migrants with the audacity to be born in Central America or Mexico rather than a place like the US or New Zealand could stay in detention with their parents if caught seeking asylum or crossing the border illegally.

If ripping desperate families apart is the new world order, a practical way to tackle illegal immigration, we must remember the old world order. The one where good people looked the other way while children and parents were separated at concentration and internment camps.

Maybe those camps could've been improved with hot chips.

Those who believe "zero tolerance" is a sensible, just deterrent to illegal immigration have already built The Wall. It's the one around their hearts.