“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

The United States has garnered quite a reputation for protecting the rights of children, from strict child-labor laws to steep punishment for child pornography, and custody battles whereby the court seeks to ensure the best homes for children. There are also highly impassioned people who will go to great lengths to protect fetuses in this country. On the other end of that spectrum, the U.S. is breaking new ground: People caught entering the country are irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children — including extremely young children — taken away from them as a result, according to United Nations spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.

The policy to separate children from their families, which had, for over a year, been discussed within the Trump administration but delayed in implementation because of how controversial it was, was enacted early May as a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to illegally crossing the border. It was supposed to act as a deterrent to families seeking entry into the U.S.; but in action, it’s simply inhumane and cruel. According to the Department of Homeland Security, from May 6 to May 16, 658 children were taken from their parents. It’s unclear how many parents were deported before being reunited with their children, but it is happening.

“Little kids are begging and screaming not to be taken from parents, and they’re being hauled off,” Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the A.C.L.U., told the Washington Post. 

Further, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, tried on June 3 to enter a detention center in Texas, filming the effort via Facebook live, but was turned away at the entrance and told by police that he had to leave. So not only are parents and children being separated, but the conditions of their detention are unclear. An image of two girls lying on the floor of a cage similar to an animal shelter kennel at a border detention center recently went viral to reflect poor conditions of these immigrant children, but that picture was actually taken in 2014 when President Barack Obama was in the White House. It reflected a true-life situation of immigrants being detained, but officials explained that it was during the time when tens of thousands of children were coming to the U.S. from South America and agents were trying to unite the girls in that picture with family members. At this point, with so much substantial fear over the worst-case scenario happening under Trump, the general public is just trying to grasp what’s really going on and how bad it is.

In trying to get into the mind-set of people who willingly agree to do this, i.e., those who objectify undocumented immigrants as nothing more than criminal elements, we need to open our eyes to a much bigger problem. The decay of our society isn’t Trump. It’s not federal agents trained and paid to obey orders. It’s not people who support Trump or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. It’s each of us accepting the idea that not all humans have the same value and the indifference of not challenging that idea. While the United Nations may be calling on the U.S. to stop this cruel act of separating children from their families, what exactly are we as individuals condoning by doing nothing? It’s hard to know how to combat this illness of indifference, but at least becoming aware of it and being sensitive to the cruelty of such isolation for young children is the first step. Voting against leaders who support these sorts of policies is the next step, along with supporting people and organizations that will fight for the rights of these children, is going in the right direction. But the most critical step is how we treat each other. If we improve our relationships with our families and friends, if we treat each other with respect and dignity, perhaps that will trickle into other arenas of American society; and the U.S. won’t be a focal point for human cruelty on the world stage.