Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi immigrated to the U.S. from India when she was 4 years old — at which point she was reunited with her mother, who sought asylum in the country two years earlier to escape an abusive relationship. In a powerful new essay for CNN, Lakshmi writes about the pain of being separated from her mother during that time, and the heartbreaking reality of seeing immigrant children today being torn from their parents because of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
“Today, I am far removed from that lost little girl who desperately missed her mother,” Lakshmi writes in her CNN op-ed. “But as I watch the Trump administration forcibly separating children from parents as they make their way to the United States looking for refuge, my heart breaks.”
Before the Trump administration even officially instituted the new “zero tolerance” policy — in which migrants who enter the U.S. without authorization are prosecuted, even if they’re seeking asylum — more than 700 immigrant children were separated from their parents between October 2017 and April 2018, Lakshmi writes. Now, under the new policy, 658 children were separated from their parents in just two weeks in May.
Lakshmi writes in her essay:
I keep thinking how different our story might be if we came seeking asylum today: I could be that child, pulled from her mother’s arms by strangers, screaming in agony, confusion and terror. And my mother could be that woman — bereft, stunned — who lost the one thing that in migrating she was trying to protect.
The writer and TV host notes that she isn’t a “policy expert or an official,” but that she believes it’s time for us all to “stand up against this unconscionable policy that devastates the most basic and fundamental relationship human beings know.”
Read the full op-ed here.