“This is a plea for recognition that these are not simply the children of strangers for whom others are accountable,” Johnson wrote. “This is an appeal to elevate the inalienable right of all children to feel safe and to have the opportunity to be their best selves.”
The uncommon nature of the magazine’s statement reflects an immigration debate that has reached such a fever pitch that it is seeping into previously apolitical arenas. At the Boston headquarters of furniture giant Wayfair on Wednesday, employees planned to walk out of the office to protest the company’s sale of $200,000 worth of beds and other furniture to a children’s detention center in Texas.
A harsh spotlight has been aimed at the country’s immigration system in recent days: President Trump declared that he would deport “millions” of immigrants — and then announced a delay; U.S. Border Patrol facilities overflowed; migrant children went without soap and other hygiene items; a Justice Department lawyer argued that the government had no legal requirement to provide those things; and a graphic photo of the bodies of a Salvadoran migrant and his 2-year-old daughter — drowned in the Rio Grande — circulated online.
Highlights, which aims to encourage elementary-school-age students to read, has been publishing since 1946 and is one of the country’s most popular children’s magazines. The publication has largely avoided controversy but found itself in hot water in 2016 when some readers called it homophobic for not portraying same-sex couples, while others criticized its eventual decision to include them.
Facing news about miserable conditions in detention centers and threatened mass deportations, however, Johnson wrote that he felt compelled to speak out against the family separation activity that he believes “causes irreparable damage to young lives.”
Highlights encourages its readers to have moral courage, Johnson wrote, which involves “standing up for what we believe is right, honest and ethical — even when it is hard.” He invited the public to speak out against family separation and demand better conditions for children held in detention facilities.
Representatives for Highlights did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Responding to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, the House passed a $4.5 billion aid bill Tuesday that included provisions for the treatment of migrant children. Under the proposed law, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would have to create new health and safety standards for migrants it had detained and policies for dealing with migrant surges. The Senate was poised to pass its own emergency aid bill this week.