For the past 29 years I have been a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline. Several weeks ago, I worked two flights (one to San Antonio and the other to McAllen) which proved to be two of the most disturbing flights I've ever experienced in my career.
On board these particular flights were ICE agents and migrant children (approximately four to eleven years old) who had been separated from their families and were being flown to a "relocation" site.
Since working the two flights, the images of those helpless children have burned into my psyche. The little children whose faces were full of fear, confusion, sadness and exhaustion left me somewhat traumatized as it occurred to me a few weeks later that I might as well have been a collaborator in their transport.
Family separation at the border
I can't help but think about their journey to their makeshift "homes" which, historically speaking reminds one of another group of people who were forced out of their homes and relocated to ghettos.
As a result of what I witnessed, I have made a decision that if I'm ever assigned to a flight with children who've been separated from their families, I will immediately remove myself from the trip due to the nature of this unconscionable act by my government and my employer's complicity.
I have told my story to many of my flight attendant colleagues and they have pledged to do the same.
Since sharing my story, I learned from a fellow flight attendant that he was lied to by an ICE agent who said the children on the flight were part of a soccer team. When pressed, the agent finally admitted that they were, indeed children who were being relocated to assigned camps.
This inhumane separation of migrant children from their families is against the morals and principles instilled in me, as well as my religious and spiritual teachings.
This is not the American citizen that I was raised to be nor the one that I will embrace. What we are experiencing is painful, unnecessary and completely unacceptable and I feel somewhat ashamed that it took me this long to process these feelings. I keep kicking myself for not trusting my gut and walk off of both of those flights.
I will no longer be complicit and will walk away from any future flight assignments that try to make me a pawn for this disgusting and deplorable cause.
Hunt Palmquist is a flight attendant based in Dallas.