10/03/2011 09:51 am ET Updated Dec 03, 2011

When Shackling Pregnant Women Is OK

Last week I was informed that my son and his high school peers will be put in detention if they do not have their student IDs with them on campus.

I was shocked. Detention? Just for forgetting an ID? What kind of a police state are we becoming? And what kind of a world are we preparing kids for?

Apparently for the world that is already here.

In Alabama and in Arizona any person who "looks like an illegal alien" is taking great care these days never to leave home without their I.D.

Some may ask, what's the big deal, it's just an I.D.? We've long been trained to carry our licenses when we drive a car or use a credit card or travel on a plane. This is done for our protection as well as for the safety and security of others.

But to need an I.D. just to walk in public space takes the surveillance of the state to a whole new level. And to do so in ways that discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity -- as is the case in Alabama and Arizona -- under threat of detention, underscores the punitive rather than protective nature of these laws.

As my son would agree, detention is not a fun place to be.

But detention at the high school is one thing. At the state level detention has reached a shocking level of inhumanity. Alleged terrorists who are detained have been subjected to "enhanced coercive interrogation techniques." In the name of national security, torture has been justified, normalized and unquestioned.

And what about those who are alleged to have committed much lesser crimes -- like crossing the border into the United States in order to find work to support their families? Whatever we may believe about the problem of undocumented migration, these are the people who care for our children, tend our gardens, clean our houses, and work in our factories and fields. How we treat them when they are detained speaks to our humanity as a nation.

The Huffington Post recently reported that pregnant women who were being held on charges of violating immigration laws in Arizona were chained to their beds while in labor. Husbands were not allowed into the labor and delivery room, and newborns were taken from women at birth.

The fact that this news did not provoke outrage is what most unsettles me. How can we call ourselves a civilized nation when we shackle any woman while she is giving birth?

It surprised me as well that there was no outrage at my son's high school when the I.D. policy was announced. What does it mean when it seems normal for our children to sit in detention for forgetting their wallets at home? These are the same schools where "lock downs" happen whenever safety concerns arise.

Protecting children from danger is understandable. But I am calling into question the language we use and the practices we endorse in the name of security. When lockdowns, detention, and "enhanced coercive interrogation techniques" become everyday words, we are preparing children to accept as normal a world in which shackling pregnant women is ok.