Watching ICE Terrorize Kids, a Flight Attendant Risks 29-Year Career: ‘I Will No Longer Be Complicit’

The “inhumane” separation of children from families goes against the morals, principles, religion and spiritual teachings instilled within him.

Children at an immigrant family separation protest in Phoenix. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

On Tuesday afternoon, a Texas flight attendant who works for a major airline posted a stunning statement on his Facebook page. The post was then picked up by the Houston Chronicle. Hunt Palmquist’s statement may very well have led to today’s historical decision within the airline industry.

On Wednesday, via individual public statements, major airline carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest told the Trump Administration and federal government that they would not take part in the cruel and abhorrent Trump immigration policies that separated migrant children from their families. The airlines let Trump, his administration and his complicit Republican Congress members know that the government would no longer be allowed to use planes by these airlines to commit violations of human rights.

Palmquist, who’s been flying for 29 years, said what he saw on two Texas flights was more disturbing than anything he had witnessed on any flight—during his entire career.

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“...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.”

Alluding to the millions of Jews who were transported to Nazi concentration camps, Palmquist said he couldn’t help but compare how similar it seemed to see these children being transported—to “makeshift homes.” Because of what he witnessed on just two flights with ICE and migrant children, Palmquist made the decision to no longer be complicit to Trump’s “unconscionable” immigration policies.

“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.”

Palmquist said he conveyed his experience to his flight attendant colleagues—who then pledged to do the same. The “inhumane” separation of children from families goes against the morals, principles, religion and spiritual teachings instilled within him.

“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.”

He concludes his statement with is vow of resistance.

“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.”

It’s one thing to talk about one’s outrage. And it’s another to act on it. Hunt Palmquist took action. You can read his full statement in the Houston Chronicle.

I have great admiration for Palmquist. Courage like his and that of others to reveal the truth, speak with compassion and conviction—and then risk your livelihood and safety—are characteristics that make #TheResistance only stronger. By asking other flight attendants to follow his lead, may have led other airline employees to make the pledge. As a former flight attendant, I can say that if a major airline carrier gets even a hint of a flight attendant walkout, they are apt to take fast action. They can’t fly their fleets without flight attendants and would have to cancel all of their flights. This would cost them millions, possibly billions. Whether this was what spawned major carriers to go against Trump policy is something we’ll never know and is neither here. What we do know is that noncompliance on the grounds of inhumane treatment of theirs, within any industry, starts with one or two brave souls to challenge the status quo and help create change.

Thank you to all the flight attendants, airline employees, airline officials and anyonewho refuses to comply with an unlawful madman in the Oval Office and his complicit Republican Party.

Throughout history, those in power who watch a tryant cause massive suffering and destruction, and do nothing—they are the most to blame. They are the essence and personification of complicity and it will stay with them until their dying days.

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