Keep Families Together

June 27, 2018

I keep wanting to do a Monday Cup of Culture post, but troubling things keep happening in this country and it just seems more important to talk about them right now, so here we are.

We were in Maine last week visiting family, but the whole time we were there, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that was impossible to ignore.

Every time I held my daughter, I imagined holding all of the thousands of children who don’t have their mommys and daddies right now. Every time I hugged or kissed her, I thought about all of the children who aren’t getting affection from anyone right now, let alone from the ones they need it from the most — their parents. Every time we fed her, I wondered if these kids are hungry. Every time we bathed her, I wondered if these kids are getting bathed enough. Every time we gave her milk, I wondered if the infant who was literally ripped from her mother’s chest while nursing is getting the milk she needs. Every time we tucked her in at night I thought about all of the children and babies who have strangers in a strange place, putting laying them down on mats and covering them with foil blankets. It’s gut-wrenching. It breaks my heart.

When I hold my daughter these days, I hold her extra tight, mentally and collectively holding all of these other kids with me. I know there are other parents out there doing the same.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection/MGN

As a parent, this hits me particularly hard, but you don’t have to be a parent to be utterly heartbroken by the border crisis happening in our country. No matter your politics, if you have a heart and the ability to feel empathy, then you’ve likely been deeply troubled and saddened by the horrifying events unfolding at the border. Since April, thousands of innocent children and babies have been abruptly taken away from their asylum-seeking parents at the U.S. and Mexico border, often under false pretenses. Parents were told their children were being taken away to get bathed, and then they never saw them again. Can you even imagine the fear, worry, and trauma these children and parents are experiencing? The children have no idea where their families are and these parents have to go to sleep each night, not knowing where their child is, let alone if they’re safe. I can’t imagine how terrifying and upsetting this is.

Photo of a Central American family travelling with a caravan of migrants, preparing to cross the border and apply for asylum in the U.S. (they were denied), by Hans-Maximo Musielik

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

These people crossing the border have taken great pains to do so. Like you and me, they’re human beings, but unlike you and me, they’ve been faced with unfathomable challenges many of us will (hopefully) never have to face in our lifetime. By leaving their homes and attempting to cross the border to seek refuge in our country, they’re risking everything they have. They’re seeking asylum for a reason. The countries they’re coming from — El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and so on, are some of the most dangerous countries in the world, and are plagued with gang violence, rape, and murder. Can you imagine how terrifying that must be? Can you blame them for fleeing with their children? Can you imagine how awful things must be if this is what there only option are – stay and get raped or murdered, or try to come to the U.S. in search of safety and the right to live, only to be denied entry and then have your children ripped from your arms and put into a jail?

But what other choice is there? What would you do?

I could barely bring myself to listen to this leaked recording of these poor children wailing for their parents. It kills me. How is this actually happening in our country? How can we possibly turn people away and then treat them this way? It’s beyond inhumane and it feels incredibly surreal. This is not the America I know, nor is it the America I want my daughter to grow up in. Things need to change.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

(Yes, I know the little Honduran girl in this photo was not actually taken from her mother, but I still think this photo of her is symbolic of the thousands of other little girls and boys who were.)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP

No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this is a moral issue. No human being should be deemed “illegal,” and children do not belong in cages. Yes, children have literally been put in actual cages. Children’s shoelaces were actually removed, and they were told they could not hug. Imagine being a child and being taken away from your parents and then told that you could not hug your sibling. It’s unthinkable. Families should never been separated like this and what’s happening to them is dehumanizing.

I just read Elizabeth Warren’s personal account on what she experienced when she visited the McAllen Customs and Border Protection Processing Center, Port Isabel Detention Center and I literally feel sick to my stomach. To say it’s hard to read would be a gross understatement, but it’s an important read.

Finally, if you’ve been upset by this as I am, you’ve likely felt frustrated and helpless as well. Here are some actions you can take to help you feel less so.

How You Can Help

  1. Call your reps. I know it may seem intimidating, but it really is so simple and only takes a minute. Call: 202-224-3121 to be connected to your senators and congress members. Then program their numbers in your phone. If you feel like you need a script, this is what I said: “Hi, I’m a concerned constituent calling because I’m extremely troubled by the separations happening at the border. I want to urge Senator _____/ Congressperson ______ to pass the Keep Families Together Act and the Help Separated Children Act.” Make sure you give them your name and address and that you keep on calling, because they tally every call.
  2. Show up. The Executive Order Trump signed last Wednesday does not reverse all of the damage that’s already been done to the 2,300+ families that have been separated since April. Not only are there no plans to reunite these children with their parents, this order will allow ICE to continue to detain innocent children and their families, indefinitely. There will be over 600 Families Belong Together rallies around the world this Saturday, June 30th. Visit Move On to find one near you and you can print a poster here.
  3. Volunteer. You can find immigration-related services near you by visiting this site. Also, if you’re in Texas or have friends and family who are, the Texas Civil Rights Project is looking for volunteers.
  4. Sign a Petition. There are many petitions you can sign, such as this one here
  5. Donate. Any amount helps, and if you’re able, please consider donating to one (or more) of the following organizations, and encouraging family and friends to do the same: Together RisingACLURAICESThe Florence ProjectYoung Center for Immigrant Children’s RightsActBlueAsylum Seeker Advocacy ProjectBorder AngelsFreedom for ImmigrantsKids in Need of Defense
  6. Stay woke. Don’t let this consume you 24/7, but please also don’t check out, because when we put too much of a distance between ourselves and the harsh realities happening in the world, we get complacent. Keep speaking out, showing up, and giving. Let’s harness our anger, frustration, and sadness and use it to help others.
  7. Vote, vote, VOTE in November. Can’t stress enough how critical this one is. Make sure you’re registered to vote and that your friends are as well. Show up to the polls in November and make sure everyone else you know does the same. This is how positive change will really be made.

If you want to read more about what’s going on, one of my favorite blogs, Cup of Jo does an excellent job of breaking everything down in this post.

Thank you for reading.

Cover photo: Illustration by Sarah Grillo/Axios

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