As I mentioned on Instagram yesterday, I am both ashamed and horrified by our country’s current zero-tolerance policy on immigration, the same policy that has resulted in a sharp uptick of children being separated from their parents. As a mother, I cannot imagine the horror and helplessness these parents must feel as their children are taken away. I cannot imagine the damage being inflicted on these young children as they are kept in detention centers (the average stay is 51 days). As more information has come out over the last few hours and days, my horror has only grown.
As I mentioned on Instagram last night, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was born in the US, to a certain level of wealth and privilege, and will likely never have to worry about protecting my children from gang violence, starvation, or being forcibly removed from my arms while I am locked up, helpless. I have this level of privilege today simply because I am lucky. I am not better, I am not more human, my motherly love isn’t stronger than yours or hers or that woman’s over there.
I once wrote that the best and worst part about becoming a mother is the fact that, at some level, you suddenly feel like every child’s mother.
And right now, 2000 of our children – ours! – need their mothers. If ever there was a time to stand up, to act, it is now.
This terrible situation is beyond politics. In fact, the current First Lady and former first ladies all agree (Dems and Republicans alike) that this “zero-tolerance” policy of tearing children from their mothers and fathers is immoral. We are all heartbroken. We’re following this topic closely, and know many of you are, too.
So. There aren’t enough pillows, closets, or social media posts to scream into right now, but one thing we can do is highlight a few must-read articles, as well as scope out the best ways to help. Some of you have been sharing with us already, and we are sincerely grateful for your efforts. Please continue to share as we all learn more.
Learn About the “Zero-Tolerance” Border Policy
What to Read for Understanding
To really understand how this process is actually working, from the shoes of the asylum seekers, this article in Texas Monthly, What’s Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families are Separated? is the most illuminating read I’ve found. It’s an interview with Ann Chandler, who runs the Children’s Border Project, the organization who works with hundreds of kids that have been released from ORR’s [Office of Refugee Resettlement] care. They are not a legal service, they’ve mostly been working with the parents in the days they are being separated from their children. It’s horrific.
Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.”
In the article, Ann Chandler does a good job of explaining why these asylum-seekers are not able to come in through the legal ports of entry. It’s an illuminating and devastating read…but an important one.
InStyle Magazine profiles four women who are working to defend migrant children at the border. Many of them have been working this issue for years – and they stress that it’s not new.
What Love wishes more people understood is that detaining immigrants is not a new practice. “I have been involved personally in [fighting] detention of families since Obama revived the policy in 2014,” she says. “I think that is one of the points that a lot of people are missing. But what the Obama administration would do is detain families together. Now, they’re using prosecution for illegal entrance to split up families. They’re saying, ‘This isn’t working, this isn’t cruel enough to deter refugees.’”
Their first-hand accounts of the challenges many of these parents face is important to understand.
…the biggest challenge to her cases is simply getting in touch with clients. “They have to pay for any phone calls they make at a high rate,” she says, pointing out that many detainees come to the U.S. with very little money and need to cold call multiple organizations to find legal council. “I heard this asylum seeker yesterday give this analogy: When you have money on your commissary account, you have to make a decision—do you use that money so you can get some food for the day, or do you use that money to call your loved one or your lawyer. It’s a pretty tough choice that they’re faced with.”
I forced myself to listen to all seven minutes and forty-seven seconds of ProPublica’s recording of crying children who had just been separated from their parents at the border. It’s all in Spanish, but you don’t need to speak the language to hear the terror and distress. Sobbing hysterically for “Papa” over and over again, or the cries of “Mommy” transcend all language barriers.
The photographer who has taken the now-viral images of the little girl crying as her mother is searched by border patrol is John B Moore. You can find his photos (and thoughts on the experience) on his Instagram account @jbmoorephoto. His Instagram stories are worth watching as well – he tagged along for a day with Border Patrol. You can read NPR’s full interview with him here. It’s a good read, especially considering that Mr. Moore has been covering the plight of the undocumented for the last ten years.
Who’s Talking About #KeepFamiliesTogether
Laura Bush’s article in the Washington Post is a must-read. She doesn’t pull any punches, and calls out this abuse of children for what it is: shameful and immoral.
“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.
Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”
Happily.Ever.Elephants has highlighted two on-topic children’s books that might help our own kids better understand and empathize with the plight of refugee. One is The Journey, by Francesca Sanna, which focuses on a family that flees a country because of war (read Happily.Ever.Elephants full review here), and the other is Welcome, by Barroux and is about polar bears who have to flee their home because the ice is melting. Full review of Welcome, here.
Immigration lawyer, Hassan Ahmad, has a Twitter account that’s on fire. In addition to some sorely-need straight talk, I also appreciate his to-the-point ideas for how to start changing the dialog around immigration. One example? “Associate the word “immigrant” with “future citizen,” or “aspiring American” whenever possible, and repeatedly.”
How To Help
From everything we’ve read, the best way to help these families is to donate money to organizations that are providing legal services to these aspiring American families. I’ll be donating to RAICES, the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. RAICES has been working this issue for years. They have two key goals at this time:
-directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings
-ensure legal representation for EVERY child in Texas’ immigration courts (last year, 76% of kids (over 13,000!) did not have representation)
Slate.com’s article, Feel Good About Donating to RAICES, written by a self-proclaimed, viral-fundraising skeptic, explains why a donation to RAICES is a pretty safe bet – even if Trump does sign an executive order. And RAICES will be hosting a Facebook Live event tomorrow, Thursday, June 21 from 2-3 CST with more information on how best to help. The Facebook Live event will be open here, as early as 1:30CST.
Furthermore, I’ve been really impressed with the crew over at @together.rising. So far, they’ve raised over $2M to help the plight of the separated children. In addition to RAICES, they also donate to a few other well-researched organizations.
Lastly, call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to do whatever it takes to end this policy of separating parents and children at the border. There’s a number you can call that quickly connects you with your congressmen (based on your state and zip).
Call this number: (202) 224-3121
If it helps, here’s what I said:
“Senator ____ – This is Shana Draugelis calling from Philadelphia, PA. I am calling today to beg you to do whatever it takes to end this policy of separating parents and children at the border. I vehemently agree with Laura Bush that this policy is immoral and shameful and that we can do better. At a minimum, please support the Feinstein bill which seeks to limit these separations. ”
Now let’s do right for our kids.