How Did We Let This Happen? On Separating Families & Both Sides of the Immigration Debate
Sometimes, you just don’t know how you got to a certain place and you need to ask. I’m sure you’ve heard about the child/family border situation happening in our country right now. We all collectively learned that President Trump signed an executive order earlier this week to reverse the family separation order of the zero-tolerance policy. Obviously, this reversal is a good thing in theory, but most of us don’t feel very good right now. There are still many questions, like what happens with the 2,000+ children already detained and what new set of problems could arise involving the indeterminate length of detention of the families. And more importantly: HOW did we let this happen in the first place?
I avoided writing about this issue at first because I thought it was almost unbelievable. Then I avoided it because I felt so sad that I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. Then helplessness overtook (a sentiment shared by many at this point). And then I got called out by you guys for not addressing my stance on the matter yet, and you were right, so here we are. I thought my stance was so obvious that I could hide in my sadness, but you reminded me that it’s my responsibility to use my platform to write about it, especially with the goal of broadening the understanding.
Historically, I try to open myself up to see/hear both sides of the story (see my guns and why did you vote for Trump posts). That’s been a challenge here. I know I’m preaching to the choir and generally beating a dead (non-Trojan) horse. But to be clear, I’m officially ANTI “ripping immigrant families apart and using children as pawns for political leverage.” The idea is horrific, immoral and profoundly damaging to the individuals as well as our moral culture. I’ve lost words. Thus my lack of writing.
But the fact that so many adults chose to enact this family separation policy and took so long to reverse it shows that they were telling themselves their own version of the story. President Trump and his administration felt that, after the last few administrations failed to fix it, the immigration problem had gotten so bad that they went for an extreme measure knowing that there would be side effects but hoping that the end result would create some sort of reform that they wanted and, more importantly, the immigration control he promised his constituents. They spoke of loopholes in the law, sex trafficking, safety of minors, and drugs over and over, but while immigration is nuanced and certainly we have a border issue, morality should never be up for negotiation or worse, negated by politics. I have to think that they believed they intended to help the future of our country, but the fact is they were willing to sacrifice these families in that attempt. What I can’t get my mind around is that these people, who were probably raised with morals, let the policy be in charge and passed the buck of morality while every family crossing the border in search of safety was prosecuted and separated. They feigned innocence, blaming the other side for “existing policy,” but if they had a moment to check their self-awareness, they could have taken responsibility.
But after watching the Secretary of State’s address on Tuesday and the press briefing on Wednesday, I realized two things:
1. Those in charge are telling themselves and the press/us a different story than we are reading in the media, and therefore…
2. It’s hard to trust anyone.
And historically, I’m a very trusting person.
It seems to me that right now, due to our lack of trust, our country is full of people that don’t feel safe, on all sides. It’s like we are poisoning our own mental wells with cortisol, activating our collective fight or flight response. I feel anxious every time I look at the news, despite the fact that I have a totally privileged life.
So why exactly do we feel so unsafe and anxious?
Some of us feel unsafe because we sense that our collective morals are being lost under this current administration.
We feel that the distinction between right and wrong is getting blurred and raising our kids in this political culture is uncomfortable and scary, unable to predict moral responses to problems.
We don’t feel protected, hell, they couldn’t even ban assault weapons AGAIN, so what gives us the confidence that this will be handled in the “right” way (whatever “right” is).
We also feel worried that our political and cultural divide will never again meet. We fear that we are breeding hatred and not preventing it by taking basic measures to help all of humanity be better and healthier.
I personally fear that our government doesn’t care about the people who need the most help, in every way.
The rich get richer, and those creating laws don’t need to care about social issues like public education, universal healthcare, homelessness, poverty, because it’s NOT THEIR PROBLEM. Literally. Their kids don’t or didn’t go to public school. They can afford private healthcare. They don’t live in neighborhoods full of poverty or homelessness.
These are not problems they are faced with day in and day out. Even if they were once advocates of those in need, by the time they’ve reached a high level in office, they’ve forgotten, their perspective has shifted, they’ve grown older and richer (with some exceptions, obviously). These people have somehow found themselves in 2018 using poor babies, literally poverty-stricken babies, as pawns to expedite their political wishes or even worse, their platform promises.
So that’s my fear. And this current obvious moral breach is just the latest proof that they don’t care about people in need. Living in a country where you don’t think your government will protect and help you when you need it, makes even those of us that don’t need help right now feel unsafe. I can’t imagine how unsafe these families feel.
But there are two sides to every story, right? And liberals aren’t the only ones feeling anxious and unsafe.
Those on the other side of the argument fear that we’ve lost our communities to globalization and that it has created a distraction from protecting and helping the current citizens.
Some feel that loopholes in laws give criminals the ability to come into our country, using children as their pawns.
They believe that while it’s all horrible, the threat of family separation might deter criminals from using children to smuggle themselves and drugs into the country.
Many people feel that their community will be threatened by these immigrants seeking asylum, potentially taking their jobs, weakening their economy, bringing drugs, poverty, and crime with them which could yes, endanger their children and families.
Listen, a lot of this is about where we live and with whom we surround ourselves. But most of this is about the stories that we tell ourselves, crucial to our own self-preservation to adjust our own moral compass. Are we at a point where our government rationalized cruelty…again?
Most of you know me and know that when I ask these types of questions, it’s only to decrease the divide and help come to more of an understanding. I want to pop my own bubble and understand others. We value all opinions and ideas here, unless they are hurtful or cruel.
So my questions are:
- If you were supportive of this administration’s immigration policy, what did you hope would happen?
- When you voted for Trump, what were your expectations?
- Do you want to build a wall?
- What would you hope for in immigration reform that would potentially not turn away people seeking asylum?
- What is your biggest fear with illegal immigrants? Is it population control? Crime? Drugs?
- Did you support the previous zero-tolerance policy before it was adjusted to keep families together and if so, why?
I know that you value the idea of family so much and likely didn’t predict this outcome. I honestly just want to know what the expectations were when you supported him or the current government’s immigration tactics.
If you have any personal experiences, we’d love to hear them. This could be on either side as long as they are true and not offensive. I’d love to hear happy immigration reports or refugee experiences about our government. I’d love to confirm that the men and women patrolling our borders are good people, doing the best they can in a shitty situation. But if you have a story contrary to that, please know this is a safe space.
You can and will be anonymous (just enter a fake name and email address that doesn’t exist) and we will control and veer the comments toward debate, deleting attack or offense. (Like we did with the ‘Why Do You Own a Gun?‘ or ‘Why Did You Vote for Trump?‘ posts.)
I apologize for not saying anything sooner. I just wanted to know why and how before I reacted emotionally to something political. I needed more facts before I could confirm my public opinion. I needed to stop crying about it before I can write. But I’m sorry I didn’t say something earlier.
In case you don’t want to comment and you just want to find a way to help, here is a list we put together.
If you know of other activities, outlets or organizations to support these families, let us know so we can add them here and ensure that people all over the country can find ways to help locally in addition to fundraising.
DONATE AND VOLUNTEER
- ACLU: This organization is currently raising money to help “defend asylum-seeking parents forcibly separated from their children.”
- The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES): They are the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. The money that is donated will be used to pay the bond for parents currently being held in detention (which usually varies between $1,500 and $10,000). It will also be used to pay for legal services for immigrant children in Texas’ court system.
- Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Also known as ASAP, this is a project of the nonprofit Urban Justice Center and whose goal is to “prevent wrongful deportations by connecting refugee families to community support and emergency legal aid.” This is a volunteer-based organization and needs donations to help fund the legal services they provide asylum seekers. They are also looking for volunteer attorneys and interpreters.
- Together Rising: If you feel like your head is spinning and not sure the best way to donate, this great organization disperses funds to other organizations that specifically help these children get proper legal support. They have helped fund Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Kids In Need of Defense and RAICES, to name a few.
- The Young Center: Their mission is to “promote the best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children with due regard to the child’s expressed wishes, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and state and federal law.” You can volunteer to become a Child Advocate. This is an “adult who volunteers to spend time with and advocate on behalf of an individual unaccompanied immigrant child while he or she is subject to deportation proceedings.” They also expect donations.
Local Border Organizations:
- The Texas Civil Rights Project: If you are in Texas and want to volunteer, they are looking for people who speak Spanish to help translate for families and their children who have been separated. They also need volunteers to help with the legal intake process.
- The Florence Project and Refugee Rights Project: This organization provides free social and legal services to immigrants who are detained in Arizona, another border state. They are also looking for lawyers to take cases on pro bono.
- Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: LAIAC is “dedicated to serving the legal needs of low-income immigrants, including refugees, victims of crime, and families seeking reunification.”
- Al Otro Lado: California is not immune to immigration problems. Al Otro Lado is a “bi-national, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico.” These services include helping deportee parents whose children remain in the U.S.
- Pueblo Sin Fronteras: This organization provides humanitarian aid and shelter to refugees and migrants on their way to the U.S.
- Families Belong Together June 30th Rally: Continued pressure on our government is necessary to make sure the families who have already been separated get reunited as well as making sure this can never happen again. Check the site to find a rally location near you.
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
- Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-
3121 which will connect you to your local senate member.
- 5 Calls: If you need help with what to say, 5 Calls is a great resource to speak your voice on this and many other issues. You just need to enter in your zip code, select the issue that you care about, and they will provide you with a script to read.
- Whoismyrepresentative.com: In situations like this, we’re constantly prompted to call our representatives, and this website makes it super easy to find out who your representatives are in Congress, as well as their contact information.