A recent article about immigrant children being separated from their families brought the conversation about immigration center stage for me. I’ve been saying yes, we need better and more fair and equitable legislation and policies. I’ve been whining about yes, we need to set the record straight about who took whose jobs and who crossed whose borders, but I haven’t done all I can to raise my voice and my righteous indignation about what’s happening to us as humanitarians and advocates for justice — agitators for doing what’s right for our neighbors. Today I am silent no more.
Edmund Burke’s poignant quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” powerfully reminds us that while we are wrapped up in our own dailiness, immigrant families are being torn apart almost like during slavery. The cries and anguish heard from children and their parents as they are whisked away to detention and child care facilities like the overcrowded Casa Padre facility in Brownsville, TX, haunts me.
According to media reports, the boys being housed there are having an average stay of 52 days with 22 hours a day locked inside. I can only imagine what the long-term effects of this trauma and anguish will be for these children, and that’s what they are—children (1,500 boys between 10-17). This one facility, a converted former Walmart, was highlighted but more than 11,000 children languish in detention centers near our borders with uncertain fates. The nurture and care these youngsters need has taken a secondary role to dogged enforcement of our government’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy. The enforcement of these new immigration policies must be a whole new kind of hell for those who are tasked to do it. I doubt dinner conversations these days begin with “How was your day?”
No matter how you feel personally about illegal immigration and undocumented workers, separating parents and children is inhumane and cruel any way you run it. For parents to risk their lives and everything they know to give their children a better life is the textbook definition of what we will do to give our children a better life. I promise you we all want the same things for our generations—decent and affordable housing, comprehensive health care, respectable work so we can be self-sufficient, safe schools, and opportunity for self- determination.
We, the U.S. must do better if we intend to keep taking the moral high ground on human rights around the world. We must call for a moratorium on these policies and demand our legislators pass comprehensive and humane immigration policies NOW that offer a realistic path to citizenship. This is the least we can do for our children and families and this is where we must begin.
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