Reclaiming Our Humanity

Published
6/17/2018

In the latest story, federal authorities took an infant from her mother while breastfeeding. The mother was handcuffed when she resisted this horrific act. I hear these stories, and I feel my body brace itself as if there was a way to keep the pain, anger, and horror from hitting me. But I can’t.

As an immigrants rights advocate and attorney, I’ve heard these stories for years. Pictures of caged children have haunted my social media feeds since 2014 as advocates pushed the government to stop detaining families and unaccompanied children in Artesia, NM. Every time, it’s hard to breathe. Every time, I want to weep.

Like so many Americans, I’m sickened by current policies that encourage Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to take children away from parents. This torturous, inhumane practice is explicitly meant to create fear and trauma. Our leaders want the tens of thousands of people fleeing violence and oppression in Latin America—including daily threats of extortion, assault, rape, trafficking, kidnap, and murder— to think coming to the United States might actually be worse.

I am sickened, but I am not shocked. For years, the federal government has increasingly victimized those seeking refuge under US and international law. As a country, we must respond to these atrocities and reclaim our collective humanity. How do we start?

  1. Donate to organizations providing legal and humanitarian services directly to refugees at our southern border and in detention centers. Start with the CARA Family Detention Project, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).
  2. Volunteer at the border or detention centers as a pro bono attorney, interpreter, researcher, medical professional, expert witness, or administrative assistant through CARA, FIRRP, or RAICES.
  3. Commit to engaging in sustained, political action. Call and write your representatives and senators. Attend a protest rally. Let this moment change how you vote. We need administrative and congressional action to roll back these horrific policies and enforce meaningful restraint on the federal agencies who are actively destroying families, lives and our democracy.
  4. Educate yourself on the larger issues in our immigration system, because what a country does to immigrants often foreshadows changes in the way it treats its own citizens.  As Stephen Manning often notes, immigration is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to civil liberties. We cannot advocate for liberties and protections if we don’t understand the complexities of what is happening and why.

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TorchLight Legal Communications is launching a series of articles and media resources to provide clear, understandable information about what is happening at our southern border today, what it means for civil liberties, and what we can do. There will be resources for refugees and other immigrants, U.S.-based allies, and those seeking to become allies.

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