“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” – Emma Lazarus, as inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
Hey there. I know it’s a bold headline, but I’m glad you’re here. Like you, I’ve been seeing devastating news about the treatment of children, refugees, and, human beings hoping for a better life at the migrant detention centers here in the US, and I feel like there’s a dagger in my side.
It’s hard to read the articles about the overcrowding and squalor at the centers and not feel helpless. It was the hardest on the Fourth of July, when it felt so ironic to celebrate freedom hearing reports that people are locked up, unable to bathe for weeks on end, being told to drink out of toilet bowls, and crammed at almost double capacity to a cell. Children have been separated from their parents, subjected to a no-hug policy, and are falling victim to alarming amounts of sexual abuse. It’s not fake news, it’s not leftist propaganda, it’s straight from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG), and it’s been going on since way before the current administration.
It hurts my soul. This is not the way the ‘Land of the Free’ ought to behave.
I think back to my time in Germany, where I was permitted to live with relative ease after submitting paperwork that proved my income ability and, most importantly, my passport. Money and passport privilege talk (and would for these migrants too if they had a casual $1 million to invest in a US commercial enterprise).
As someone who travels, I’m well aware of my passport privilege and as a white girl with a middle class Southern Californian upbringing, I don’t know what struggle, living in fear, and starvation feel like.
I never had to suffer through the extreme violence against women in Honduras, where more than 90% of crimes go unpunished and abortion, even for rape victims, is illegal.
Yet the current administration has banned aid to any medical organization abroad that provides any kind of abortion counseling, including organizations primarily engaged in providing HIV treatment and prevention services. Aid may be simultaneously cut to organizations in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala (that produce the most migrants) as well, though that’s more of a political move and it’s unlikely the aid ever makes it into the hands of those who need it anyway due to corruption.
I know not all migrants are asylum seekers and refugees, but I do know that the US is a nation of mostly migrants and their descendants who came in search of the American Dream. I’m descended from undocumented migrants myself — two voyagers on the Mayflower — and I want to see my country treat human beings like actual human beings.
I know some might find it confusing that I’m choosing to talk about this on a travel blog. Some might feel uncomfortable that I’ve stepped ‘out of my lane.’ While I don’t have the answers on whether our country can or should let in everyone who wants to come, that’s not what this article is about. It’s about treating human beings like human beings. This is not a political issue. It’s not just an American issue. It’s a humanitarian issue that we as citizens of this world need to care about.
The worst thing that we can do is be silent, and this is in all of our lanes.
So what can we do?
I’d like to think I would have been one of the people actively fighting slavery in the US (even though it’s still happening and actually, what am I doing?), one of the ‘good Germans’ during Hitler’s reign who was willing to be a social pariah and speak out, or in the face of other such injustices, just do something. Wouldn’t you?
This article is about how to be proactive, in whatever way is doable for you, because we CAN do something about it, and every action matters. These are some ideas of how you can help, whether it’s monetary, involves taking action, or both:
I know it seems pointless at times but be one of those people who vote. Vote for our climate. Vote for humanity. Vote for what matters dearly to you.
Let’s not be complacent or think that we are powerless. What we care passionately about does matter and that’s how the greatest change has happened in our history. It wasn’t people who stayed quiet and didn’t want to rock the boat who earned women the right to vote or put an end to Jim Crow laws. We can’t forget that we are powerful and that we have a civic duty to vote.
Tomorrow, July 12, is the nationwide Lights for Liberty.
According to their website, “On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps, will bring thousands of people to locations worldwide as well as to concentration camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants.”
There may be opportunities to protest on a college campus, or by heading to your nearest city. Marching not only brings you closer to those who also care, and makes us feel more powerful, but also makes a statement to our government and the world that we as a people want change and do not support what’s happening. ”
If you can’t attend the vigil, commit to making yourself heard in other ways. While it may seem like taking up a sign does nothing, our elected officials are listening. The world is listening. There may be opportunities to protest on a college campus, or by heading to your nearest city. Marching not only brings you closer to those who also care, and makes us feel more powerful, but also makes a statement to our government and the world that we as a people want change and do not support what’s happening.
Call your local elected officials and tell them what needs to change. You can find listings of their numbers here. The Women’s Refugee Commission suggests the following key points:
- “Protect children’s rights. Do not eliminate any existing protections for immigrant children and families. Protections are not loopholes.
- Give children the chance to tell their experiences, and evaluate their claims to see if they qualify as refugees.
- Establish standards for the humane treatment of children (and families) in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.
- This is a crisis of leadership, not a crisis of insufficient resources.
- Prevent the government from re-directing any additional emergency funds to other enforcement purposes.”
There are several organizations that are helping migrants now. Every dime helps:
Save the Children: Focused on improving the conditions at the centers specifically for children. They’ve set up play zones at some detention centers and claim to be “the only national response agency working in transit shelters focused on the unique needs of children”.
Project Corazon: Sends “volunteer lawyers and law students to the frontlines of the humanitarian crisis”. Their travel fund helps to cover the lawyer’s travel costs, while the lawyers provide their services pro-bono.
RAICES: The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a legal nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families in Texas.
ACLU: While not engaged solely in immigrant rights, the American Civil Liberties Union campaigns for the protection of immigrant rights. In the past the ACLU has worked to support religious freedom, rights of veterans, and free speech, among other things.
KIND: Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that no migrant children appear in court alone, without legal representation. They’ve helped more than 18,300 children and seek to advocate for laws and policies that protect children and their rights.
ActBlue: ActBlue’s Support Kids & Families at the Border campaign might be perfect for those who feel overwhelmed by choice. Donations to the fund are divided between 14 different organizations, including KIND, ACLU, RAICES, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, and more.
I am personally pledging $1000, spread out amongst a few different organizations, and commit to voting, as I always have, in the upcoming elections.
Feel free to leave a comment, but please direct the majority of that energy into taking action. Let your statement and the energy you put forth be the message you leave for your local governor, the $5 or $5000 you chose to donate today, or the vote you cast when it matters. When you feel like nothing you do can help or make a change, choose to act anyway because it DOES matter.