As the situation unfolds along the Texas border and in detention facilities around the nation we are reading stories and hearing accounts about rooms so cold people got headaches, children sleeping on gym mats with only Mylar space blankets in chain link enclosures, people begging for showers, children restrained punitively naked in restraints for two days, handcuffed, and being forcibly medicated without proper parental consent, it's easy to grow numb to the horrors. However we cannot afford that luxury.
If you are here reading this, you are someone who has an opportunity to change the course our country is on. You have the privilege of internet or phone access if you are reading this blog most likely. You can use your internet and phone access to call out these abuses, and to draw worldwide public attention via social media to the evils being perpetrated against people whose only crime is seeking safety. Email and phone your representatives. Participate in town halls. Learn everything you can about the issues and educate your friends and neighbors. You can also volunteer with or donate to some of the great nonprofits listed in our community directory. I know it's scary... but how can we claim to be the land of the free and the brave if we can't even treat asylum seekers and refugees with dignity and respect for their human rights? How can this be the land of the free and the home of the brave if we stand by silently while innocent children are being incarcerated under inhumane conditions and subjected to torture? The time is now to make a stand, to talk to your representatives, your family, your friends, and your co-workers. Remember that personal stories have the power to connect us emotionally, and to help us find courage in the unabashed bravery of some of these migrant and refugee parents who carried their children thousands of miles to safety.
Advocating for migrants and refugees isn't scary. Scary is traveling thousands of miles across rough terrain carrying every supply you and your child(ren) need to survive, and urging them onward towards that faint glimmer of hope of asylum because no matter what you know that home is the mouth of a shark or the barrel of a gun. People don't just up and abandon their countries for no reason. What would it take for you to pick up your children and a few belongings and walk with them for thousands of miles? How much fear, violence, and desperation would it take to push you to make a grueling and potentially deadly journey carrying only the little people you hold most dear? You can read some facts about why asylum requests from people fleeing Latin American countries are on the rise here.
Imagine the retraumatization both the children and parents face when they are detained by men with guns and thrown in cages. That's bad enough in and of itself but to then allow medical abuse, sexual assault, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and physical neglect to occur is unconscionable. Our country is failing asylum seekers and refugees, and committing crimes against them by stripping them of their children without any just cause and with no plan for reunification. The backlog in the immigration system is getting even worse. The records that would have helped reunite the children separated with their parents have in many cases been lost or destroyed, and now the government is talking about how they will have to do DNA tests to verify that kids belong to parents which creates a major privacy nightmare for those families going forward, since the DNA information can be used to conduct surveillance on the children for the rest of their lives according to RAICES.
Hear a migrant from Honduras speak about the conditions she encountered in the detention facility at McAllen (which we will be protesting during our Flock to the Border event):
How can we look ourselves in the mirror and know we sat by silently while this abuse takes place on American soil? In 10 years will we look back and claim we were "Just following orders" like the Germans after the fall of Nazi Germany? It is scary as hell to disrupt the status quo, but in this case it is absolutely necessary. It's scary to take a stand and try to educate people about the fact that the abuses going on in these facilities are even worse than those that occurred in the Japanese internment camps during World War 2. We barely made it 60 years without making the same mistakes of succumbing to petty fear and hatred all over again.
However, whatever repercussions I may fear for my activism in the long run are absolutely nothing compared to what most migrants and refugees face to arrive here in the first place, and then to have them face such horrors, abuses, and denial of due process in detention is unconscionable. I cannot sit by idly no matter how scary it is for me to speak out on this issue in famously conservative Texas where the battle to stamp out racism is very much alive and raging with over 55 active hate groups currently operating in the state of Texas. Some even put the number even higher and Texas has one of the highest concentrations of hate groups in the nation. Some of the most vitriolic of these groups focus their hatred specifically on migrants and refugees. Some of these groups are even going so far as to organize to support members so they can run for office. Find out more in the video:
Now more than ever we must keep our eyes on the situation and find the courage to keep advocating for those being abused. The hatred brewing and the abuses being committed are very real. This is not theoretical. We cannot afford the luxury of becoming numb and allowing ourselves to become complacent about atrocities. Please consider joining us in McAllen on July 14, 2018 for the Flock to the Border day of action. If you cannot join us in person but still wish to support our action and efforts to hold the Texas and US government accountable for these abuses against migrants and refugees, please consider making a donation (even a dollar helps)! This problem is far too big and complex for any one person to solve, but if we gather together, cooperate, and keep talking about the issues that matter eventually together we can achieve change through educating the public and exerting political pressure on government officials (because ultimately they do need our votes to stay in office).
And, lest you make the mistake of thinking this doesn't, won't, or can't ultimately affect you or someone you love... I would like to impart this little reminder:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
- Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
Post written by Andrea Hughes
Word art by Andrea Hughes