I can’t stop thinking about this passage from Masha Gessen’s essay, The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps:
We learn to think of history as something that has already happened, to other people. Our own moment, filled as it is with minutiae destined to be forgotten, always looks smaller in comparison. As for history, the greater the event, the more mythologized it becomes. Despite our best intentions, the myth becomes a caricature of sorts. Hitler, or Stalin, comes to look like a two-dimensional villain—someone whom contemporaries could not have seen as a human being. The Holocaust, or the Gulag, are such monstrous events that the very idea of rendering them in any sort of gray scale seems monstrous, too. This has the effect of making them, essentially, unimaginable. In crafting the story of something that should never have been allowed to happen, we forge the story of something that couldn’t possibly have happened. Or, to use a phrase only slightly out of context, something that can’t happen here.
Of course it is happening here. Right this minute thousands of children are being held, without their parents, in federal custody. The detention centers that house them have been inadequately prepared to provide even the most basic resources of beds or soap or toothbrushes or diapers.
In the face of government-sanctioned cruelty and human rights abuses, what do we do? Here are four things:
Log your complaint against the abuses happening at the Southern border with the folks elected to represent you. If you need a script, here’s a place to start:
I’m concerned about the reports coming out of detention centers along our southern border. I’m asking that [my representative] (1) remove children from Customs and Border Patrol detention, immediately, and (2) pass legislation mandating national uniform standards for the care of detained children.*
*These demands come via journalist Jessica Yellin and her interview with from W. Warren Binford, law professor and one of the attorneys who visited with migrant children at detainment centers in Texas.
+ Find your congressional representatives.
Here’s a shortlist of non-profit organizations involved in active work to stop the abuses happening at the southern border of the United States and to support the refugee children and families at risk in the care of our government. (For an expanded list of organizations, The Texas Tribune recently updated a 2018 story with additional organizations working to care for the influx of immigrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border.)
+ KIND: Kids in Need of Defense
As some of you might remember, this time last year this community raised more than $24,000 to send to RAICES. I’m looking into a more streamlined and simple way to collect the spare change and modest sums that made up the majority of that donation. Stay tuned…
On Friday, July 12, 2019 attend a Lights for Liberty Vigil to End Human Detention Camps. Events to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees are being planned at detention centers and in cities and towns across the country. Plan to join an organized vigil in your community or organize one of your own.
Knowledge is power. Don’t turn away from the stories, even when they take your breath and turn your stomach.
+ Inside a Texas Building Where the Government Is Holding Immigrant Children, The New Yorker
+ Everything We Know About the Inhumane Conditions at Migrant Detention Camps, New York Magazine
+ What You Need to Know About the Crisis at the Border, Slate
+ There’s No Excuse for Mistreating Children at the Border. Here’s What To Do About It, New York Times
+ People want to donate diapers and toys to children at Border Patrol facilities in Texas. They’re being turned away. Texas Tribune
Also, vote! Today is the local primary election in NY: https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/nyc-primary-elections-2019-what-you-need-know
yes, true! for some folks there are also elections today!
Thank you — it’s so easy to feel crushed by despair, or to feel overwhelmed. Thank you for suggesting ways to be more engaged! I would also encourage people to do research into whether the state where you live is detaining immigrant children, and call your state reps. and governor to stop that from happening. If you have friends or family living in states with detention centers, encourage them to call as well. Thank you for using this platform to talk about what is important.
Yes! Truly all of us should be calling our local and federal reps. I included a link to the Detention Center map under the Organize header. Including again here! https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/detention-statistics
Thank you! I work with immigrant adults and found myself in tears today listening to the radio…and then frustrated because- what can I do? Thank you for always providing concrete steps and encouragment to take them.
THANK YOU for this post, Erin!
There is a refugee shelter in Arizona that also has urgent needs, in case anyone would like to donate via an Amazon wish list. They’re housing a lot of migrants right now and need simple things like toothpaste… deodorant, etc!
Thank you, Erin, this prompted me to contact my representative!
Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve donated and called my representatives. It gets overwhelming fast- thanks for providing this info in such a concise way.
Thanks so much for this. This must have taken a while for you to put together! Much appreciated. Love your blog.
I call lots… write as well. Above mentioned individuals are frightening to read about…. another gift we need to do is Vote and make sure Freedom remains for all. Socialism is so scary. My Grandfather and many a family member fought for Frredom….. it isn’t free.
Freedom isn’t free indeed. That doesn’t excuse human rights abuses of children who are in the care of our government.
Shared, called, & donated. Thanks.
I did read the article in the Texas Tribune that donated hygiene products are being turned away. Why is this happening? I don’t understand why this is not allowed. I also read an article on CNN this morning, showing a photo of a father and 2 year old daughter found drowned in the Rio Grande, trying to cross into the US. So many barbaric rules are now in place in regards to seeking asylum, that folks are trying to make the trek in more dangerous areas. Thank you for drawing attention to this.
There is one other suggestion I’d like to make and I know it won’t be popular. Talk to one of the border patrol agents or their family. Things are not always the way they are reported. I have spoken to one. What would you have them do with the children that were sent by their parents with another person that they paid to get their children here? Do you know that they put the girls on the pill because they expect them to be raped? The camps the people are in are actually safer than with the people paid to bring them here. And, I’d like to ask, as kindly as you will accept, how many would you be willing to take into your home? Are you finding homes for them so they have somewhere to go? We are the government and can’t expect someone else to do it all for us.
Without access to a bevy of border patrol agents myself, I’ve been relying on reports from the journalists, doctors, and attorneys who have visited these centers. It’s not possible for me to physically remove children from government custody and house them with my family, as I assume you know, by donating to the organizations listed above, I’m doing the best I currently can to ensure that these children might be reunited with their families and properly cared for once granted asylum. Demanding humane conditions for children in custody of our government, is a bare minimum of what’s required to support these children and families. It’s the literal least our government can do and they’re failing to do so.
Following up with this sobering report from U.S. asylum officers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/u-s-asylum-officers-say-trumps-remain-in-mexico-policy-is-threatening-migrants-lives-ask-federal-court-to-end-it/2019/06/26/863e9e9e-9852-11e9-8d0a-5edd7e2025b1_story.html?
Many of these children could easily be released to relatives in the United States. It would cost significantly less than keeping them in these prisons– which are expensive because companies are making large profits from these facilities, not because much of that money is being spent on keeping the children in safe/sanitary conditions (as we’ve seen repeatedly).
As far as what border patrol agents could do? There is great power in workers organizing and holding their employer accountable, although our current administration has tried very hard to reduce that power. For example, the employees at the furniture company Wayfair are protesting the company’s decision to sell furniture to the containment facilities. https://www.npr.org/2019/06/26/736308620/wayfair-employees-protest-sale-of-furniture-to-migrant-detention-center
The stories you have about abuse children experience on their way up to the border are disturbing. Here are some examples of documented abuse happening in the ICE facilities: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/us/immigrant-children-sexual-abuse.html
I hope you’ll continue to educate the border patrol agents who are in your social circle!
It’s also notable that many of the people seeking asylum–which is not a crime in the US– are fleeing countries in which the US has politically intervened, often overthrowing democratically elected leaders. In other words, our government has created many of these crises in our names. What are we going to do about it?
Here’s some great coverage of that history: https://medium.com/s/story/timeline-us-intervention-central-america-a9bea9ebc148
People in concentration camps didn’t have a choice. These asylees chose to travel to the US. I am for human rights & dignity, but truly, a staggering 45+ million American citizens are in poverty & on food stamps. We can barely help them (social security is close to broke) … How are we to help these hordes of “asylees”.
No question that we need sensible immigration policy, but caging human beings and detaining them never has been and is not the answer.
Thank you for this. I feel so helpless. I’ve donated and called but wish I could just get in my car and pick up these children and get them care. My new baby was just sick for the first time and it was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. She’s getting better now, thankfully, but I can’t stop thinking about these sick babies and children without parents, without doctors, without BEDS. I hate that I can’t do more.
I used to wonder how the Holocaust ever could have happened, how anyone could have allowed such suffering. I don’t wonder anymore. People are awful and callous. Thank you for continuing to resist.
I am devastated by the reports about this every single day. It’s utterly inhumane what these children and their parents are suffering through. I call and write my reps multiple times a week about it and donate where I can. Thanks for continuing to bring up the issue. It’s so hard to keep looking at stories that are so gut-wrenching but we must, we must.
Thanks, Erin. I’m wondering if there are any other ex-pats commenting on here. Do you call your reps? Does it matter if you’re outside the country? Do you have other ways of resisting and raising your voice from outside of the country? Are there ways to organize concerned non-Americans to make a difference?
Hi! I thought mistakenly for many years (living outside the US) that I could not vote except for President. I was so embarrassed (but glad!) when I realized that was not true!! Depending on the rules in the state you last lived in or the state you plan to return to (if you plan to return), you can indeed vote! If you can vote, you can call your reps! I give them my last address or zip depending on what they ask for, the same one I used to register for my absentee ballot.
I think this website is a good place to start if you need info on registering to vote absentee: https://www.fvap.gov/guide.
Many many thanks for your articles and attachment to the immigartion and separated families issue.
Reading that from far away Switzerland, with my 1year old son safely at my side, leaves me in distress and dispair. The separation imposed and the treatment these children receive amounts to torture and inhumane and degrading treatement.
Here in Europe we have our lot of inhumane and disturbing policies and have to face that the policies of our governments have rendered the Mediterranean Sea a graveyard.
While sinking in despair thinking about our Humanity is not relieving children and families friom their suffering, the fact that you always provide means to act is a wonderful inspiration and contribution that you make and help your readers to make.
Thank you for providing tools and resources for people to help with the current immigration issue. I can’t imagine being separated from my parents at such a young age. I hope the people who have the power to make changes happen can reunite these children with their parents or a family member they know.
Thank you for this great list. I’d also like to add that Resist Bot (https://resist.bot/) can be a helpful tool when it comes to making contacting representatives a daily habit. I’m a bit phone shy, but I can always find the time to write out a letter on my phone or on my computer at work during a break.
Thank you Carolyn, I just used Resist Bot and it was great. I didn’t even know about this service. Thanks so much for sharing. It really is easy to let your voice be heard!
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