On June 30, 2018, in cities and even very small towns all across the county, tens of thousands of people turned out for Families Belong Together rallies to protest Trump’s sudden order, three months earlier, to tear all immigrant children, even breast feeding babies, from their parents’ arms at our southern border.
For a timeline of government actions leading up to the protests see https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/06/27/immigrant-children-family-separation-border-timeline/734014002/
According to this timeline, “On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces a “zero tolerance” policy at the southwest border. It directs federal prosecutors to criminally prosecute all adult migrants entering the country illegally. The policy change leads to the separation of families because children cannot be held in a detention facility with their parents.”
After Trump claimed that “the Democrats did it”, that he was powerless to stop the separations, and even that it wasn’t really happening and they didn’t know where the children were being held, on June 20th, with a stroke of his pen, Trump directed Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to stop tearing families apart after they are detained crossing the border “illegally”.The Office of Homeland Security reports 2,342 children were separated at the border from 2,206 adults from May 5 to June 9. By July, estimates of total number of children aged infant to 17 “kidnapped” by the US Government were 3,000 to 4,000.
I Had A Dream
In early April, shortly after the policy of separating children from their parents at the border went into effect, I had one of those “special” dreams – more vivid than usual, charged with an energy and significance beyond the usual subconscious processing of the day. I clearly remembered the dream upon waking.
In my dream I was standing outdoors in a city when suddenly an infant appeared before me, lying on its back on the cement, squalling with an out-of-the-ordinary cry, that of an utterly terrified baby. The baby’s diaper was horribly soiled, its blanket and skin filthy. It waved its hands and feet in the air in a life-or-death grasping for someone to save it. I pushed my hands out in front of my face in a gesture of revulsion. The baby disappeared and a throng of terrified people appeared before me, crowded together as if they’d been herded into a concentration camp. They reached their hands out to me, beseeching me to help them. I turned away, frightened and repulsed.
When I awoke, I felt very disturbed by the dream. I was upset with myself for, in my dream, turning away from the baby and the people in need of help. I felt disturbed that my unconscious dreaming self apparently had no compassion. I tried to go back to sleep, hoping I could find the baby, lift it up, wash, feed, and comfort it, and find a way to help the desperate, frightened people. But I was not able to go back to sleep.
On the night that I dreamed, I was not yet fully aware of the heinous crime against humanity being perpetrated by my government. But the dream, and my great disappointment toward my dreaming self for not having the instinct of compassion has continued to haunt me as this humanitarian crisis has escalated.
What To Do?
I’ve participated in social media initiatives, emailed and phoned government representatives, and attended several local marches, meetings, and rallies to demand that the separation policy be ended and the children returned to their parents.
Massive public outcry has finally resulted in a temporary halt to the government sponsored kidnapping. But not before a billion dollar private, for-profit child prison camp industry sprang up. Most of the over 2,400 taken children, from breast feeding infants to seventeen-year-olds, are still imprisoned in private, secret internment camps all around the country.
On June 30, a federal judge in California ordered that the government return all children to their parents within 30 days. However, the process of taking the children was chaotic and no adequate records exist to facilitate the return of the children. Although some children have been reunited with their families, the government may never achieve complete compliance with the federal order. Mental health experts are in agreementthat all of the children who were victimized by this inhumane and corrupt government, even those who eventually find their way back to their families, will be scarred for life.
I hope we will all wake up soon, and find the instinct for compassion in our hearts for all members of our human family. Families Belong Together, without Violence.
A Dreamer Speaks Out!
At the Families Belong Together immigration rally in Santa Cruz on June 30, I heard a speech that moved me. 24 year old Dreamer, Enrique Yarce, currently a student at the University of California, graciously granted me permission to share his words here:
“I am livid at what this country is doing to my undocumented people. Not just the so called DREAMERS like me but all my undocumented people living in the shadows fearing for their safety and that of those they love. Things are really bad right now but let’s never forget that these issues have existed since way before that man was elected. It was always difficult to be undocumented in this country with its nativist politics and addiction to human rights abuse. It’s ridiculous how much control a piece of paper or plastic can have over your entire life and It’s equally astounding to discover how often people are willing to see us as less than human because we lack it.
I’ve heard a lot of folks say that the inhumanity occurring right now during this administration “isn’t American” but that’s absolutely incorrect. The suffering happening right now to people trapped, abused, separated or raped in detention centers is as American as apple pie. This immigration issue is inextricably linked to the race and xenophobia problem that still has not been sufficiently addressed by the people of this nation. This current administration has been able to deeply connect to the racism and ignorant fear felt by many in this country.
Drumming up fear about immigrants is not a new tactic and it’s designed to scapegoat all of a society’s issues on newcomers which are typically people fleeing violence. The families and individuals embarking on the perilous journey to get to the U.S. are doing so because they have no choice. But the language is always that we are “infesting” or somehow taking over. Undocumented immigrants have been called animals by the president and compared to gang members. In all these ideas about us, the victim is always the US, which is ridiculous given the fact that the reason most people are migrating is to escape violence that is often caused by US intervention into their lands.
I think that it’s very easy for people to take for granted their privilege in being born here and not having to fight desperately to prove their humanity. My brothers and sisters from Central America escaping death are treated like foreign invaders instead of being given the compassion they deserve. I feel so awful for the children being traumatized by forced separations and the pain experienced by these families. Every day I wake up there is a new attack on immigrants and the rights of everyone in this country. Make no mistake, it starts with the easiest group to target, which are immigrants, and eventually moves to everyone else. No one is free from the depravity of fascism.
I know things look hopeless and they definitely feel that way for me at times. I’ve been undocumented for 21 out of 23 of my years on this earth and it has always felt like a cage I carry around with me. Dehumanization is a part of my daily life, hearing about what is being done to my people, but it’s imperative that we let these moments radicalize us rather than lead us to despair.
We need to be strong for the people being jailed by the same companies that make money from the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies. We must stand in solidarity with all people in the struggle because together we are stronger. I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters resisting the disgusting travel ban and all other groups facing oppression at the hands of white supremacy. I stand with the people occupying ICE offices in order to shut them down. I stand with the white people who see the danger building in their country and they use their privilege to do something about it. There’s so much still that needs to be done and so much more that needs to happen before we live in a better world but the first step to creating it is standing up for what’s right and understanding that sometimes laws need to be broken [as American patriots did in the American Revolution that brought a chance of Democracy to the U.S]. ICE MUST be abolished.
Odio lo que este país está haciendo a mi gente indocumentada. No solo los llamados DREAMers como yo, sino todas las personas indocumentadas que viven en las sombras por temor a poner en peligro su seguridad y la de aquellos que aman.EN este momento las cosas son realmente malas, pero nunca olvidemos que estos problemas han existido desde mucho antes de que ese hombre fuera elegido. Siempre fue difícil ser indocumentado en este país con su políticas y su abuso de los derechos humanos. Es ridículo cuánto control puede tener una hoja de papel o plástico a lo largo de toda tu vida. Es igualmente asombroso descubrir con qué frecuencia la gente está dispuesta a vernos menos que humanos porque no la tenemos.
He escuchado a mucha gente decir que la deshumanidad que ocurre ahora mismo durante esta administración “no es estadounidense”, pero eso es absolutamente incorrecto. La tragedia que estan sufriendo las personas atrapadas, maltratadas, separadas o violadas en centros de detención es tan americano como el pay de manzana. Este problema de inmigración está completamente vinculado con el problema de la raza y la xenofobia que aún no han sido abordados lo suficiente por la gente de esta nación. Esta administración actual ha utilizado el racismo y el miedo ignorante que sienten muchos en este país. Utilizar el miedo a los inmigrantes no es una táctica nueva y está diseñada para culpar de todos los problemas del pais a los recién llegados, que generalmente son personas que huyen de la violencia. Las familias y las personas que se embarcan en el peligroso viaje para llegar a los EE. UU. Lo hacen porque no tienen otra opción, pero sin embargo siempre proclaman que nosotros estamos “invadiendo” o de alguna manera asumiendo el control. Los inmigrantes indocumentados han sido llamados animales por el presidente y comparados con miembros de pandillas. En todas estas ideas sobre nosotros, la víctima siempre es Estados Unidos, lo que es ridículo porque la mayoría de la gente está migrando para escapar de la violencia que es causada por la intervención de los Estados Unidos en sus paises. Creo que es muy fácil para las personas dar por hecho su privilegio de nacer aquí y no tener que luchar desesperadamente para demostrar su humanidad. Mis hermanos y hermanas de América Central que escapan de la muerte son tratados como invasores extranjeros en lugar de recibir la compasión que merecen. Me siento muy mal por los niños traumatizados por las separaciones forzadas y el dolor experimentado por estas familias.
Todos los días me despierto y hay un nuevo ataque contra los inmigrantes y los derechos de todos en este país. No se equivoquen, comienzan con el grupo más vulnerable, que son los inmigrantes, y despues se mueven hacia todos los demás. Nadie está libre de la depravación del fascismo. La ciudadanía siempre se ha utilizado como una herramienta para demostrar quién pertenece, o no en este país y debemos detener esto para siempre.
Sé que no parece haber esperanza y para mí a veces se sienten de esa manera. He estado indocumentado durante 21 de mis 23 años en esta tierra y siempre me ha parecido como si llevara una jaula conmigo. La deshumanización es parte de mi vida diaria, sobre todo cuando escucho lo que le están haciendo a mi gente, pero es imperativo que dejemos que estos momentos nos radicalicen en lugar de llevarnos a la desesperación. Necesitamos ser fuertes para las personas encarceladas por las mismas compañías que ganan dinero con la encarcelación masiva de cuerpos negros y morenos. Debemos solidarizarnos con todas las personas en la lucha porque juntos somos más fuertes. Estoy de pie con mis hermanos y hermanas musulmanes que se resisten a prohibición de viajar y a todos los otros grupos que enfrentan la opresión en manos de la supremacía blanca. Estoy de pie con los activistas que ocupan las oficinas de ICE para cerrarlas. Ven el peligro que se está acumulando en su país y usan su privilegio para hacer algo al respecto. Todavía nos queda mucho por hacer antes de que vivamos en un mundo mejor, pero el primer paso para crearlo es defender lo correcto y comprender que a veces es necesario romper las leyes y El ICE debe ser abolido.”