A Trump administration zero-tolerance policy has had the secondary effect of separating children from their parents at the border, some of whom are asylum seekers following a US-standard legal process who are being denied due process and access to their children. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, The Department of Homeland Security estimates 1,995 immigrant children have been taken from adults (who the DHS describes as “alleged adult parents”) at the border between mid-April and the end of May.
In some cases, border agents are lying to parents in order to take the children away, saying they’re going to bathe the children, only for the boys and girls to disappear from their parents’ sight. Representative Pramila Jayapal spoke with mothers who had to listen to their young children crying for them through thin walls. One child was taken while she was being breastfed by her mother.After separation, the children are taken to facilities run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. The media got a glimpse inside one of the facilities (a former Wal-Mart now called “Casa Padre” in Brownsville, Texas) two weeks after Senator Jeff Merkley was denied entry to it.
We also haven’t seen where and how ORR is taking care of toddlers and young kids who have been taken from their parents under the new policy, but it’s not hard to imagine that they’re experiencing an overwhelming force of grief and horror.
It’s also easy to feel powerless in the face of such a monstrously large act of injustice. Activism is the antidote for despair, so here are a few ways you can help out.
Donate to RAICES
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services does amazing work by providing legal representation, paying bonds for detained immigrants, and running clinics that inform immigrants and asylum seekers of their rights.
Donate to Texas Civil Rights Project
TCRP is dedicated to protecting voting rights, fighting for racial and economic justice, and reforming the criminal justice system. They’re also going to bat for families stuck on the border. That includes five families separated from their children in McAllen, Texas, who have been given zero information about the children’s whereabouts or well-being. They’re a strong advocacy voice who could use monetary or, if you’re a lawyer, pro bono help.
Donate to Neta
The bilingual media group situated in the Rio Grande Valley not only “amplifies the voices of border residents aimed to challenge mainstream narratives about our region,” they’re also directly aiding asylum seekers stuck in limbo at the border. They’re asking for donations to buy essentials for families.
The best part about Neta is their commitment to giving a megaphone to marginalized storytellers, which is something we can all benefit from. These stories (like this one from a young woman who was detained by the border patrol for five days despite her DACA status) offer new perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and show us the human side of those who are too often flattened into statistics. It may not feel like a big thing, but listening to and sharing these stories can make a significant impact.
You can also check with Informed Immigrant to see if there are any organizations in your area you can volunteer with, donate or volunteer with the Cesar Chavez-founded LUPE, and keep your eyes open for Amazon Wishlists like this one from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen that let you send diapers and baby clothes directly to kids who need them. Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) also has a list of things you can do (and donating to them is a great idea, too!). Kids Lit, comprised of members of the children’s book industry, is gathering donations for RAICES and four other groups and rallying forces to oppose the policy.
Of course you can (and should!) call your representatives (the Senate switchboard is 202.224.3121) to ask them what they’re doing about this urgent problem.
Image: Texas Civil Rights Project