Our politics shift and change.
But they do not define who we are. Our basic compassion and decency, however, are a part of our identity. And as humans, and mothers, it’s almost impossible to not be distressed by the recent images of the nearly 2,000 children separated from their parents at the US/Mexican border in the last six weeks. Or stories about the former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas turned makeshift shelter for almost 1,500 migrant children, where young boys far from their mothers and fathers watch showings of “Moana” in the darkened loading docks.
It’s hard to be a mom and not feel horror at the thought of a baby reportedly taken from her mother’s arms while breastfeeding, or a Honduran man who took his own life at a Texas jail after being separated from his wife and son.
This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic one. This is a human right’s issue. And it’s one decried by moral and religious leaders on all sides of the political spectrum.
Mothers fix things.
We fight for a better world for our children, for a nation that abides by the laws of human decency, a country that would not tear families apart in the name of protecting our border. It’s tempting to block out the horrible news or to grow numb. But even from hundreds of miles away, there is so much we can do.
Here are eight concrete steps you can take to fight family separations at the border:
1. Educate yourself.
The best defense against apathy and ignorance is to read as much as possible, and more importantly to read from sources on both sides of the political spectrum. This is a complex issue, and this article, in particular, does a great job breaking down what exactly is happening in an understandable way. Also, this article from the Washington Post fact checks the legality of this issue. For takes on the issue from more conservative-leaning media sources, you can read about it from the Wall Street Journal here and from The Economist here.
Many organizations in border states are actively looking for volunteers who are willing to complete tasks like organizing legal intake and interviewing families, especially if those volunteers are Spanish-speaking and have legal experience. The Texas Civil Rights Project is one of these organizations and a good place to start if you have those qualifications.
There are many organizations out there working and fighting round the clock for these families. Many of these groups rely on donations to operate and continue their important work. Some organizations to consider:
Pueblo Sin Fronteras provides humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees.
Al Otro Lado is a bi-national, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico.
The Florence Project provides free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody in Arizona.
Border Angels serves San Diego County’s immigrant population through various migrant outreach programs such as Day Laborer outreach, a free legal assistance program, and more.
RAICES provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.
CARA is a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—provides legal services at family detention centers.
Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers too.
The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based center providing unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is seeking “volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience.”
Together Rising is another Virginia-based organization that’s helping provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children who were separated from their parents and are currently detained in Arizona.
The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is working to keep families together.
Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.
4. Write letters to the media.
If you’re upset by what is happening at the border, let your local paper know it. Letters to the editor and opinion pieces can be powerful ways to communicate this message to your fellow citizens. And as Americans, it is our fundamental right to express our opposition. Take advantage of that freedom and speak up for those who can’t. To submit a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, visit here.
5. Call or write your elected officials.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of contacting your elected representatives. These men and women answer to their constituents and depend on their support. The ACLU has a script and will route a call directly to your senator here. Or find out who represents you here.
The midterms elections are this November, and it’s a valuable opportunity to have your voice heard. Virginia will hold crucial elections for US Senate and House of Representatives, among others. Before November, familiarize yourself with the candidates who are running and their stances on immigration and family separation. This website, Ballotpedia, makes it easy. Just enter your address and you’ll get a detailed list of upcoming elections and candidates as well as a sample ballot. And vote with both your intellect and your conscience.
7. Volunteer locally.
Richmond is full of amazing organizations that offer assistance to immigrant and refugee communities. Show these people the kindness and generosity that you would want to encounter if you were in a foreign country far from home. Plus, all of these organizations have volunteer opportunities listed on their websites:
8. Participate in a peaceful protest.
It’s amazing how quickly one voice can turn into tens of thousands, and how those thousands of collective voices can change hearts, minds, and even policy. The group Families Belong Together has organized protests and rallies across the country. Check their website for upcoming events in our area.
At the end of the day, we all just want a better world for our children. Let’s come together to make sure that world is a reality, to fight for the country we believe in.