Last night my 3-year-old woke up and asked me to hold her hand. For whatever reason she needed that bit of comfort and I, her mother, was right there, able to take her hand in mine. On any given day, there are 2,000 children held by the US Border Patrol without their parents, in absolutely inhumane and deadly conditions. Who’s there for these refugee children? Children who face such extreme violence and unimaginable horrors in the countries they know as home, many from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, that they risk it all to come to America for asylum and a chance at LIFE. Whose hand can they reach for? We can’t afford to wait until the 2020 elections for something to change. We have to collectively take a stand and demand our government officials put an end to these modern day concentration camps today.
Over the last few weeks first-hand accounts from lawyers who interviewed dozens of children at US Border Patrol detention centers have shone a light on the grim and inhumane conditions that kids, some literally babies just months old, are facing — lack of food or receiving inadequate portions of food still frozen, no water to wash babies’ bottles or for drinking, no access to medicine or medical care, sleeping on cold concrete, no bathing or brushing their teeth.
On Friday, June 28, Federal Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Central District of California ordered that an independent mediator (who she appointed last year) promptly address the unlivable conditions of the detention centers. The government has a July 12 deadline to report back on how they have improved upon the dire conditions.
While this is a step in the right direction, we need to demand that these children be released and reunited with their families! “Improving conditions is essential and overdue,” Dan Kowalski, an immigration lawyer in Colorado who is editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, a journal for advocates and academics, told The New York Times. “The larger question is why detain at all? Detention does not deter migration, and only causes needless suffering.”
The stories the children have shared, which are highlighted in this court filing, breaks your heart a thousand times over…
“The immigration agents separated me from my father right away. I was very frightened and scared. I cried. I have not seen my father again. I have been at this facility for several days. I have not been told how long I have to stay here. I have had a cold and cough for several days. I have not seen a doctor and I have not been given any medicine. It is cold at night when we sleep. I have shoes but no socks.” – a 5-year-old boy
“I was given a blanket and a mattress, but then, at 3am, the guards took the blanket and mattress. My baby was left sleeping on the floor. In fact, almost every night, the guards wake us at 3am and take away our sleeping mattresses and blankets. They leave babies, even little babies of two or three months, sleeping on the cold floor. For me, because I am so pregnant, sleeping on the floor is very painful for my back and hips. I think the guards act this way to punish us.” – a 17-year-old girl
“They took away our baby’s diapers, baby formula, and all of our belongings. After that they took us to a place with a tent. Up until this point, our family was kept together, but here they took our daughter and me out of the cell and separated my fiancé from us. Our [one-year-old] baby was crying. We asked the guards why they were taking our family apart and they yelled at us. After that we stayed in a room with 45 other children. There was no mat so my baby and I slept directly on the cement. I have been in the US for six days and I have never been offered a shower or been able to brush my teeth. There is no soap here and our clothes are dirty. They have never been washed. My daughter is sick and so am I.” – a 16-year-old girl
“I’m so hungry that I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with hunger. I’m too scared to ask the officials here for any more food, even though there is not enough food here for me. In the morning we get oatmeal, pudding, and juice. In the afternoon we get soup, a cookie, and juice. For dinner we get a burrito, pudding and juice. I saw a child ask for more food once and the guard told him ‘No, you’ve had your ration.’ Sometimes the younger kids get an extra chocolate pudding. I need more food too.” – a 12-year-old boy
“The day after we arrived here, my baby began vomiting and having diarrhea. I asked to see a doctor and they did not take us. I asked again the next day and the guard said: ‘She doesn’t have the face of a sick baby. She doesn’t need to see a doctor.’ My baby daughter has not had medicine since we first arrived. She has a very bad cough, fever and continues to vomit and have diarrhea. – a 16-year-old girl
“I am in a room with dozens of other boys. Some as young as 3 or 4-years-old. Some cry. Right now, there is a 12-year-old who cries a lot. Others try to comfort him. One of the officers makes fun of those who cry.” – a 17-year-old boy
According to Alicia Lieberman, who runs the Early Trauma Treatment Network at the University of California, San Francisco, decades of study show early separations can cause permanent emotional damage in children. “Children are biologically programmed to grow best in the care of a parent figure. When that bond is broken through long and unexpected separations with no set timeline for reunion, children respond at the deepest physiological and emotional levels,” she told USA Today. “Their fear triggers a flood of stress hormones that disrupt neural circuits in the brain, create high levels of anxiety, make them more susceptible to physical and emotional illness, and damage their capacity to manage their emotions, trust people, and focus their attention on age-appropriate activities.”
So what can we do to help stop these atrocities? Below are six ways you can take action today.
The Capitol Switchboard will connect you to your Senator or House Representative. Let them know that the atrocities happening at our border need to end and demand that they close the camps and reunite families now. Here are more details on four actions you can ask congress to take.
Immigrant Families Together works quickly to provide detained immigrants with some of the best legal representation in the US and to post bond money. They also deposit money into detainee prison accounts, as well as provide ongoing support once families have been released and reunited. All (100%) funds donated go towards bonds, living expenses, medical, legal, supporting urgent needs of like-minded organizations and their operating infrastructure.
Together Rising has raised over 2 million dollars in June 2019 to go exclusively towards emergency response and long-term legal accountability for the detained children at our border. Together Rising identifies what is breaking the hearts of their givers as they look around their world and their community, and then they connect with the people and organizations who are effectively addressing that critical need. All (100%) of what Together Rising receives from every personal donation goes directly to an individual, family, or cause in need, unless a donor specifically authorizes that use for administrative purposes.
RAICES is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, providing free and low-cost direct legal services, representation, assistance and advocacy to underserved immigrant and refugee communities and to clients after they leave the state.
Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition is a group of local citizens and agencies that helps to transition refugees to their destinations upon release of federal custody by providing these families with access to phones, restrooms, showers, laundry, warm meals, and more.
Interfaith Welcome Coalition is a faith-based movement that helps refugees, asylum seekers, and at-risk immigrants. Their list of programs include providing families with food, supplies, and information about their rights at the Greyhound Bus Terminal and the San Antonio International Airport, overnight hospitality for anyone needing it, and support during ICE check-in or Immigration Court appearances. You can learn more here.
Use the form here to send an email to your Senator and/or Representatives telling them to stop the raids.
Since 2012, the volunteer-based organization, has been helping over 300 children and their surrounding communities by way of recycling donated jewelry to make unique handmade bracelets to raise money to buy food, clothes, school supplies and to pay medical needs. All money raised goes directly towards helping these kids.
“The Orphaned Earring already sends boxes of donations as often as possible to neighboring countries in Latin America, but it’s just not enough,” shares founder Denisse Montalvan. “We’re building a Children’s Relief Center in Guatemala that will operate year-round and will have a fully stocked food pantry, clothes, school supplies and medical assistance for premature babies, malnourished children, and their mothers who are in desperate need. If we could help them in their own country, maybe we avoid them having to migrate and suffer injustices.”
You can donate here.
Cover photo PEDRO PARDO/GETTY
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