My NYC/Boston series will return on Friday. Today I wanted to write about the protest our family attended this past weekend. There were more than 800 protests around the country on Saturday to protest Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that not only arrests everyone crossing the border, but separates children from their parents, placing not only the adults but the children in detention centers, which is a nice phrase for internment camps.
Thinking of my Singaporean audience, I’m going to take a minute to discuss American immigration policy. The subject of US immigration policy is the sort of thing they build entire graduate level History and International Relations classes around, so I’m going to have to make some seriously broad generalizations.
It is easiest to understand that US immigration policy is a lot like most US policies, which is to say that it is grounded in white supremacy. Today’s immigration debate is no different. No one is having vapors about my Canadian immigrant friends, nor would they get told to go back to their own country. Meanwhile, I have brown skinned American born friends who have been told to go back to their own country within the last month. Did people sit around and deliberately plan to keep out the non-whites? In this case–and I’m talking specifically about Trump’s immigration policies–the answer is probably yes because people of color are more likely to vote blue (Democrat) than red (Republican–Trump’s party).
The popular mythology says both that illegal immigrants are flooding through the southern border. It is false. Undocumented Immigration is at a 46 year low.
Another myth says that immigrants are here to steal benefits. In fact, undocumented persons are only eligible for Emergency Room care, schooling, and WIC (a welfare program for very young children, which pays for things like formula). They are ineligible for social security, food stamps (different than WIC), medicaid/care, etc. More info here.
Nope, the US has never been great on immigration policy (Chinese Exclusion Act, anyone?). But Trump has taken it to a new low. Let me get back to the big one–he’s putting babies in internment camps.
He would lie and say he’s continuing a policy from under the Obama administration. This is a lie. This is terrorism thought up and administered by his administration. He did it with an executive order.
Here’s a detailed article about Trump’s policy, and what’s happening to kids.
But the gist of it is that children and parents are being separated, and no one is keeping great records.
Children are being held in internment camps, where not only are they denied their parents, they’re denied something as simple as a hug.
At a shelter for migrant children near the Texas-Mexico border, Colleen Kraft of the American Academy of Pediatrics said she watched a 2-year-old girl scream and pound her fists on a mat after she had been separated from her mother. A shelter worker wanted to console her, but the rule was to not touch or hold the children, Kraft said staff members told her.
At another shelter in Arizona, three Brazilian siblings, distraught after they had been separated from their parents, were told they’re not allowed to hug one another, according to Antar Davidson, who recently quit his job at that facility.
What does tearing children apart from their caregivers and putting them in a detention center sound like? Listen to this audio without crying and I’ll show you someone without a heart, you know, like the people defending Trump’s policy. Children are being bussed as far away as New York City, and others are being put into foster care. Their parents aren’t getting updates and phone between parents and children are the exception, not the rule.
Caring Americans have had enough, and we’ve took to the streets. Including my family. I can’t imagine the pain of having Elanor and Rhi taken away from me, or what it would feel like for them to be taken away from us by people who may not even speak the same language as they do. (Some children are pre-verbal, non-verbal from the trauma of familial separation, or speak indigenous languages and we don’t have the translators to get information from them.)
There were hundreds of marchers with hundreds of thousands of people. Some of the protests, like LA’s were on the order of three times the size of the biggest pink dots.
Rather than go to the much larger protests in San Francisco or San Jose, we elected to attend the Families Belong Together March in Mountain View. It is worth noting that Mountain View is in a liberal part of California, which in turn is a liberal state. This was Ravi, Elanor, and Rhiannon’s first protest. I cut my protesting teeth back in the Iraq War, George W Bush years.
We, with easily over a thousand other people, gathered together and marched on City Hall to show up and demand change.
You might be saying “But Trump already said he’d end the practice of separating families,” to which I’d say “A–you’re ridiculous if you think that he means that, B-they want to end the Flores rule, which says that children can only be detained for 20 days so that they can detain them indefinitely, and C–there’s no plan to reunify the families already split up.” I have yet to see anything credible to suggest that they actually have stopped, and that their definition of a family unit is specifically very small. They are looking for space to create more internment camps because this isn’t going away.
If I think that Trump doesn’t give a fuck about people demonstrating, and I don’t, then what was the point?
The point was teaching our children our values. You might take your kids to church, and that’s in part to pass on your values. In this case, I felt that taking my children to a protest and showing them that they are obligated to speak out for those who can’t speak out for themselves is passing on my values. It teaches them that there are limits to power. Trump may way Americans to bow and scrape for him the way North Koreans are deferential to Ki, but this isn’t North Korea and we have the freedom of speech. It is our obligation to call out those who are doing wrong. If we can’t agree that caging children is wrong, I have to question your humanity.
The point is also to show the larger world that Americans aren’t standing idly by or cosigning this evil. We don’t condone the child abuse that is going on. We aren’t going to be good little Nazis and look the other way while Fascism is on the rise in America. We are going to speak out.
The point is calling out something that is wrong.
Oh, and toddlers are going to immigration court without caregivers, expected to represent themselves against the US government because non-citizens aren’t entitled to due process. Below is a 17 minute John Oliver segment about it–go to 5:13 to hear about children.
America was created by political dissidents. What is more American than dissent and protest?
This was their first protest, but this is the Trump presidency. I’m not naive enough to think this was their last.
Happy Fourth of July
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