Crisis at the Border: The Hope of Words

Journalism, Portfolio, Thoughts, Writing

“Tender Age Shelters” where children are sent. (Source: FOX 25)

(Article published on Medium.com) 

While children sit in holding pens and parents are sent away — while lives are broken — we are sitting behind our screens debating the legality and blame of a horrific situation. We are blending and bending facts to our will when, by definition, facts should be defended as iron-clad objective reality. Lines that do not bend to petty rhetoric. The general argument surrounding immigration and detention is derailing us from the conversations we should be having. Instead of what is right or wrong, we need to shift to something akin to how do we fix this… or what are possible solutions? What is the damage we are causing? In the face of these questions, who did it and who could be arrested for it should be overshadowed by the blatant fact that it is happening in the first place.

A recent article written by Ben Shaprio stated that the media was “going insane” and “lying” over families being separated at the border. That these issues were present during the Obama era. That families entering the country legally were not separated and treated fairly. While Shaprio is not factually off, his points are moot and fallaciously non-sequitur. They are bait, meant to entice readers to partake in a cyclical examination of the current state of our immigration reformation and Trump’s no-tolerance policy. He covers no grey area and makes claims that easily fall into the binary of the political game.

Regardless if the news is exaggerated or not — regardless if this occurred under the Obama administration — regardless of the legal system, the separation of families and cattle-herding of minors is still happening. No one can make the claim that it is not. Better the news expound on that than shepherd us into ignorance with celebrity gossip. Better to not point fingers until the suffering of other humans has stopped.

Shaprio’s rhetoric does not only derail the conversations we should be having; he also fails to mention a couple key issues about people. Here’s the thing about being a human: we are not immune to being driven by our chemical compounds — enveloped by the push of instinct. Fight or flight. If you are a family fleeing one of the triangle countries of the cartels, you are fleeing for your life and the life of your loved ones. You are removing yourself from the horrors of domestic terrorism. When that defense-mechanism is triggered, the last thing on your mind is finding a legal port of entry — a place where you know you will most likely wait in line for days or weeks simply to be denied. You save your life and loved ones and deal with the legalities later. The claim that families entering the country “legally at points of entry” are not separated is not pertinent… because this should not be happening to any family.

Bianey Reyes et al. protest the separation of children from family in front of the El Paso Processing Center at the Mexican border on June 19. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

We could get into statistics here. We could throw up the number of illegal immigrants seeking asylum versus those entering the country with nefarious intent. But right now, this is, at its core, not a crisis in immigration but a crisis of humanitarianism. Even though the United States refused to sign the Rome Statute, thereby escaping the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), we can still use the definitions of the statute to examine wide-held definitions of crime and morally abhorrent action. According to the ICC, a crime against humanity is as follows:

“For the purpose of this Statute, ‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
a. Murder;
b. Extermination;
c. Enslavement;
d. Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
e. Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
f. Torture;
g. Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
h. Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
i. Enforced disappearance of persons;
j. The crime of apartheid;
k. Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

According to the statute (particularly parts i. or k.), the removal of children from family could fall under a crime against humanity, a crime established when a country or people is under the duress of a humanitarian crisis.

Even though the US does not fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, perhaps we should still treat it as such an issue: a crime against humanity. So much of how we perceive things is dependent on the words we use. Call it an immigration crisis and we can fall back into cyclical argument in political binaries; call it humanitarian and perhaps we can all raise our voices enough to change something.

None of us enjoy engaging in this discourse — it is heartbreaking. But better to be brokenhearted in the face of moral ambiguity than to be retrospectively disgusted for turning away. Tread carefully with how you digest and interact with the content surrounding this issue and do not buy into ad hominem. But do take hope in the idea that words, in contrast to their common misuse, also affect action. Today, President Trump signed an executive order (Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation), part of which states “… it is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” This order is not a fix all. It does nothing to assist the current families who are under duress and points blame away from the accused. But it is still a sign that voices were heard. The hornets nest rattled. And that’s where we can keep pushing.

So keep the conversation going. Help now, if you have the resources to do so. Spread the word of what people can do to get involved and help individuals and families. Point fingers later.

Below are some ways in which you can get involved, taken from FastCompany.com

  1. Call your member of Congress. Call 202–224–3121. State your zip code. When connected, tell them “I live in ___. I support SB3036, the ‘Keep Families Together Act’.”
  2. Use ResistBot to text your members of Congress. Text RESIST to 50409 and it will help you contact your elected officials.
  3. Donate to ActBlue, which splits donations between 12 different groups giving the most bang for your donation buck. Money goes to groups including, Al Otro Lado, The Florence Project, The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, We Belong Together, and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Donate here
  4. Contact ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) by writing them here or call them at 1–866-DHS-2-ICE. Register complaints with the Department of Homeland Security.
  5. While money is best, if you want to donate essential items like diapers, wipes, shampoo, and soap directly to immigrant children, Baby2Baby and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) set up a baby registry at Target.
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