This morning, July 4th, I woke up in an unusually anxious state. I sat for a while, in the quiet, and tried to put my finger on what was provoking the tightness behind my eyes and in my chest.
Anxiety isn’t a usual state for me and so I get very curious when I am feeling anxious, because typically, it’s for good reason.
It didn’t take me long to figure out.
When I awoke, the first thing I thought about was all the things I wanted to get done on this long weekend. I thought about our plans to go camp and attend a hotdog eating contest (it doesn’t get more American than that).
After about 30 seconds of thinking on my weekend plans, I was immediately hit with a pang of guilt. I thought about the families and children who are being kept in cages at the US – Mexico border. I thought about the idiocricy of my weekend planning and concern for taking advantage of a long-weekend when so many were suffering. So many who came seeking asylum from what they knew as home due to gang warfare and violence.
In my daily work, I occasionally have the privilege to work with individuals who have immigrated to the US. And without fail, I am consistently appalled by their treatment and the lack of opportunity they have as a result of a punitive and fear-based system. Many have significant depression due to the hopelessness they feel at the hands of our government.
“They should have stayed in their own country if they wanted to get ahead,” they say. “They’re just trying to feed off our welfare systems,” they blather. “They bring crime to this country, and we need to keep our nation sovereign,” they yell. They could not be more wrong. Check out the actual facts compiled by the Brookings Institute.
My father is Jewish- 99.95% Ashkenazi Jew (thank you 23 and Me), to be exact. There is a picture he has of his grandfather and his grandfather’s 10 siblings from when they were children in Poland. Of those 10 children and their parents, my great-grandfather and one of his siblings were the only two to live through the Holocaust.
“Never again,” we said after the Holocaust. “Concentration camps are vile,” we said as we built them in the US to house Japanese Americans around the same time we were dismantling them overseas. We never even acknowledged the land we stole, the generational trauma, genocide, forced assimilation and separation of native children from their families that we inflicted upon the people native to this land.
And yet here we are. Children and families stored like dogs in kennels, and I’m thinking about a hot-dog eating contest.
I have two nephews who are three and (almost) two. This morning I tried to imagine their faces on the images I saw of toddlers packed like sardines into appalling conditions. The physical and psychological trauma we are inflicting will have unimaginable and lasting repercussions.
So I sat, and I prayed, and I didn’t know what I could do, but I knew that going about my day without taking a moment to acknowledge the dichotomy of this day would be a disservice.
I am thankful, beyond thankful, to live in a country where I can go outside on my porch in the mornings, sip coffee, and see the sunrise in peace. I’m indebted to our veterans , many who sacrificed their lives, for my freedom and safety, many who struggle with PTSD and the impact of the atrocities they experienced on a daily basis.
I do not write this post to anyway undermine the gift given to us by those who serve and have served in our military, because the reality is that I would not have the life I do if I lived in another country, torn apart by war and famine.
But I would be remiss to gloss over the pain of this day. The pain of families who lost loved ones in sacrifice for our protection and the pain of those torn apart by injustices committed in this country and by our government.
This day brings with it loads of complexity; the sacrifice of those fallen, and the truth that independence and freedom are not afforded to many who reside in this country. My freedom is truly a privilege, and for that I’m indebted in ways I cannot imagine and I am grateful.
With the images we see and the stories we read, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Below is a list of actions we can take to address the crisis at the border. Take a look:
1. Call or Email Your Elected Officials
Here is an official government site with links to finding out who you should contact based on where you live in addition to a sample script of what you can say drafted by RAICES:
I am deeply concerned and saddened by the announcement of ICE raids coming to my community this weekend. The raids are inappropriately named "Family Op" and they couldn't be more detrimental to all American families.
My friends and neighbors are scared and many of them feel they are under attack. This amounts to domestic terrorism. ICE plans to target 2,000 families but even one raid in my neighborhood will spread fear across my entire community.
We DO NOT want this to happen in our community. Will you join with me, my friends and neighbors to defund ICE, put pressure on local ICE offices, and stop the immigration raids?
We need to stop this. Mass indiscriminate raids are NOT the answer.
Please help our neighbors. #ProtectEachOther
2. Learn and share accurate information.
3. Vote. Elections are right around the corner. Learn and support candidates who plan to address immigration in humane ways.
4. Thank a veteran for their service.
5. Donate to humanitarian organizations working to help those at the border. See below:
RAICES: This Texas-based organization offers free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families.
KIND (Kids In Need of Defense): The organization provides legal representation to migrant children and lobbies to ensure their rights are protected.
ActBlue Charities has set up a link that allows you to donate to 14 humanitarian organizations.
The Florence Project: This Arizona-based organization offers free legal services to people in immigration custody.
Justice in Motion: This group connects attorneys and nongovernmental organizations across the U.S., Mexico, and Central America to find parents who have been deported without their children and help them reunite.
Texas Civil Rights Project: This organization has been using legal advocacy and litigation to help families separated at the border.
Border Angels: This California-based organization supports San Diego County's immigrant population and focuses on issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border.
National Immigrant Justice Center: This program fights for policy reform and provides legal services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.