I AM A CHILD

Aug 26, 2018 by

Children and families take part in a Washington sit-in to mark the court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunify families separated at the border.
Children and families take part in a Washington sit-in to mark the court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunify families separated at the border. Carlos Barria/Reuters
By America Ferrera
We have witnessed the images of children locked behind chain link fences. We have heard the audio of a child crying uncontrollably, asking for “Papá” and “Mamá.” As a new mother, I cannot fathom the rationale behind this administration’s separating innocent children from their parents. The emptiness of compassion has characterized this administration from the outset, but recently our country’s values and ideals have become unrecognizable.
This administration has vilified immigrants. President Trump has placed a target on children and families fleeing gang and drug violence, political persecution and humanitarian crises in our neighboring countries. With little regard for human decency, his administration is not only denying the latest wave of immigrants the opportunity to contribute to the American fabric but also dehumanizing them in the process.
I am one of those mothers who has watched in horror, imagining the terror of being separated from my child. Like many Americans, I initially expressed my outrage on social media, knowing that would never be enough. That’s why I stood proudly in front of the White House with tens of thousands of mothers — many with their children — a couple of weeks ago for a National Day of Action to demand an end to family separation and detention. We vowed we would not stop until all separated children are reunited with their parents.
Yet, as the American people have learned, this administration is not prepared to reunify the very same families it has torn apart. Our government was so fixed on deterring asylum seekers from coming to our country, it did not bother to make a contingency plan to quickly reunite children with their families.
Congress’s inability to keep this administration in check is putting our country’s values at risk. Since the introduction of the zero-tolerance policy, Congress has failed to act and has ceded the immigration debate to an administration willing to minimize the role immigrants have always played in the building of our country. With one party in control, we cannot expect to have full accountability, but we must try.
We’ve seen what organized, grass-roots movements can accomplish. From protecting health care access to electing a wave of new and diverse candidates to higher office, that’s the power we yield, and that’s the legacy I want to leave my young son. I want him to know I stood up against xenophobia and fought like a mother to see every family reunited. As of Aug. 16, 565 children — 24 of them under age 5 — were still separated from their families and being held in detention centers.
More than 10 members of Congress — and Americans nationwide — have called for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the face of the cruel zero-tolerance policy. Nielsen and anyone else involved in a policy that inflicted trauma on children must be investigated for their role in creating this humanitarian crisis. And every member of Congress with a conscience should refuse to fund federal programs tied to these policies moving forward.
There is critical work that we must do. Call your representatives and demand they reunite families. Make sure your friends and family members are registered to vote and turn out in November. We must ensure this never happens on our watch again by playing our role in democracy and holding our elected officials accountable.
America Ferrera is an actress, producer and director; a co-founder of Harness, which connects communities through conversation to inspire action and power change; author of “American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures”, and the mother of a baby boy, Sebastian.

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