You’ve seen the reports. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve been horrified as have I.
Parents with their children surrendering themselves at the border, fleeing from violence and persecution in their home country—to begin the legal procedure to request asylum—are arrested. Border patrol officers take children from the arms of their parents, sometimes separating screaming toddlers from screaming mothers.
Throughout these horrendous reports, the Trump administration has lied about what is happening and why.
They lied and said that Democrats were responsible for changing the policies. (The Republicans are in control of the House and the Senate and the White House. These policies are not from the Democratic Party.)
They lied and said their hands were tied and that they were just following the law. (There is no law that says children must be separated from parents seeking asylum. Only a year ago, these families were allowed to stay together and placed under the Family Case Management Program, which was terminated prematurely by ICE after only one year of a five-year pilot so that the money could be spent on deportation.)
They lied and said that these family separation policies were to keep us safe.
What they have done is cause intentional, irreparable harm to children who have been placed in unsafe, traumatic situations of suffering. They have caused frantic fears in both parents and children, who are worried beyond imagination that they will not find each other and will be separated forever by deportation. Their fears are not unfounded.
Among the lies, this administration has revealed the truth behind these cruel separations: To frighten families into staying away from the United States.
The message is simple: No matter how cruel your situation is in your home country, you will not find shelter here.
We will not wait to hear your application.
We will not consider whether you have a credible claim for asylum.
You will not be given due process.
If you come to our border, we will assume you are a criminal.
We will take your children from you.
We will put you in jail and then declare your children abandoned and unaccompanied and place them “… into foster care, or whatever,” according to the careless words of the White House Chief of Staff.
We cannot be silent about this attack on fragile children and vulnerable families. We must speak. We must act.
Immigration issues are complicated. But some things are simple. Since the beginning of the immigration debate, the National Education Association has fought for a framework that has to include three simple things:
- Do not punish children for decisions they didn’t make.
- Do not separate families.
- Provide a trusted path to citizenship for immigrant Dreamers.
We’ve put together this advisory for NEA members who want to know their rights to advocate on this issue. There are many ways you can make your voice heard!
- Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives. Their job is to conduct oversight of Department of Homeland Security–they must hold DHS accountable. Tell them how you feel. If you use 5 Calls to contact your reps, there is already a script in the system you can use.
- Sign the Petition: The ACLU is gathering signatures to petition Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan to stop the government from abusing immigrant children. You can find the petition here.
- You can contact ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) directly. Write to them here or call them at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
- Let your voice be heard at the United Nations: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended guidelines for human rights at international borders which you can read here. The reported actions our DHS is taking do not comply with these guidelines. You can contact the UN Office for Human Rights here.
- Join Amnesty International in calling for an end to the U.S. policy of separating children at the border. Their call to action can be found here.
- Hold Cabinet members accountable for their actions: Americans of Conscience has a list of seven other U.S. officials who need to hear from us and has a script to use. That list is here.
- Find out how to make your schools and school districts Safe Zones for immigrant students.
- Share this valuable information to protect chilldren and families: Know Your Rights-Immigration & Schools, Know Your Rights: Immigration Enforcement, and Supporting Immigrant Students & Families-Training for Educators (PowerPoint).
What is happening to these desperate families is simply wrong. It’s unimaginably cruel. Speak out. Speak up. Let your voice be heard!