We are reprinting below an urgent message fromUS Senator Kristen Gillebrand (D.-NY) about her recent visit to the southern US border to look into the plight of children separated from their parents.
I TRAVELED EARLIER THIS WEEK TO TEXAS, where I saw firsthand 1,400 children living in an industrial converted Walmart, and women and children who came to our country seeking asylum being held in an ICE detention center. Let’s call this what it is: Women and children are being institutionalized in what are essentially prisons. The kids are monitored 24/7. Their every move is on camera. These are not places for kids.
Being there felt Orwellian. Our every move being watched, conversations with children and parents in the facility tightly controlled and abruptly ended. The people I spoke with didn’t know where their husbands and fathers were. It’s hard to fully comprehend the sense of loss and displacement that comes from being torn apart from loved ones, that comes from kids who are so young and innocent losing everything familiar and being placed inside these warehouses, completely closed off from the outside world. It’s devastating, what our government is doing to these families. It’s completely dehumanizing.
The first deadline set by a federal court for the Trump administration to reunite children under 5 with their families was not met. Being on the ground at this facility, it was clear beyond the shadow of a doubt: The administration’s efforts to make these families whole are poorly planned and completely chaotic. I am more afraid than ever that our government will permanently orphan some of these children out of sheer incompetence.
What is being carried out is cruelty on top of cruelty, inhumanity on top of inhumanity. I heard from people on the ground who said the Trump administration’s actions have created a chilling effect that’s resulted in fewer family members coming forward for these kids because they’re afraid of the possibility of being deported themselves. I asked repeatedly whether “zero tolerance” is acting as a deterrent, as the administration claimed it would. The answer was a resounding no.
I saw women deep in prayer, tears streaming down their faces. I met a 19-year-old woman who was raped in Guatemala. When she got to our border, she was thrown in a detention center with her child, and now she is so, so scared she’ll be sent back. I met a woman who fled death threats from a gang in Honduras. These people are refugees – not criminals. Their treatment on our soil is morally intolerable. And the dangers facing them at home make the inhumane treatment to which they’re being subjected here especially hard to stomach.
It is unfathomably cruel that we could traumatize children so young and women who’ve lived in such a desperate state of fear that they’ve left their homes. These are families who came seeking asylum, a process of admission into our country based on the dangers facing them in their home countries. Some have been victimized and targeted by violent gangs. There are stories of rape, of extreme poverty. They came because they’ve heard the Statue of Liberty’s call, because they’ve heard this country is a place of refuge for the tired, the sick and the poor.
This administration has removed gang and domestic violence as reasons that warrant asylum. It’s trying to rewrite our nation’s history of being a safe haven for those in need. This administration has made the active decision to demonize all undocumented immigrants and to demean and traumatize asylum-seekers.
The depravity of it all is almost too much to bear. The brutal conditions and heartbreaking stories magnify the shamefulness of the administration’s policy. In a country to which people are coming for hope and help, they’re finding indifference and discrimination. They’re finding new kinds of hurt they didn’t and couldn’t have seen coming.
This is a humanitarian crisis – a crisis created by the cruelty of an administration that has no desire to correct the turmoil it’s caused, nor compassion for those fleeing unimaginable violence at home.
We can do better. We must. We have to pursue humane solutions, not scare tactics that rip families apart. We need comprehensive immigration reform that creates pathways to citizenship and fixes the asylum process. We need to reimagine ICE as something more than a mass deportation force that is now diverting resources from going after violent criminals and drug traffickers. We need to keep raising our voices to demand the administration fix its mistakes and make these families whole. The administration has broken lives, and we can’t let it change the story, skirt accountability and leave these families and children’s lives broken.
What was clear during my visit is this: This crisis is not over. For many of the families, it’s just beginning. The work of finding one another, repairing hurt and overcoming trauma will last a lifetime. Psychiatrists have said these children could suffer from a range of mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
And since the crisis isn’t over, we can’t stop fighting. You can’t stop calling your elected officials to demand they take action on immigration reform and force the administration to end this abuse. You can’t stop calling your local news outlets asking them for updates on this ongoing disaster. You can’t stop giving to groups providing legal aid and other services to the people being held by the administration.
This nightmare won’t soon end for these children and families. We can’t look away, either. They need us to help right these injustices. They need us to be the hope they believed was worth chasing.
|Please send your urgent support to the organizations on the ground at the border doing critical work to help these families – from providing legal aid in an effort to reunite children with their parents to helping people get medical services and counseling to help them deal with the trauma of family separation.
Here’s the link to donate: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/kg-supportkids
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