What’s happening at the border
Do you know what’s happening at the border? It’s a serious question. I’m not asking if you’ve heard that there’s some sort of humanitarian crisis, or if you’ve seen headlines debating the semantics of whether or not we should be calling these facilities “concentration camps.” I’m asking: do you know what’s actually, physically happening to men, women, and children at the southern border?
Are you aware that children are still being systematically separated from their parents or other relatives when they come to seek asylum in the United States? That these children are being kept in squalid conditions, unable to shower, brush their teeth, or change their tear, snot, and vomit covered clothes? That children “as young as 7 or 8” are caring for infants and toddlers? That the kids in these facilities are facing infestations of lice and outbreaks of the flu? That they’re sleeping on concrete floors? That, even though most of these children have parents and adult relatives in the U.S. who are trying to reunite with them, we’re keeping kids in these camps for weeks at a time — at the cost of hundreds of taxpayer dollars per day? That children are dying?
Because all of that is happening at the border. ¹ ² ³
Did you see that men and women are being held in dangerously overcrowded facilities? That cells meant to hold 8, 12, and 35 people are being used to contain 41, 76, and 155 persons (respectively)? That these cells are so overcrowded that people are standing on toilets just to breathe? That there are nursing mothers in these cells?
That people are being kept in soiled clothes for days or even weeks? That many of these facilities — with rooms made almost entirely of metal and concrete — are kept at 55 degrees and referred to colloquially as “iceboxes” or “freezers?”
Because all of that is happening at the border. ⁴ ⁵
Have you been alerted to the fact that, when the cold, unsanitary, and overcrowded facilities physically can’t fit any more people, these folks are transferred to outdoor facilities described as “human dog pounds?”
That these camps are surrounded by chain link fences and oftentimes the only thing people have to protect themselves from the 100+ degree heat are makeshift tents made from mylar blankets? That people are held here for more than a month at a time with inadequate food or other essential supplies?
Because all of that is happening at the border. ⁶
Did you know that when confronted about the conditions in which children were being held, the current administration argued in court that soap, toothbrushes, and beds are not necessary for kids to be “safe and sanitary?”
Did you know that the administration’s justification for holding asylum seekers in these horrific conditions at the border is that if they’re released into the country they won’t show up for their hearings at a later date — but “a review of close to 47,000 family immigration cases” found that the vast majority of these folks do show up for their court dates?
Because all of that is the reality of what is going on in our country, right now, as you read this.
I’ll be the first to admit, it’s easy to look away. To lose yourself in work or school or family issues or literally anything else. After all, these facilities are hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away, oftentimes in the middle of nowhere. And for the vast majority of us, these are people we don’t (and likely never will) know. But we can’t look away.
These people have traveled thousands of miles fleeing the worst kinds of violence and persecution — only to be treated like this? To be locked in cages with horrific conditions and have their children ripped away? To not even be given a fair chance to prove their asylum claims?
Anyone living in this country has a responsibility to work toward closing down these camps that our government is operating on our Southern Border. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you’re on. Treating men, women, and children like this is unacceptable. Full stop. And remember — anything the government can get away with doing to one group of people, they can ultimately get away with doing to any group of people.
So what can we do?
You can contact your Senators and Representatives in the federal government. You can tell them that as a constituent, you’re deeply concerned with what is going on at the border. You can tell them you want a thorough investigation of what has and is happening, more funding to immigration courts to ensure fair and timely processing of asylum claims, and an immediate closure of these camps and facilities. If you’re unsure how to do this, here’s a great resource known as 5 Calls that will provide you with a sample script and a list of phone numbers to your Senators and Representatives in Congress.
You can donate to RAICES, “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees,” that is operating on the front lines of this crisis. And if you have the resources, here’s a list of some other groups worthy of your support.
You can keep an eye out for any rallies, marches, or protests in your area raising attention to this issue and attend them when they happen. We need to be physically showing up whenever possible.
And because it bears repeating: Don’t. Look. Away. Don’t look away from what is happening in our country. Keep searching out and reading reporting on this crisis. Share the stories on social media and talk about them with your friends and family. Don’t let this fade out of the news cycle.
Together, united and informed, we can stop what is going on — before it gets any worse.
I have a lot of opinions. Follow me on Twitter: @nathantaft