By Anne Sommerkamp

Humane Americans have to shine a light on the $#!T show happening at the southern border. It has been over a year since the first images of “kids in cages” started showing up in the media. The Trump administration is making it harder for reporters to get into detention facilities to show the nation how detainees are being treated. Awareness is key to fighting the anti-immigrant agenda while working to vote every politician out of office who shares responsibility for this crisis. Compassionate citizens must stand up for refugee families seeking asylum and make sure that this administration answers for the abuses.

Support immigrant rights’ work and join PASO in a conversation with special guests,  Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, State Senator Don Harmon, and State Representative Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez Thursday, July 18  6:30 PM – 8:30 PM at Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park, 875 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60301 to find out What Is Happening with Immigration at the state and federal level.

Need on the border is growing and far outweighs the efforts of the NGOs and volunteers. “It is a humanitarian crisis, but we don’t see any humanitarian response to it,” says Father Pat Murphy, director of Tijuana’s Casa del Migrante shelter, which houses 120 migrants and refugees. Father Murphy says many immigrant families are not sure where their next meal will come from and they rely on overstretched shelters run by overstretched volunteers. Tijuana and other border cities from Mexicali to Ciudad Juárez are feeling the strain. A recent International Rescue Committee assessment states “shelters designed to host 100 people for a maximum of three days are now hosting 300 people for well over a month.”

Rather than investing in anti-corruption and good governance in the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala), or pursuing policies that would make the U.S. asylum and migration system better, the Trump administration is cutting funds and trying to stem the flow of migrants and asylum seekers using cruelty. Family separation, detention under inhumane conditions, forcing asylum seekers to wait weeks or months in Mexican border towns through metering access to ports of entry, and now the “Remain in Mexico” program sending asylum seekers back to Mexico while they wait for immigration hearings in the United States.  These are policies at odds with the values of compassion and humane treatment that has characterized the best of the United States. As a country, we can manage and absorb the immediate flow of Central American migrants in ways that are sensible and consistent with our values. That’s why so many people have resisted President Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals. It’s why we’ve seen so much public outrage at the abuses reported at the border. It is why Congress and the courts have pushed aback against the most egregious of the president’s initiatives. These measures are intended to make conditions so difficult that asylum seekers give up on exercising their right to pursue a safe, dignified, and productive life for themselves and their families. 

While Trump increases mass raids and detentions, and continues to separate immigrant families, there’s been a renewed call for churches, congregations, and community groups to respond by protecting and defending migrants by declaring sanctuary. Such efforts deserve widespread support, as the Trump administration continues to double down on its hateful, anti-migrant agenda.  

Policymakers in the administration and Congress must create a humane and sensible migration and asylum system. As long as threats and abuses continue – opposition, sanctuary initiatives, and other forms of resistance will continue.
6 ways you can help end immigration detention

1.      Donate
There are organizations helping immigrants stuck in detention, refugees seeking asylum from violence or oppression, and trying to reunite family members in the U.S. after they are released from detention centers. Here are a few organizations doing the heavy lifting:  

2.      Volunteer Your Time  
Organizations listed above need attorneys willing to donate their time and legal expertise. You’re not a lawyer? Through El Refugio, volunteers can visit detainees or prepare meals for families staying in the organization’s Hospitality House. Immigrant Families Together needs people to help transport released detainees to reunite with family members.

3.      Translate
One of the biggest roadblocks for immigrants coming to the U.S. is communicating. If you can, put your language skills to use. With RAICES, for example, volunteers can help translate documents remotely, or translate for attorneys and clients. Immigration Equality, which specifically helps LGBTQ+ immigrants, has clients around the world who need help with translating client interviews and putting together asylum applications.

4.      Lobby Your Representatives
There’s nothing wrong with good old-fashioned phone calls and letter-writing to your members of Congress.

5.      Let Them Know They’re Not Alone.
Write letters or send holiday cards to people in detention and let them know the world is still watching. Find further info at El Refugio, which will make sure your kind words go to a good place.

6.       Recruit Others
If you feel safe doing so, share what you’re doing on social media and encourage them to get in on the act. You might help others figure out the best way for them to contribute toward ending this crisis.