Child-Parent Separation at the Border, and What You Can Do

I don't get political on this website very often because I know our readers and listeners come from a wide spectrum of beliefs, and because I believe most of our perspectives are more nuanced than what’s described in our polarizing media climate.

My personal beliefs are nuanced. There’s no way I can be put in a political box, left or right. I mean that.

But when it comes to separating children from their parents, it no longer becomes a right or left issue. It becomes a moral one. This isn’t about who you voted for. This is about holding children as agenda-driven hostage.

It doesn’t matter if this law has been written for awhile now, and the government is just now enforcing it. It’s a travesty.

It doesn't matter if [insert other important issue] is also happening. We shouldn't let children in need be subject to whataboutery.

It doesn’t matter if we need to tighten our borders because of illegal entry. Children should never, ever be pawns as though this is a game.

It doesn’t matter if the Bible says to obey the government. We know that throughout history, there have been countless times when the greater good is about the very survival of human souls (see: Nazi Germany, the Iron Curtain in East Germany, the Hebrews' enslavement in Egypt).

(Plus, the Bible says to welcome the stranger many more times.)

(Plus, even though I’m personally a Christian, this isn’t a Christian Nation™.)

This post will get too long if I get into the specifics about the political spectrum of what I believe (see: nuanced) or about the hypocrisy of a nation literally created by immigrants and upon the backs of forced labor where we separated families because we believed in American Exceptionalism.

That’s for another time. Here, I want to first point you to other things to read that go deeper than what my knowledge can parlay, and second, what we can then do — because I know it’s so frustrating to feel helpless.

First, Read.

Listen to children who’ve just been separated at the border (As a Highly Sensitive Person, I admittedly can’t personally listen to this one. But if you can, do.)

"The effect of this type of event will follow these children into adulthood and into their entire lives," says Dr. Ana Maria Lopez, president of the American College of Physicians.

“The high view with which our faith calls us to view the family must translate into how we should never seek to separate families (or at least only do so if absolutely necessary). Separating children from their families is not a humane way to approach immigration policy, and it does not honor the dignity and respect afforded every human as made in the image of God.”

"If I DID allow strangers into my home without question and this was known far and wide, and then one day I decided I was done and was going to start shooting everyone who stepped foot on my property, I would be in the wrong, not the visitors who came seeking help. There were plenty of laws and justifications for Japanese internment too, but that doesn’t make it right.”

So if you cross any other way besides the bridge, we’re prosecuting you. But . . . you can’t cross the bridge.” “That’s right.”

Laura Bush says, “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

An all-around basic FAQ on what’s going on.

“I did immigration casework for Senator Fritz Hollings, studied immigration law at law school under a former INS general counsel, and worked for a border Congressman in the district that included the Rio Grande Valley. So hear me out.”

Finally, follow the hashtag #FamiliesBelongTogether on Twitter.

Then, Do.

Dear friends whom I trust have suggested most of these, and for that, I'm grateful.

1. Contact your reps.

Call Congress and demand they stop the family separation policy. Overwhelmed at the thought of talking on the phone? Use ResistBot — this is what I did (and do, for a variety of ongoing issues). It walks you right through the process, even helping you find your elected officials if you don’t yet know them.

Here’s the script I used, tweaking it based on one I found online:

“Hello! My name is Tsh Oxenreider and I’m calling from Georgetown, Texas. I’m calling today to tell Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Representative John Carter to speak out against the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant families at the Southern border. This policy is cruel and inhumane and needs to stop. I think it’s very important for Congress to speak out against what is happening to families and to practice oversight on the Trump administration’s immigration actions. I’d also like these men who represent me to cosponsor the HELP for Separated Children Act, which strengthens protections for immigrant families and children. Thanks.”

Find your elected officials here or here.

2. Volunteer.

If you speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal experience, the Texas Civil Rights ProjectThe Florence Project and RAICES are looking for volunteers. If you’d like to get involved locally, look up immigration-related organizations near you by entering your zip code, and contact them to see if there's anything you can do to help.

I’m in Texas. So, I’m talking with my local church’s leadership about what I can personally do, both as someone living in a border state and as someone with this platform. I’ll keep you posted if we come up with something specific — there’s a team headed down to the border this week to partner with another church in our diocese about a variety of issues.

3. Donate.

There’s lots of good organizations doing good work, like RAICES, Border Angels, Together Rising, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

There’s a few more resources listed here.

I’m warily leaving comments open here, only so if any of you know of more resources, you can kindly share them. I have zero interest in hosting a political debate here, so if it turns into that, know in advance comments will be deleted. If you disagree with anything I say, well, remember that 99% of what I’ve said above is simply about the basic idea that children should not be taken away from their parents.

The readers and listeners here are good people. I know you to care about the common good. I’m grateful for that.

Update: Reader and patron Bethany shared with me her Facebook friend's post, and it's too good not to add to this post: "Please, for those of you posting about this, on both sides: if you care about these children as much as you say you do - STOP the partisan sniping. STOP defending 'your team' while blaming 'the other team.' STOP trying to use the issue to gain political traction in future legislative negotiations. Get on the phone. Call your congressman and your senators." Read the whole thing — it's lengthy, but worth it.

Another update: My colleague Gabrielle has shared other fantastic links and resources as well.

Photos by John Moore

Reading Time:

5 minutes

 

 

 

71 Comments

  1. Mary Lou

    Well said! I admire and appreciate your courage to stand up and speak about the immorality of what is happening. Thank you.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It’s the tiniest least of which I could do, but thanks, Mary Lou!

  2. Angie Riopelle

    Thank you for some practical ways that we can stand up for the helpless. I’m a fellow Texan and I used your links to contact my US representatives. This should not happen here.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thank you for contacting them!

  3. Melanie Martin Cornelius

    Resistbot is such a useful tool! Thank you for these words and for the list of organizations we can donate to.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Isn’t it? Using it daily right now. 🙂 And you’re welcome!

  4. Anya

    Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley has been involved for a few years now—as I recall, on their website it’s under “Humanitarian Assistance” or something similar. There’s a donate button on the top right. Also, I live and work in SoCal, and volunteer when I can in Mexico—I won’t go into the details, but the things people flee when they seek asylum like this are harrowing. Ripping their family members from them, and separating children from their parents, is unconscionable.

    http://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/Home.aspx

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Amen y amen. And thanks for the recommendation + link! Appreciate it.

  5. Heidi

    Thank you for providing ways we can actually help! I’m a Texas resident currently living overseas, and although I’ve been following the issue closely I was overwhelmed trying to figure out how to reach out to my senators and representative, especially since the time difference makes calling difficult and mail takes weeks to arrive. Thanks to your information, I’ve now e-mailed both Texas senators and my representative in the House.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Woot!

  6. Deborah Nam-Krane

    Thank you for putting this out there. My reps are already doing what they should be for this, so I’ll happily donate to one of those organizations to supplement.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’m so glad to hear!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Great suggestion! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Karen

    You’re concise post is the best I’ve read. Thanks for moving many to respond to this immoral policy. I’m with Laura Bush…this breaks my heart! My prayers are with these dear children that the God of all comfort would be with them until they are reunited with their parents. And I hope Congress hears our pleas and acts swiftly to end this nightmare.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Lord, have mercy. With you on this, Karen.

    • John Hall

      I’m not with Laura Bush – she is pro-abortion & has done nothing to help this situation. Change the law, yes. Acknowledge that families are best when they are together. Aid those in need, yes. But why the sudden rush Today? Where have we all been since 1997 – when the laws that were enacted were created? Are we having our attention diverted from something equally – or maybe more important?

      • Barbara Hyatt

        No one is “pro-abortion ,” and that is something you need to understand. There are many people who are pro-choice, which offers the person who is facing the issue to make the decision for herself. I have never met anyone who thinks that abortion is a great idea, but sometimes it’s the best choice for the person facing such a difficult decision. If you don’t think abortion is right for you, don’t have one, but please don’t try to force your prejudices on others.

  8. Amber

    Excellent

  9. SHU

    Thank you so much for posting this, TSH. I agree this is one issue that I think unites so many of us coming from different political perspectives. I appreciate your courage and voice, and appreciate the list of donation opportunities. Thank you.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I so hope it does indeed unite us, SHU… feels like a tall order these days, but I really do believe most of us with hearts really do have more in common than we have different.

  10. Leah

    Thank you for posting this. My heart is hurting for these families. It’s so comforting to read posts like yours with clear calls to do something. Thank you for speaking up about this and for giving such great resources for folks to follow and take action.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Taking action is comforting, isn’t it, Leah. I’m so glad you feel this way, too.

  11. BoB

    What about the thousands of children of US Citizens that are ripped from their parent’s arms each day in this country when they put into the criminal justice system? Thousands of children of US Citizens are put in the custody of the state each day when their parents are put in jail for crimes they committed. Why is that okay and the separating of children from adults entering the US illegally not okay?

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Like what I said in the post, I don’t engage in whataboutery in instances like this. The good news about being informed adults is that we’re able to care about multiple things at the same time. Hooray!

    • Anka

      Thank you, Tsh for this beautiful assessment. I know you do not want to split hairs on this topic but I hope that I may answer BoB?

      Apples and Oranges:
      a) Trying to bring your child to a safer country knocking on the door and begging for help, is not a crime.
      b) Convicted criminals in the US are putting the safety of their children at risk with their behaviors.
      The deed of taking children away in (a) and (b) is the same but the intent is far different. By confiscating children in
      (a) is causing traumatic pain (b) is trying to alleviate traumatic pain.

      All children – the innocents – should be protected from trauma if they are yours or the others. If they are from a criminal or not. Using children for political gain is deeply inhumane and shows no compassion. My prayer is that compassion will return to fill our hearts, our minds, our politics, our religions, our communities, this country, as God intended.

    • Alison

      Thank you for the links to read and understand the issue. We need in depth information before engaging in any conversation, comment or course of action. The ” whataboutery” term is so needed. I work non profit in another country and often here this comment of what about_____. I learned from a very wise woman not to fret over proving any point of importance or urgency but rather I acknowledge thier statement and ask what they are involved in that is serving the concerns of their cause. I ask to be truly interested . I may know someone else who feels that calling connect them or file away the information for the future. I am usually met with blank stares, cue the crickets. Not always but 98 % of the time. It was used as a distraction or justification move on their part. I just can’t worry about that. Thank you for real actions we can take to help this issue. We will act and move not just “bitch by the water cooler” (a little family expression we use for motivation -aka GOYA)

    • L

      Well said! My sentiments exactly.

    • Barbara Hyatt

      It may be wise to keep in mind that anyone, including you, could be next. When a “leader” decides s/he can do things like this, NO ONE is safe.

      • Lisa

        First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

        Because I was not a Socialist.

        Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

        Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

        Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

        Because I was not a Jew.

        Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

        -Martin Niemöller

  12. April Baker

    I was expecting this to be completely opposite of what I read. I have seen so many Christians speak out so openly in support of what the administration is doing and always going back to the same line that this law has been in place for years why aren’t you mad at Clinton or Tru I was expecting this to be completely opposite of what I read. I have seen so many Christians speak out so openly in support of what the administration is doing and always going back to the same line that this law has been in place for years why aren’t you mad at Clinton or Obama?! It is so refreshing to see such a compassionate and Christlike point of you put out there on the Internet and it was a huge risk for you to do that. I will continue to pray the Lord will bless you and that he will bring opportunities into your life to help. Why can’t we just do what the Bible tells us to do and that’s love our neighbor as thy self!

  13. Holly Forseth

    My favorite migrant helper organization is Kino Border Initiative in Noglaes, AZ and Nogales, Sonora. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/who-we-are/

    They are binational, so looking at the border issue from both sides, and they do work to help the migrant’s immediate needs as well as work towards humane, just, workable migration. The people there are full of compassion, love for the people they serve, and enough energy to work to change policies.

    Volunteering there changes your views on the people who are so often ignored individually yet disparaged as a group. Their stories are real, many simply trying to reconnect with their American born children, or find some way, any way to support their families.

    And they are full of hope. It amazes me every time.

    Thanks for collecting this information and calling us to action, Tsh.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks for introducing me to this great resource! Appreciate it, Holly.

    • Anya

      This is a few degrees of separation, but thank you for posting this, because one of the Jesuit staff there is my sister’s friend’s brother. 🙂 I’ve heard about their good work for years.

  14. Kathie in Vegas

    Very well said. I will definitely share this. You called it perfectly when you added STOP defending “your team” while blaming “the other team. It hits the nail on the head.
    Thank you for sharing!

  15. Jeanne

    I have signed the ACLU’s petition and made a donation. It’s my one, small contribution. As a parent, this breaks my heart. As a human being, this breaks my heart. I am so tired of the name calling. It’s helping no one. Thank you for sharing these resources and using your platform for good. It is much appreciated. I can only hope that we, as a country, will raise our voices loudly enough to put the “fear of God” into our elected politicians to change this, now. My elected reps are doing their part and I am proud of them.

  16. Cathy Bartemus

    Tsh,
    Well said and well done – you have given us a way to understand and respond. It is overwhelming to imagine children in this situation- and I am at a loss to understand how it actually could have happened. The following article was also helpful to me – it lists some of the facts, and helped me to realize I am not alone as a Christian in my view of this tragedy. Praying for God to move miraculously and working as I can to help.
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-faqs-what-you-should-know-about-family-separation-at-the-border/

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I hadn’t read this one yet; thanks for sharing, Cathy!

  17. Pamela

    I spent this weekend writing letters – one to Jeff Sessions and eight to the leadership team at ICE. Have a few more to write this week (Trump, Steven Miller, the head of DHS). Fortunately my CA reps are doing good work on this so I’m working on the national angle. It breaks my heart. And yes, at this point I do not care whose “fault” it is – these children are being held hostage and that is not ok with me. Thanks for the other resources!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Pamela!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Heavna. I came thisclose to adding that article to my post, but I felt like it put too much blame on Congress, specifically the Democrats, for this crisis happening. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t repealing the Flores Consent Decree include approval for building the wall? Meaning, the wall has been lumped into the legislation to end family separation (which is why some congresspeople aren’t wanting to pass it)?

      From my understanding, the President has jurisdiction to stop this parent-child separation policy with just a phone call. Is this not correct? I truly do appreciate perspective from both sides, because I believe both sides need to hear from each other SO very much…

      • trina

        Yes, all legislation pending in Congress proposed by Republicans includes billions (with a B) of dollars for a border barricade. The exact number varies – I’ve heard anywhere from $25B to $325B. Democrats have introduced stand-alone bills relating solely to family separations, but those are unlikely to go anywhere because, well, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan hold all the control for what bills are voted on.

        Separate from my disdain for The Great Wall of Mexico, I am also infuriated by the patronizing sentiments expressed last year by Senate Republicans that our country “couldn’t afford” various things like children’s health care, and we “needed” that tax cut for the wealthy … and now they want to appropriate BILLIONS of dollars for a barricade across the desert.

        • Tsh Oxenreider

          Same, Trina. Thanks for adding what you know here.

  18. Anne

    Donated. Thanks Tsh!

  19. Susan Shank Mix

    Thank you! I have been feeling helpless and now I have resources. Almost all our churches have humanitarian aid departments that will be doing something and would appreciate our donations.

  20. Lindsay

    Tsh, thank you for this post. It seriously hits every point.
    When I see people continually talking about upholding the ‘law’ it brings us right back around to so many other times in history that our laws. were. not. right.
    I cannot fathom how a anyone, especially a person of faith can support this and defend these horrible things.
    Resistbot was simple and I was able to send emails to my representatives in less than 2 minutes.

    Every Sunday we gather with migrant workers and immigrants at our parish. To think that any of these families could be separated crushes me. We must not forget we belong to each other. <3

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Your last sentence says it all right there, Lindsay. Yes and amen.

  21. Aimee

    Thank you for sharing this, Tsh! I totally agree. This has nothing to do with which way you lean politically. It’s just a matter of basic human decency. I’ve been feeling unsure of how to make a difference, so I appreciate this so very much! Off to call my representatives.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Is really is about basic human decency, isn’t it? I’m glad, Aimee.

  22. Emily

    Tsh- I’ve read your blog regularly for years and never left a comment. Today’s the day. Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking out on this.

    I’d also add one thing to your list: vote! While I appreciate that your take in the the issue is nonpartisan (truly), this policy is evidence that elections have consequences.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes! Thank you for this reminder, Emily. And thank you for your kind words.

  23. Kristen

    Thank you! I came to you from Design Mom. I’m commenting here because it does my heart good to see all of the other comments. It gives me hope. I’ve been e-mailing, calling, donating, and tomorrow I will go to my first-ever protest. “Whataboutery” is my new favorite word.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Waving hi, Kristen!

  24. Diane Muldoon

    Thank you for this post. I too come from a military family. The kind of military family that embraces all humans with needs. We were raised to put ourselves in the shoes of others…to turn the other cheek, to be kind. We traveled a lot and saw what others suffered through.
    Our career air force family fought overseas so we could protect the real American values that we were all so proud of.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, Diane. It’s so valuable, and I’m grateful you did.

  25. Julie

    Thank you for taking a stand. I have attempted to avoid political issues on social media, because I could not nuance my position. But this issue is the end of silence for me. Tomorrow I will be, with my daughter and granddaughter, demonstrating before ICE headquarters on this issue. I know they are “doing their job”, but children are never ever to be used as pawns. They are, without exception, precious in God’s eyes.

  26. Tsh Oxenreider

    To the reader named Bambi… hi there. I deleted your four comments because, as I said at the end of this post, I’ll delete any comments that seem to be more about inciting debate over sharing resources. You’re welcome here, as always, but you’re not welcome to speak about those most vulnerable in our world the way you did.

    Further, you made the statement “This has no place on websites …like this.” Whenever someone makes comments like this, whether it’s on someone’s website they personally own (like I do here), or or someone’s social media account (i.e., “You shouldn’t be talking about this” or “Don’t get political”), I find it so, so strange… I mean, it’s here. I put these words here. I get to decide what I talk about here. That’s like me coming into my friend’s house, seeing an armchair there, and saying, “Why is your chair here? You shouldn’t have your chair in your house.” People are about lots of things, and we should all have thoughts on things that matter. I’ve chosen to use my platform to share what I think is important.

    This site is about living well, and I frequently cite the well-known quote (sometimes attributed to Mother Teresa, sometimes to Gandhi, sometimes to others), “Live simply so that others may simply live.” We do talk about issues that matter here. It’s not our frequent focus, but we’ve talked about things that we feel matter from Day 1. One of the big purposes of this site is to talk about global, ethical issues — in fact, on our About page, it says, plain as day, this is “a community-focused blog about working for the common good, pursuing margin, and savoring the little things in life.” If this topic isn’t about working for the common good, I don’t know what is.

    Go in peace, and be well.

    • Pauline

      Tsh, your answer to agressive comments is so, so commendable. You drew your line in the sand and that’s fair. (Aggressive comments make my blood boil and I admire your patience and calm)

      • Tsh Oxenreider

        Thanks, Pauline! (TBH, I had to walk away and take a deep breath for awhile so I could answer with patience and calm… It’s not always easy.) 😉

  27. Alison

    Tsh can you provide any more info on the recordings of the children? I have listened and looked for any additional verification outside of ProPublica but have not found anything. CNN said they have contacted them but without s response. I have no doubt of distress I just am very research minded and look for outside and additional verification . Thank you

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Honestly, I haven’t looked further, out of busyness in my real life. But if you find more info, please do link to it here! Thanks, Alison.

  28. AnneMarie

    Tsh, thank you so much for writing this!!! I have been so disheartened by the many people who are turning the family separation issue into one big political game, so reading your thoughts is really refreshing. I honestly don’t care to sit around and try to blame a political party or politician; I hope we can all agree that this family separation is horrific and needs to end. Thank you for working towards a more compassionate, unified culture!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      You’re welcome, AnneMarie! And thanks to everyone else doing their part as well.

  29. Alana

    Thank you Tsh for educating us on this issue. I had no idea. My heart is broken, thinking about my own kids and what it must be like for these precious children. My kids saw me in tears after reading about this, and when I gave them the brief about what was happening, my 9 year old son said, “that sounds like what they did to the slaves.” I hadn’t thought of that. My mind had gone to Nazi German though, and the concentration camps. Shameful that either of those should remind us of our President’s/Country’s behavior today.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It is exactly what happened here with those put in forced bondage here in our country; your son is right, Alana. We literally separated families for our “benefit.”

      And you’re correct, there’s also correlation with concentration camps as well.

  30. Nell

    Tsh and others: any thoughts on what, other than donate, non-Americans can do to help? There’s lots of feeling about this policy in the UK (and I’m sure everywhere) and we’d love to be able to do something useful. Best wishes, Nell x

  31. Veronica

    Thank you for the resources. If we stay quiet we are complicit.

  32. Leslie Flowers

    Thank you for using your platform to pass on this information. And even more, I appreciate your bravery in opening yourself up to Facebook comments. I read them and quite a few made me queasy and frustrated. I wanted you to know how grateful I am for your perspective and that you are willing to share it and put yourself out in the world.

  33. Claire Denlea

    I have literally cried looking at pictures of these innocent children. It is criminal, it is tragedy X 2,000. This makes me ashamed to be an American. We have fallen so far as a nation; this stain will never wash away. As for the border guards response “I am only doing my job” that’s what the Nazi’s said. I am raising hell, I assure you.

  34. Sarah Luehof

    This is excellent, Tsh. I’m wondering what Canadians and folks from outside the US can do in terms of political pressure and practical help? I learned too late of the march happening in my area this past weekend (and it was way too hot to go). Any resources you’ve heard of would be great.

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