As a blogger it is a little scary to write something ‘off niche’, or something that is pretty far from your usual type of content. It feels risky. Will it ‘put off’ readers? Will I make a tit of myself because I’m not an expert on the topic I’m commenting on? Then there’s that sort of ‘using your powers for good’ type of thinking, and I’ve seen many people call out those with larger platforms for not using their reach to discuss the important issues we should be talking about today. It is scary, but right now I feel compelled to do it anyway. Risk or not, it feels like the right thing to do for me.
Edit: Since writing this post Trump has taken action to end families being separated, but thousands of families have already been affected and do still need help and support. Over 2000 children have been taken from their families, and as of yet there is no news on how they will begin to reunite these vulnerable little ones with their parents.
This morning as I was leisurely making pancakes with Dil I took a few minutes to scroll through my Facebook feed. There was all the usual stuff; cat video, weird recipe using way too much cheese, Love Island meme. Then there was some other stuff that over the past few days has become fairly ‘normal’ for me to see too. Tales from the US/Mexico border. Photos of children younger than my own; crying, alone and terrified, allegedly locked up in “jail like” facilities. Video and audio of a situation I can’t even bear to imagine. Horrifying sounds of children hysterically calling for their Mami and Papi, while cruel Border Patrol agents mock and ignore them (audio confirmed by Snopes).
Tales from the border
Stories of breastfed babies allegedly being ripped from their mother’s breasts, and of parents being told that agents are taking their children ‘for a bath’, for them never to return again. Heartbreaking photos of children aged 2 and under desperately seeking some love and reassurance, who remain un-comforted by the adults in charge of their care. Screenshots of comments from adults (post now deleted) on a photo of a caged child (staged for a protest), suggesting things like electrocuting illegal immigrants, or using a bat to break their fingers to keep them inside the cage.
Mothers being told that they will never see their children again, because “families don’t exist here”. A father who committed suicide shortly after physical force was used to take his child out of his hands. A mother who, despite following the correct and legal process to seek asylum, had her 18 month old taken away and has been separated for over 2 months. Children who are “begging and screaming” to stay with their parents, being dragged away from their families and placed in settings likened to dog kennels. The mistreatment of detained pregnant women who are denied access to the medical care that they need.
Stories of other children and young teens taking care of each other, changing the nappies of the younger children with them in the cells that they are being kept in in some cases for more than three days. Many posts comparing the situation at the border now with scenes during the holocaust (although this post from Debra Messing was found by Snopes to be false). News readers actually breaking down into tears as they read out these new reports. Tale after tale of gross breaches of basic human rights, stories that would chill any half decent human being all the way to their core because these families and these children are really no different to our own.
According to some sources more than 2300 children have been separated from their parents since April, and many of those are younger than my own. My little four year old who’s confidence and bravery always astounds me, but who still very much needs his mum. Suddenly over our breakfast I see him in a different light, and imagine the sheer heart ache both of us would feel if we were ever to be separated in this way. How he would feel being cramped into these confined spaces, wondering if he’ll ever see anyone who loves him again. The sheer terror that would run through me if he was ever ripped from my arms, it’s unimaginable.
This post from Arthurwears drives it home even more.
How is this happening? Why?
It’s hard to understand how it can be justified. Prior to the changes recently made, undocumented families were held in deportation centres whilst they awaited immigration court and deportation. Thanks to the new “zero tolerance” immigration policy introduced by the Trump administration every undocumented adult is to be prosecuted with a felony and sent to a federal prison. The children then become ‘unaccompanied minors’, or more accurately, collateral damage, and are “put into foster care or whatever” (actual quote from White House’s chief of staff John Kelly).
Despite people like former first lady Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and even Melania Trump (and her own immigration lawyer…) calling the border policy cruel and heartbreaking, it doesn’t look like much is set to change. The American Academy of Paediatrics has also condemned the policy by calling it child abuse, stating how detrimental the irreparable harm will permanently be to these children.
Trump himself has claimed that although he “hates” forcing families apart, it “has to be this way”. He also maintains that it is democratic policy causing the current situation (fact check – wrong). Despite his own daughter apparently urging him to end the separation of children from their families he seems to have maintained that he is unable to do so.
What Can We Do?
When I first started writing this post I wasn’t really sure what the answer to this question was. It’s really easy to feel helpless and unable to really DO anything in situations like this. It’s also really, really easy to scroll on by these posts and avoid the news stories, because it genuinely is incredible upsetting to hear while feeling like you probably can’t do much to cause any real change. It’s uncomfortable to know that these awful things are happening to families not much different from our own, while we are sat comfortably at home eating our pancakes.
I get that, I get the feelings of frustrations and the ones that mean you just really don’t want to hear about it. There are feelings of cognitive dissonance, widespread apathy for these kinds of of events, and certainly plenty of misinformation and unintentional ignorance about the subject. So what actually can (or should) we do?
Sign the Petition
The easiest thing that you can do right now as a UK citizen is sign the petition to put pressure on Donald Trump to end the separation of migrant families. The petition needs 10,000 signatures to get a response from the government, and 100,000 to be considered for debate, so every name counts.
Signing takes about 30 seconds – click here to sign.
At the time of writing this is the only petition I am aware of, but if I come across any others I will add them to this post. Please let me know if you know of any others
At this point Trump’s visit to the UK is still scheduled for July 13th. Many marches and protests are happening, and you can register to take part right now.
If you can’t get to London then why not search for events taking place locally.
There are also rallies being organised for June 30th. You can find your nearest one here. Currently the only UK one is Bristol but I hope more will be organised and added. You could even organise your own.
Some people avoid discussing politics with friends in person or on social media, for fear of creating conflict or ‘putting people off’. Certainly as a blogger it is scary to put thoughts and feelings out there that may seem controversial or inflammatory, but in this case I feel like this is something positive that I can do.
Immigration policies may be political preference but separating families in this way is not. Many countries have strict laws on immigration, but none have a policy of blindly separating parents from their young. Regardless of your political opinions and your stance on immigration in general, I think most of us would agree that ripping these families apart and traumatising these young children in this way is wrong, and I urge you to start these conversations wherever you can.
I have filled this post with links to relevant posts and news stories, because this is something we need to educate ourselves about. Alternatively you can spend some time on Google, or search news outlets that you trust. Not all news sources are credible, so spend some time reading around to try and get the fullest picture possible. Look for sources, pay attention to whether or not the information can be confirmed. Websites like Snopes are usually excellent at this. Even if you are not able to help financially we can all keep this conversation going. Share information that you find, invite discussions about what is going on and talk about what else WE can do. We can keep talking about these issues, keep these kinds of topics in our minds, and hopefully eventually we can believe that we had a small part in some kind of change.
It’s also important to point out that this is just one of many, many awful things happening currently in the world. I truly wish that they all got the same amount of media attention and coverage but they don’t. Keep educating yourself, keep doing whatever you can, keep having these conversations, even if they do make you feel a little uncomfortable.
Another difficulty when this kind of crisis begins is knowing which are the best places to support. There is a lot of (understandable) cynicism now for charities and fundraising work. It is really hard to know where to send money, and how to be sure it will reach the place you intended it for. I have reached out to some friends and bloggers, and here are a few incredibly worthwhile causes that you can donate to if you’d like to, to help the families stuck at the US and Mexico border.
Kids In Need of Defence (KIND) – “KIND protects unaccompanied children who enter the US immigration system alone to ensure that no child appears in court without an attorney. We achieve fundamental fairness through high-quality legal representation and by advancing the child’s best interests, safety, and well-being” Also check out How You Can Help End Family Separation and Ensure Protection for Children by KIND.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) – “As soon as RAICES learned that the threatened policy of family separation was ramping up, we committed to serving as many separated families as possible. Through your generous support, we can now reach many hundreds more families, reunite parents with their children, and pay bonds to get parents released.” Donate here or here. Full list of FAQs and answers for this fundraiser here. (Thanks Hannah from Hi Baby Blog for sharing this one with me)
Support Kids at the Border – Donate here to contribute to a huge host of organisations, projects and charities; all of whom are fighting hard to help these families. Includes Womens Refugee Commission, United We Dream, Innovation Law Lab and loads more of amazing causes. (Thank you Toby and Roo)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – “For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Several of the links above are from ACLU, who are fighting for rights and supporting families as well as working hard to tell the whole story. Donate to ACLU here. (Thanks Nomipalony)
Since writing this post I have come across several shops who are donating profits to some of the above causes. I’ll try to keep the list below up to date.
And following on from their amazing example we’ve decided to do the same over at my own (UK based) merch brand We Are Enough Co. 100% of the profits from our Empowered Women tee will got to RAICES and ACLU.