Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Helping Separated Children at the U.S. Mexican Border


We are all too familiar with this. With residential school still in our shared memories, its hard to imagine your child being torn from your arms and then not knowing where your child is being taken to. After that, will you be reunited with your child again? Ever? According to national media, up to 2000 children in the past two months have been separated from their parents and or guardians once they entered the U.S. border. Many are being warehoused in former big box stores, others are being transported to tent cities along the U.S. Mexican border.

Under Trump’s zero-policy border crossers are immediately arrested and charged with a crime by the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.), which is in charge of immigration enforcement and border security, before they are placed in an immigration facility. D.H.S. is designed to deport people as quickly as possible. If they cross with their children, the children are turned over to Office of Refugee Resettlement (O.R.R.) the office within the Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.), the federal body in charge of handling unaccompanied immigrant children and treated as if they had crossed the border alone.

No protocols have been put in place for keeping track of separated parents and children, let alone for parents and children to stay in contact with each other while they are separated, or for eventually reuniting them.

According to the New Yorker, “There’s next to no coordination between D.H.S. and H.H.S.”

Advocates are trying to piece together information about the whereabouts of children based on the federal charging documents used in the parent’s initial arrest and immigration case. In these documents advocates try to figure out where and when the child was apprehended. But where the child is being held often has nothing to do with where the parent(s) was arrested. Children are often moved around to different facilities; some facilities hold children in cages, others are heading to tent cities with plans to erect more. None have personnel qualified to oversee such large numbers of traumatized children.

As well, there is no formal process in place to insure that a family that’s been separated at the border gets deported back to their home country together.

Feeling helpless and want to help in some way - here is a list of organizations that have direct impact and contact with children separated at the border from their parents. And for more impact, some ideas to act positively to aid separated children.

1. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

A non-profit that aims to reunite families and help kids feel safe, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) needs funds to fulfill its mission. The Texas-based nonprofit aims to “directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings” and “ensure legal representation for every child in Texas’ immigration courts.”

2. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

You may have seen mom-of-two Chrissy Teigen tweeting about this recently. She and husband John Legend called for concerned fellow parents to donate to the organization, which is raising money to defend asylum-seeking immigrant parents who’ve been separated from their children.

3. Together Rising

Together Rising, is raising funds to help these children get the legal support they need. This organization has already funded a team of four lawyers and 3 legal assistants to represent children detained in Arizona detention centers and their families; and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights in order to cover the costs of a lawyer and social worker who will be operating around the country and on the border to provide advocacy and healing to unaccompanied, detained children.”

4. The Florence Project and Refugee Rights Project

This organization provides legal assistance and social services to detained immigrants in Arizona.

5. The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

This organization works for the rights of children in immigration proceedings.

6. Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND)

This organization works to ensure that no child appears in immigration court alone without representation.

7. Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project

They work to prevent the deportation of asylum-seeking families fleeing violence.

8. Together Rising Love Flash Mob. Organized by best-selling author and blogger Glennon Doyle through her non-profit organization, the fundraising effort will go to provide bilingual legal and advocacy assistance for 60 children, aged 12 months to 10 years, currently separated from their parents in an Arizona detention center. Their first priority will be to establish and maintain contact between children and their parents, with the ultimate goal of reunification and safety and rehabilitation for the children.

You can also;

1. Call your representatives

As much as many parents wish we could tear down those chain link walls and put babies back with their mothers, we, as individuals, don’t have the power to do that or to stop it from happening in the future. The U.S. government does have that power though, and the American people have the power to elect them. You can call your senator and let them know that you will not stand for this.

If you don’t know what number to call, you can punch your zip code into the ACLU’s website and it will route your call to the appropriate representative. If you don’t know what to say, the ACLU has prepared a script. Just say hello to the congressional staffer who picks up the phone and say the following:

Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I’m urging the Senator to denounce Trump’s family separation policy and use all of Congress’ authority to stop it.

2. Encourage others to call their representatives

Tell your friends that you’ve made that call and ask them to call, too. A lot of people have never called a politician’s office before, so let those in your circle know about how the ACLU will route their call and pass on the short script for those who get flustered on the phone.

3. Find a local protest

If you’re looking to join in a protest of immigrant family separation policies, check out Families Belong Together. The organization has created a growing list of rallies and vigils in support of the families.

4. Teach your children empathy

With this story pouring out of every smartphone, television and radio in our country, our children may be worried about the idea that kids are being taken from their parents. Parents may need to reassure their kids that they are safe, but there are other topics of conversation that can help our kids keep future children safe. By talking about empathy and kindness with our kids we can raise kind, empathic people who won’t let this happen to the next generation’s children.

5. Sign petitions

Organizations like the ACLU and National Domestic Workers Alliance have petitions on their websites that call on the Trump administration to stop separating immigrant children from their families.


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