Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation. ~Robert Kennedy, June 6, 1966, Cape Town, S. Africa
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~Robert Kennedy, June 6, 1966, Cape Town S. Africa
A few evenings ago, I was sitting on my couch trying to shake off the day’s insanity.
And I wondered.
Does anyone else measure the success of the last few years by how vociferously they have retaliated against injustice?
Does anyone else consider the yardstick of their life to be whether their children and grandchildren will look back through Grandma’s archives to see what she was saying as part of the resistance?
Does anyone – everyone? – understand just how historic this moment is? How important? How significant?
It has become increasingly important to me that the people that I love – and some that I don’t yet know – be able to see the history of the last two years through my eyes when I’m gone.
We all have a legacy. Whether we like it or not, we usually don’t know when our life’s story will end and our legacy will begin. But what we do every day, and how we live our lives, determines what our legacy will contain.
When I was a little girl I would write heartfelt (yet terrible) poetry in spiral bound books, imagining that someday my papers would be found and I would be considered the next Emily Dickinson.
But now, with some ‘seasoning,’ I recognize that the most authentic poetry we write is with the days of our lives.
You can make it as flowery or as sparse as you want it to be.
So you have a choice.
What do you want the poetry of your life to say? What message will you carve with your days? What legacy will you leave?
I want the message of my life to be very clear: that we are all important. Every last one of us. Every single voice, no matter how quiet, or halting, or uncertain.
No matter how rich, or poor, or smart, or atypical.
Educated or not.
Healthy or not.
Young. Old. Weak. Strong.
All of us.
And now, these past few weeks, I’ve seen just how many others believe the same. The voices raised in support of children we’ll never meet, and mothers we’ll never speak to has been a welcome chorus.
So as this week goes into the next, remember that someday you will look back on this time. If you, like many of us, have heard the heartbreaking audio of children that have been separated from their families, know that someday you’ll reflect on the moment when you heard babies wailing for their daddy, and begging for a phone.
And you’ll know what you decided to do in the days that followed.
The decisions that you make now – what you decide to do after knowing the torture that these babies and mothers and fathers are enduring at this very moment – will be part of your personal legacy.
You’re writing the poetry of your life with the decisions you make right now.
How you live your life is your ultimate legacy.
It’s your most authentic message to the world.
And so, my friend.
What do you want your life to say?
There is nothing more important right now than opposing – vociferously – the separation of families. Is there more going on? Of course. But right now, this is a humanitarian crises that has no parallel, so even trying to put another action on the same footing makes me uncomfortable.
So, let’s throw our shoulders into protecting these families and opposing this horrific practice. Below you’ll find ten different ways that you can make a difference. Please, do what you can.
1. Find and plan to attend a #FamiliesBelongTogether march/protest on June 30. Honestly folks, we need these to be massive displays of solidarity. Consider it an opportunity for you to show the world that the American citizenry does not stand for this. Can’t attend? Then plan to hop on social media on June 30 and show your support anyway – maybe by taking a picture of your feet and hash tagging #familiesbelong.
2. Help asylum seekers at US ports of entry. Asylum seekers are being turned away from U.S. ports of entry by agents who claim we are “at capacity.” What that means is that families that have made a dangerous journey to come to the United States for refuge and literally have no where else to go are stranded on a bridge … waiting. If they turn back, they’ll be killed. But they can’t go forward. They’re in a cruel no-man’s land. Some simply try to cross the border in other places – and those are the families that are being charged with illegal entry and separated.
Let’s do what we can to support the asylum-seeking families that are withstanding blistering heat and waiting to be recognized by border agents at ports of entry. They just need the basics – water, diapers, food.
3. Donate to RAICES’ bond fund, which will give detained immigrants the resources to post bond. As RAICES explains: “Parents separated from their children at the border (and other immigrants placed in detention) can’t get released from ICE custody to reunite with their families until they pay the full amount of their immigration bond. Bonds are set at a MINIMUM of $1500, and are usually in the range of $5-10K, even for asylum seekers without any criminal history. Unlike in the criminal system, bail bond companies either do not help people in immigration proceedings or impose very strict requirements, like private ankle monitors (which families have to pay to “rent”). Donate to our fund to directly support legal services for detained separated parents and the direct funding for bonds to get parents released!!!”
4. Demand that your Senators sign on to and support Senator Feinstein’s Keeping Families Together Act (S.3036). Check here to see if one or both have already done so, and if they haven’t, called their office and give them an earful. Seriously, this is not a time to be on the sidelines, nor is it a time for talking points or messaging. It’s time for action, and they need to treat it like the humanitarian emergency it is.
And, frankly, so do their staff.
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m positively horrified by the reports – and the audio – of children being separated from their parents at the border. This is obscene, it is un-American, and I can’t imagine how or why the Senator would not support the Keeping Families Together Act. Anyone who professes to be an advocate for children or families must recognize the damage this level of trauma does to these poor children – all in the name of our country. I’m disgusted.
5. Demand that your Senators sign on to and support the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which would simply require the government to appoint a legal representative for children in immigration court. Believe it or not, kids can – and have – been deported via legal process without having access to counsel– both now and in the past. If you think it’s hard for you to understand the judicial system, imagine what it would be like if you didn’t yet know how to tie your shoes and couldn’t speak English. Once again, we’re better than this. (Only 16 co-sponsors on this legislation – it’s time for our Democratic Senators to bump up their game here.)
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling to ask the Senator to support the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which would simply require the government to appoint a legal representative for kids in immigration court. It’s totally inappropriate for kids – many of whom are here because of the terrible conditions in their home countries – to be appearing in court without someone to help them navigate our judicial system. Particularly at this point when kids are being separated from their families, they are at greater risk – and need someone’s guidance. If our country is going to rip them from their families, the least we can do is give them access to counsel that can help reunite them with their parents.
6. Give detained immigrants hope by becoming a detention visitation volunteer, a Freedom for Immigrants hotline volunteer, or a pen pal. (I’m looking at all of you volunteers for Postcards to Voters!) Sign up here for opportunities.
7. Consider becoming a temporary foster parent. If you’ve been moved to tears after listening to these babies and you would like to help in a more tangible way, you can keep some of these children in your home. Check out the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service site for more.
8. If you are an attorney (or a recovering attorney like me), please head over to Lawyers For Good Government, where they are providing a list of ways you can volunteer – both in person and remotely.
9. Consider volunteering for the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights as a child advocate. Advocates meet one-on-one weekly with a detained child and assist Young Center staff in advocating for that child’s best interests. Fill out a form here for a training near you.
10. Donate to ActBlue’s “Justice League” of immigrant rights organizations fighting this policy.
And lastly, please be sure to check the Informed Immigrant for local organizations that need your help. (Just enter your zip code.) There are detention facilities all over the country, and there will be local organizations that need your help.
Not included in this list of 10 is the most critical and obvious one. Talk to your friends. Inform your network. Let them know where you stand on this issue, and don’t apologize for it.
Now is the time to be loud, and proud, and out in front protecting kids.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.
If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.