Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door. ~Emma Lazarus
The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants. ~Jorge Ramos
Remember high school?
It was probably a drag. (It’s always a drag.) You probably studied, and probably had a part-time job, and probably remember various social mistakes you made that still make you cringe.
For most of us, high school was just that. High school. A place to learn about trigonometry while learning about human nature. It’s a mosh pit of emotion, really.
That’s not the high school experience that undocumented minors get to have.
Consider Gaspar Mendoza, whose story was documented by the L.A. Times and has been viewed millions of times. (Trust me, it’s worth watching the full 8 minute video.) As an 18 year old sophomore, Gaspar attends high school full-time… and then goes to his full-time job washing dishes. At 2:00am he clocks out, gets some food, and goes “home” to room that he rents from a family. He gets three hours of sleep, if any at all.
The video is dramatic, inspiring and heart-wrenching.
But it leaves out a lot of Gaspar’s backstory. He’s an orphan. His parents died when he was just 5 years old. He was taken in by a neighbor, then kicked out at age 12. He shined shoes to earn enough to pay for his own tuition to the private school in town, where he learned to read, and write, and speak Spanish.
Work dried up in his little town. This young family-less boy who had never been to even a mid-sized city then took a chance and paid a coyote to get him across the border to a half-brother he’d never met in L.A. Then he was kidnapped; he had to negotiate down his own ransom. Then he was caught by border patrol. He had to appear in court. He now has a $10k smuggling debt to pay off on a dishwasher’s salary.
This kid has literally never gotten a break in his young life.
Meanwhile, his teachers encourage him – and beyond seeing his motivation, they think he’s very smart (he’s now trilingual, having first learned to speak an indigenous language called Chuj, then Spanish at the private school he paid for as a shoe-shine boy, and now English, which he learned in less than a year).
And this young man, who has literally every reason to throw in the towel, carries on – saying to his friends “We can’t fall back. This is the life that we were dealt. We have to overcome it, by any means possible.”
Were we all so resilient.
After the L.A. Times piece was published, a GoFundMe page was started in his name that got up to around $60k. Moved by the support he’d received from so many people he’d never met, he promised to give half of the GoFundMe proceeds to other undocumented minors.
There’s no question about it – Gaspar is an inspiring person.
But here’s the thing. He’s not the only undocumented minor who’s living the life that he’s living.
In his high school, nearly one in four students is an immigrant from Central America, and most came without their parents. Administrators created a makeshift food bank at the school to help the most hungry. Gaspar won’t eat from it, because he considers others to be needier than himself. His classmates leave a full day of school to go to a fully night of work sewing clothes, cooking food, painting houses – doing anything and everything they can to earn enough to get by while they take care of themselves, and each other.
They’re not looking for handouts. In fact, they’re working harder than most of us ever have – and they’re just teenagers.
The Statue of Liberty has a famous poem emblazoned on its side. We often hear about the tired huddled masses, yearning to be free. But the part that’s often left out is, I think, the most important: Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
There’s a golden door that lady liberty has always left open for these tempest-tossed children.
Right now there are a lot of people who want to close that door.
It’s up to us to make sure it stays open.
Let’s get to work.
Reminder: read below for daily actions, and go all the way to the end for some of the week’s good news!
Actions for the week of july 23
Tuesday: Set your calendar for Resistance Labs
Resistance Labs is looking for volunteers!
Their “Contest Every Race” program sends detailed information about how to file to run for office to thousands of progressives and Democrats across the country.
They’re targeting Georgia and Colorado right now, and need help ensuring the information they give folks about how to file for local office is accurate. They’ll expand into 18 states in 2020 and expect to need around 5,000 volunteer researcher hours.
So if you’re good with a search engine and have at least 2 hours a week to dedicate this summer, join the Resistance Labs team. (And they’ll give you a brand-spanking new t-shirt!) You can join their webinar on Wednesday via the google doc form below, or email Aimee@resistancelabs.com.
Wednesday: Keep the golden door open!
The Trump administration has announced its intention to set a limit of zero refugees for 2020. They haven’t acted on it yet, but it’s consistent with their historical reduction (from 95k in 2017 to 45k in 2018 to 30k in 2019).
Not only is that un-American and immoral, but it actually makes us less safe. Some of the refugee applicants are former translators for our armed forces, or other people who have helped us abroad. Capping refugees at zero removes a significant incentive for vulnerable people to risk their lives to help us.
So let’s speak out, speak up for refugees, and show that we understand what’s going on.
Get out your phone!
Have a Republican Senator or Representative? I can relate. Let’s focus on the decreased safety: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m calling because I’m concerned about the Trump administration’s proposed cap of refugees to zero. That removes a huge incentive for vulnerable people to help our armed services and intelligence agencies abroad, not to mention being a terrible thing to do. What’s Senator/Congress(wo)man ___’s position on this new cap?
Have a Democratic Senator or Representative? Let’s focus on the immorality of this and the message it sends to the world: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m calling because I’m concerned about the Trump administration’s proposed cap of refugees to zero. Frankly, it’s un-American and sends a terrible message to the rest of the world. I want to make sure that world leaders understand that the people of this country don’t agree with what the administration is doing. What is Senator/Congress(wo)man ____ doing to make sure that message is heard? What is he/she doing to continue to help refugees?
Thursday: Volunteer at the Young Center!
Have you been wanting to get more intimately involved with unaccompanied child immigrants? If you live in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York, or Washington, D.C., you can volunteer to be a child advocate!
You don’t have to be a lawyer – they welcome folks from all backgrounds and professions. You just have to be 21 or older and pass what I imagine is a pretty significant background check.
As a child advocate, you:
- Visit with the child each week.
- Help the child think through options and decisions.
- Accompany the child to court hearings and other important meetings and interviews.
- Conduct research on the child’s situation in his or her home country.
- Develop best interest recommendations with Young Center staff.
- Maintain communication with the Young Center staff.
- Advocate for the best interest of the child alongside Young Center staff.
If this sounds interesting to you, visit https://www.theyoungcenter.org/volunteer-at-the-young-center to get the ball rolling.
Friday: Say What? Show me your papers?
I did a double take this morning when I saw that the Trump administration has circumvented Congress (again) by created an immediately-implementable rule that allows undocumented immigrants to be immediately deported if they can’t prove that they have been in the country continuously for two years.
No judge. No hearing. No due process. Just a demand to prove that they have been in the country (who they’ll prove it to and how is a good question) for two years, or they’re subject to expedited deportation.
“One of the most fundamental things about American law is the right to go in front of a judge and the right to show to a government official, ‘Hey, they’re been a mistake made… And unfortunately this decision strips that right from potentially hundreds of thousands of people.” (Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy analyst for American Immigration Council).
If you think this sounds too much like “show me your papers,” you’re in good company. There are a number of civil rights organizations that will be filing suits to stop the new rule from being implemented, but we need your voices too.
Although the rule goes into immediate effect, comments are open. Go to https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/23/2019-15710/designating-aliens-for-expedited-removal and post a comment that says you denounce this rule, oppose the lack of due process and are disgusted with such inhumane treatment.
I wish I could give more guidance, but because comments can be batch sorted, it’s best if we all speak with our own voices. So go with your heart!!
welcome to the Inspiration Station! Here’s some Good News…
Italy passed a law to send unsold food to charities! What a great idea… Read more about it HERE.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way… A 2-year-old wanted to go back to the county fair. So he fired up his toy tractor and drove himself. (!!) A very cute story of a kiddo who refused take no for an answer. Read more HERE.
Go get a box of tissues and sit down to watch the official trailer of It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Tom Hanks stars in this homage to Mr. Rogers, and it’s jam-packed with feel-good-goodness. Watch it HERE.