I took this photo 5 days ago. Who do you see in this photograph?
I see a human being, a child, and an asylum seeker.
This child and one of her parents fled extreme violence in their home country, maybe Honduras, maybe El Salvador, maybe Guatemala. They risked their lives on the journey to the U.S. border. Upon arrival at the U.S. border, their legal path to asylum was blocked. She may have spent days or weeks living on a bridge, waiting her turn to enter into the legal port of entry and request asylum. Or her parent, desperate to get her to a safe place, may have crossed the border at a place other than an official port of entry, what ICE would call crossing the border illegally. Whether she entered at a legal port of entry or not, once on U.S. soil, she and her parent where put into a detention center. There her shoelaces and belt were taken away, she slept in 56 degree air conditioning, was not given access to a shower or a toothbrush, and she may have been awakened often throughout the night for no reason except cruelty by the guards. Once her parent passed their "credible fear" interview and was fitted with a tracking device attached to their ankle, maybe after 4 days, maybe a month, this child and her parent were dropped off at the McAllen bus station with nothing but the clothes on their backs, minus shoelaces and belts. No money. No phone. No food. Just an envelope of paperwork in English. This child and her parent along with a busload of other parents and children were then greeted by volunteers, taken to a Humanitarian Respite Center nearby, given a phone to call a friend or relative to try to arrange a bus ticket to somewhere in the U.S. where they will await an asylum hearing. The volunteers do all they can with whatever donations are available each day. They offer showers, donated clothes, toothbrushes, meals, and a night of sleep on a gym mat, next to other asylum seekers. The next day or sometimes the same day, they go back to the bus station to board busses to various places in the U.S. This child and her parent face 2 or 3 days on Greyhound with 3 to 5 connections, depending on the kindness of strangers to help them find the right bus.
This is one human being, one human child. Thousands of human children are being put through this horror by the U.S. Government in the name of keeping us safe. We do not need to torture children to keep ourselves safe. We do not need to be cruel. The current border policies are cruel and unnecessary.
So what can you do? How can you help this child or another just like her?
1. Flip the Congress (US citizens)
* Vote and register others to do the same
2. Volunteer to assist asylum seekers, immigrants, refugees
* Consider local opportunities with IRC or other groups - do some research
* Consider a trip to a border town
3. Donate to others who are making a difference
* Woodson Martin's fundraiser would be a great start: http://bit.ly/cash4envelopes
* Tucker’s Kitchen for Asylum Seekers http://bit.ly/TuckerKitchen
* Brownsville Asylum Seeker Wishlist: http://bit.ly/helpbrownsville
* Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center: http://bit.ly/CCHRC
* Respite Center Amazon Wishlist: http://bit.ly/CCHRCWL
4. Learn Spanish (you are going to need it eventually anyway)