If you’ve read more than one of my books, you probably won’t be surprised by my politics. If you follow me on Facebook, you certainly know where I stand in great and vivid detail. Ordinarily I confine this blog to book-related posts. Today, I can’t remain silent.
When I was writing A Thread of Grace, I interviewed an elderly Italian immigrant to the US who had saved many lives by warning Roman Jews when the Nazis were planning a deportation sweep through their neighborhood.
When I asked Carmello Furnari where he found the courage to do that, he pointed to his eyes and snarled, “Because I saw! They broke up the families. They pulled the husbands from the wives. They pulled the crying children from the mamas’ arms. I saw! Atrocity! Atrocity!”
Fifteen years later, it is my turn to SEE, my turn to shout, “Atrocity!” when agents of my government pull crying, frightened children from the arms of parents who have come to our border seeking refuge.
Earlier this month, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to prosecute “100 percent” of migrants illegally crossing the Mexican border, it became official US policy to routinely separate children from their parents. Already, hundreds of children have been ripped from their families: 658 kids in the first 13 days of the program alone, Customs and Border Protection disclosed in a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday. This policy—which advocates say in practice mainly targets women and youths seeking asylum from the violence-ridden countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—is intended to punish the adults by criminally prosecuting them for entering the country, thereby deterring others from making the journey north. But it does incalculable damage to the children at an already traumatic moment in their lives, often stripping them from their mothers when their mothers are all they have.
One child — any child — treated that way is too many. Thousands, as a matter of government policy? Atrocity, by the standards of Carmello Furnari, and I am compelled to agree.
Please, if you are inclined to argue, do not waste your time defending the indefensible here. I will not provide a platform for those who believe that imaginary lines on maps are more important than treating other human beings with compassion and decency. Feel free to unsubscribe to this blog and to stop buying my books.
If, however, you are as appalled as I am, here’s how you can act as decently as Carmello Furnari did. He risked his life to do so. Can we be silent?
How you can help
- Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives. Their job is to conduct oversight of DHS–they must hold DHS accountable. Simply say, “I am outraged by how our government is treating children at the border. What is my Senator/Rep doing about this?” Find your Senators here. Find your Representative here. If you use 5 Calls to contact your reps, they have a script on their system for this issue already.
- The ACLU is gathering signatures to petition Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection to stop the government from abusing immigrant children. You can find the petition here.
- You can contact ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) directly. Write to them here or call them at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
- NEW: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended guidelines for human rights at international borders which you can read here. The reported actions our DHS is taking do not comply with these guidelines. You can contact the UN Office for Human Rights here.
- NEW: Amnesty International has been calling for an end to the U.S. policy of separating children at the border. Their call to action can be found at the end of this post here.
- NEW: Americans of Conscience has a list of 7 other U.S. officials who need to hear from us, plus a script to use. That list is here.
- DEVELOPING: There is a nascent effort to organize #WhereAreTheChildren marches for June 14. Check here for more information.
Pick something. Do it.
Share this post. Spread the word.
Don’t look away. DO NOT BE SILENT.