I love this country dearly, but not without deep sorrow for the mistakes of my own homeland. And so, I criticize it because I want this place to mean freedom for everyone.
On July 4th, I will celebrate with my mixed-immigrant, first-generation family, neighbors, and community. I tell my little one she is an Incan-Viking Warrior (because she is). And that there are places where not everyone is free, including in our own country. But we are working to change that. I try to teach her about refugees and why people flee their homes to come to the United States.
We also talk about family separation. Not long after zero-tolerance began, another child told mine that she “belongs in a cage” after all of us, young and old alike, saw those images. These are the misgivings of small children but also the symptoms of a deeply flawed system and culture. The way the Zero Tolerance Policy desecrated freedom continues to haunt us today.
As the director of CAIR Coalition’s Detained Adult Program, I believe we can help right the path our country is currently on—one that continues to separate families with unrestrained racism and violence. The family separation crisis is ongoing, senseless, and continues to destroy our communities.
The United States has the largest immigration system in the world and is currently detaining approximately 29,000 immigrants, more than 63 percent of whom have no criminal record. In addition, the Biden Administration has deported over four million people, the majority for simple civil immigration violations, including not having the correct paperwork. This should be the least complicated public policy-making decision.
Immigrants’ rights groups need a new platform to stop these inhumane policies. It should be simple:
Stop separating families.
On an annual average, over 1,500 children in the DMV are impacted by a parent’s detention. Over a thousand children put their best forward as they try to move on with their lives without their parents—over a thousand children!
Why policies that harm our own children and communities are allowed to continue is heartbreaking. Our policies must keep families together.
Provide Immigrants in deportation proceedings with government-appointed counsel.
Immigrants in deportation proceedings, including parents, are forced to defend themselves against a government-trained attorney without a right to court-appointed counsel in a language often not their own. This means children become indefinitely separated from their parents simply because the right to a public-defense counsel is not available in immigration court. One solution would be to support the Fairness to Freedom Act and local programs for the right to counsel.
Being a parent is scary enough because there is very little you have control over in this world, but I know I am free to access the institutions in this country to care for, educate, and protect my child, but not everyone does.
As I celebrate this holiday, I will light fireworks and sparklers and do so as a symbolic spark to action for change and family unity. I hope you will join me.