Since this article was published, President Trump signed an executive order on the afternoon of June 20 ending the policy of separating migrant children from their parents. However, a “zero-tolerance” policy remains at the border, “but we are going to keep families together,” Trump said.
How do you feel when you hear the voices of children sobbing and crying for their parents – parents whom they may never see again?
ProPublica put that question in the face of the public Monday evening, releasing a recording of children at a detention center for illegal immigrants, begging for their parents – parents deliberately separated from them by the United States government in the name of a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
I’m not going to parse the issue of whether or not someone is an illegal immigrant if they are seeking asylum. I’m not going to say that I have a solution for the dilemma of illegal immigration.
What I am going to say, though, is that I am a mother, a person, and a Jew. And I believe that all of those roles demand that I have compassion. And that the current U.S. policy — which deliberately separates parents from their children, with no plan of reuniting them, in order to be a deterrent to illegal immigration — is morally wrong.
As horrific as this is, there are some things we can do.
Engage. You do not have the option to remain silent. To paraphrase Elie Wiesel, those who are silent are on the side of the oppressor — because by doing nothing, you have chosen not to expend your time or effort on making a difference. And no interaction, however small, is innocuous. When you see someone calling people “illegals,” counter that these people are people. Resist the dehumanization of people. Calling people an “infestation” or “animals” is wrong. We believe that each person is created in the image of God and is sacred. We believe in not treating others as we would not want to be treated ourselves.
Speak out. Speak out in person and on social media — one does not exempt you from the other. Sign the Bend The Arc petition, join the Jews For Refugees group on Facebook. Talk to people in person and invite them to join you for a protest and coffee, or a visit to your Congressional representative’s office and lunch. Don’t avoid the topic. Drop mentions of it into your lunch with a friend, your casual interactions.
Pray. Talk to your synagogue about integrating a prayer for the welfare of these children into your Shabbat liturgy. Regardless of your feelings about God, it will raise awareness of the fact that even though these are not Jewish children, it is a problem that appeals to our common denominators of empathy and humanity.
Pray with your feet. Go to protests at your representatives’ offices. Call them, write letters, write e-mails. Talk is not enough. Show up to be counted.
Be thankful. Thank people who do show up – the father who took time Father’s Day morning to go to protest at ICE’s detention center, the person who makes sure to send you articles to read, the other people engaging and connecting on this issue. It makes a difference.
Remind yourself and others that things are not hopeless. We Jews are not a pessimistic people — neurotic, perhaps; pessimistic, no. We believe that we genuinely have the ability to make the world a better place, and to repair the parts of it that are broken. We do it for ourselves, we do it for our children, we do it for humanity.