America is facing not just a humanitarian crisis, but a crisis of humanity.
The board and staff of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation are alarmed by the barbaric treatment of families seeking refuge. While the administration has stopped separating children at the border from their parents – a practice known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage – it has announced no plans for reuniting thousands of families split up over the past few months and is still prosecuting asylum seekers as criminals.
Many people are decrying these practices as unamerican, but tearing apart families of color has a long history here. For hundreds of years, slave traders kidnapped people from their homes in Africa or pried them from their mothers’ arms on the auction block. For nearly a hundred years, our government took Native American children from their families and forced them into “Indian schools,” where they cut their hair, punished them for speaking their languages and tried to erase their culture. Today, punitive criminal justice policies and practices disproportionately break up black and Latinx families.
For America to embody the values it espouses, its leadership must stop its dehumanizing policies and rhetoric. Pressing criminal charges against families fleeing violence compounds their trauma and stokes anti-American sentiment around the globe. Workplace raids and checkpoints in immigrant communities continue to split up families. The for-profit detention industry incentivizes the incarceration of immigrants.
It is time to translate our collective outrage into action. In addition to pressuring policymakers and filling the streets in protest, we must support organizations serving immigrants and refugees. One fundraiser has amassed $15 million for a Texas organization providing families with legal assistance to navigate the asylum process and reunite with the children who were torn away. There are many more organizations around the country advocating for immigrants and refugees, and they need support now, too. Some are working to keep families intact. Some are training leaders to advocate for their communities or run for office. Some are building power among immigrants and holding elected officials accountable. In the South, the Babcock Foundation partners with many such organizations, including:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
- Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
- Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
- North Carolina Asian Americans Together
- North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations
- Project South
- Southeast Immigrant Rights Network
- Southern Partners Fund
- Southern Vision Alliance
- Southerners on New Ground
As we end a week commemorating both World Refugee Day, honoring the millions of people fleeing conflict and persecution, and Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery, we are reminded in very harsh ways that families of color are still not safe in America. It’s not enough to say, “We’re better than this.” We have to prove it. After all, most of us were huddled masses once, too.