Heartbreak and hope: Families Belong Together

I took a week off of Facebook in an attempt to be fully present with my family while we were on vacation. When I logged back on, I was flooded with the horrifying news about families being separated at the borders. Tent cities erected. Audio of children crying for their parents. Experts testifying many of these families will never be reunited. Tender age detention centers for babies and toddlers.

On Monday, I shared with my kids, who are 6 and 3, a high-level overview of what is happening.

I said something like, “Families are trying to enter our country because where they live is not safe. They take a long and dangerous journey to come here, but instead of being allowed into our country, we are separating the parents from the children. Kids are being put in jails away from their parents. It’s horrible.”

“Kids in jail?” My 6-year-old asked, incredulous.

“They call them “detention centers”, but they are very much like jails,” I explained.

“Can’t the police come and help them?” My 6-year-old asked.

“Actually, law enforcement is carrying out these orders. Technically, taking kids away from parents is legal. It’s a law that is wrong. Remember how Martin Luther King fought against the law that said Black kids and white kids couldn’t go to the same school?”

“Yea! And the law that said Black people had to sit on the back of the bus,” he added.

“Right. Police followed those awful laws and now, police and a group of law enforcement called ICE are enforcing the separation of kids from their parents. Just because something is a law in our country does not make it okay. This law is wrong. Kids belong with their parents, no matter what.”

crying toddler

We looked at a few of the pictures showing children sleeping on floor mats, sitting inside of cages, and of the little girl crying beside her mother’s legs. My 3-year-old said, “they look so sad.”

“I know, sweetie. They all must be so scared. The good news is, there are a lot of people fighting against what’s happening. We should help them,” I said. “What do y’all think we can do?”

“What about a lemonade stand?” My son suggested. Friends of ours host lemonade fundraisers, and we had discussed fundraising ourselves in the past.

“I love that idea!” I said.

“We can invite our friends to come!” said my 3-year old.

That afternoon, I took to Facebook to see if anyone in my local community would want to help us run our lemonade stand fundraiser. The response was overwhelming. Not only do we have multiple families participating in our lemonade stand, there are at least 3 satellite lemonade stands happening across the metro Atlanta area this weekend and next.

A friend who doesn’t live in Atlanta asked if there was a way she could support our efforts from afar. I created a “virtual lemonade stand” via Facebook’s fundraiser tool in support of RAICES, an organization that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. At publishing, we’ve raised $2750 in 24 hours. Hooray!

Yesterday, I felt so energized transforming my heartbreak into action, but before I went to bed last night, a family member who we’ve become estranged from following the 2016 election commented on the fundraiser page. The gist of his message was he doesn’t believe children should be involved in politics, which he reduced to an invective between the left and the right. He said his children deserve to have their innocence left in tact and lamented how politics had gotten in the way of family connections.

I fucking lost it. How dare this person comment about a child’s right to innocence in response to a fundraiser trying to support children, toddlers and babies being separated from their parents following what most likely was a harrowing journey to our border. Those children are just as deserving of  innocence as his white children. He also does not seem to understand his children are learning many political lessons through his support of this administration. His comment, fully lacking compassion or awareness for anyone’s experience other than his own, sent me over the proverbial edge.

A friend recently shared the quote:

“Be extremely wary of every person in your life who has not experienced this last year as a personal moral emergency.” – New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino.

I co-sign this fully.

There are people all around me who condone this administration and condone this policy of ripping children from their parents arms. It is up to all of us who are heartbroken, disgusted and alarmed to stand up and fight back. If not us, who? If not now, when?

I deleted my family member’s comment after initially writing a scathing response, because he deserves zero space on my community’s positive efforts to support immigrant families. He has fueled my fire, however, and deepened my understanding that trying to help Trump supporters see the light is a futile effort.

Instead, I’m going to try to rally my community to take action. I’m going to raise all the money and raise all the hell I can against this immigration policy.

I’m calling my senators daily. We’re running our lemonade stand this weekend. We’re donating to our local immigration organizations Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Project South. We’re marching on June 30th. Stacey Abrams, the democratic gubernatorial candidate here in Georgia, released a video in support of immigrant families last night. I’m busting my butt to help her get elected in November.

Action breeds hope. Without action, my heartbreak is meaningless. How are you going to act? Today?

Please visit Families Belong Together for more organizations to support and more ways to get involved.

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