Stand for all those who call this country a home, regardless where they, or their parents were born
By Marselha Gonçalves Margerin, Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA
Every morning, when I look my daughter in the eyes, being a privileged seven-year-old at the breakfast table, I reflect on how lucky we are and how terrified I am that many children her age are being torn apart from their parents as they seek refuge. Children and young adults are frightened that their families will be separated, or that their parents are going to be sent away to the country in disarray where their parents were born, but haven’t lived there in decades.
As an immigrant, a mother and a human right advocate, I am confronted with this reality every day, many times a day, and it’s became more and more surreal the past year and a half.
Two months after the refugee ban, when green card holders and their U.S. citizen children were separated at the airports and some were made to sign away their permanent residency, I traveled to Brazil where I was born and my family lives. After the first time in almost two decades I was no longer traveling with a visa or a green card, I was traveling with my recently issued U.S. passport. Even carrying a United States-issued passport with a U.S. born child, I was afraid we would be torn apart.
You may think it is not a logical thought, but the imperative of a parent to save their children defies logic, and the fear of losing them will make people walk thousands of miles by foot, cross seas in a row boat, and face death and detention, if they could ultimately protect their offspring. Regardless their place of birth.
The legal certainly we have in the United States, the certainly that the not-so-perfect justice system is functional and would still deliver justice, is one certainty many fleeing their countries don’t have. We take for granted the relative safety of crossing the street to go to school, or to ride a bus without being threatened, raped or killed, or our houses being burned down or bombed for having a different religion, or belief.
Between breakfast and dinner, I work with very dedicated people, from several walks of life and various corners of this country. We echo why sending Lorena, and her son Carlos back to the same country they fled from could be a death sentence. We campaigned so baby Mateo and his father could be reunited, after ICE pulled the infant out of his father’s arms after they crossed thousands of miles on foot seeking safety. We are seeking freedom for Astrid, an Indigenous Guatemalan teen who just spent her 15th birthday in ICE detention with her dad Arturo, after being dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night exactly one month ago. We are advocating for the end of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and campaigning for the end of bombing in Syria.
Several Amnesty International members asked me, “Do these politicians know what will happen if people who have established lives in the U.S. or were born here (such as Dreamers and TPS holders) were to be sent back to El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala?”
Politicians must stop the hypocrisy of talking about an immigration reform that will destroy humanitarian protections guaranteed in the law of the land, as a compromise or as compassionate. The proposals are neither compassionate nor the best deal. They are bluntly unlawful, as they are against U.S. human rights obligations. They criminalize and discriminate against immigrant families, many of whom could get killed if sent back. They must stop pitting families against each other. Using the death of someone’s child to criminalize other children is immoral, unethical, and will not solve the problems children face in this country or in any other.
My then 6-year-old daughter, with her hand on her heart, is the one who rehearsed the Pledge of Allegiance with me before I took my citizenship oath. She is the one that every morning, pledges allegiance to the United States and calls the United States home, together with hundreds of other children. Our children learning their letters and numbers next to each other in school do not know which color their passport is, or which paper they need to get in and out of the country. They just need love, food, and a safe place to live. And as a parent, I understand that the desire to keep a child safe indeed defies logic.
Last Thursday was seven years of the war in Syria and Astrid’s 15th birthday, which she spent behind bars with her dad in detention. Children keep being killed, Rohingya families continue to be persecuted in Myanmar, and families are being separated at the U.S border.
Today marks exactly one month since Astrid and Arturo were put in detention. Join us in solidarity by calling on ICE to: