Stop delays in reuniting families

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Sometimes it seems we can’t agree on anything these days, that every issue is political and divides Americans in two. But the last few weeks we’ve seen dramatic evidence that it isn’t true. Which of us hasn’t been riveted to the television, watching the Thai soccer teams’ saga unfold and hoping to see those kids and their families reunited, as we did last week?

Meanwhile thousands of immigrant children and their families in our own country are still separated because of a misguided government decision. It doesn’t much matter where we fall on the political spectrum. Two-thirds of all Americans agree these children must be returned to their families as quickly as possible.

Only weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of us demonstrated in Families Belong Together Rallies. Faith leaders from the most liberal to the most conservative have united over this issue, something the magazine Christianity Today calls “practically a miracle.”

Children as young as nursing infants have been taken by force from their parents, in many cases flown across the country, and caged like animals. The United Nations Human Right Office calls separating these families a “serious violation” of the children’s human rights. Surely anyone with children knows it violates their parents’ rights, too. Admiral James Stavridis points out the children have been denied even the protections afforded prisoners at Guantanamo. No inspectors, no Red Cross, no legal teams.

The government claims it’s working as fast as it can to meet the first deadline to return children under 5. But is it really? According to current rules, children can be returned only to family members, and only those able to afford to fly them and their escorts—often at the cost of several hundred or even thousands of dollars — and willing to submit their fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under the previous administration, the government paid the freight. You might think we can’t afford it, yet while waiting for a relative who fits these criteria, the government houses children to the tune of $600 per day per child. If it sincerely wants to return these children to family, the administration will drop the fingerprint requirement. And it should hire more judges and social workers to care for the children’s needs.

As Americans of all descriptions, parties, and beliefs, we call on the government to stop making excuses and expedite the reuniting of these families. We also appeal to Congress to work steadily and rapidly to stop separating families at the border. Forging a comprehensive immigration policy that is both commonsense and practical won’t happen overnight. But in the meantime, we cannot make the problem worse by wrenching more children from their parents. We applaud U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for introducing Senate Bill 3093 as an attempt to address the problem.

Maybe you can’t demonstrate. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a political person. But this isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a matter of right and wrong, and we all need to help. Tell your members of Congress we expect action. Consider contributing to these families’ needs, to RAICES, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services at www.raicestexas.org/donate/ or choose your own charity from the list at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kidsattheborder. And vote in November for candidates who will work for immigration reform.

Jan Schmidt, Nancy Barrineau, Bonnie Kelley and Mary Evans are members of Scotland County Democratic Women.

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