In recognition of World Refugee Day, we are expressing our commitment to standing with refugees and defending the human right to seek asylum in a world where violence forces thousands of families to flee for their lives each day.
We commemorate the strength, courage, and perserverance of millions of refugees and value this day as a key opportunity for our community to learn and show support for the victims of political violence and systemic horror worldwide. We are ONE community.
ON THIS DAY - FROM THE AUTHOR
A scary and false narrative around refugees and immigrants continues to be painted by the Trump administration. It comes as no surprise, but rather as the rolling out of a deeply disturbing campaign promise. Often turning to social media to provoke the public, the businessman-reality TV star-turned-President has no problem spreading groundless arguments and invoking crime as a way to sow fear around asylum seekers and refugees in the United States. The Administration used these fallicious messages to justify its zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossings. As a result, at least 2,700 parents and children fleeing violence and poverty have been separated at the US-Mexico border since early May and private immigrant detention centers are booming. After withdrawing the US from the United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday and in the midst of universal outrage, Trump retreated on the Administration's policy to separate families at the border and signed an executive order today to detain parents and children together for an indefinite period of time instead.
It hardly seems that the punishment fits the crime. Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor. For someone who has already been deported before, it's a felony. Both crimes are currently being prosecuted with no exceptions, even if an individual requests asylum later. And it has been documented that those who are requesting for their right to asylum at ports of entry are being turned away, which is a violation of international law.
Thousands of parents have been labeled criminals and have been sent to jail, while the children are being labeled “unaccompanied minors” and are sent to government custody/baby jails or foster care. Federal officials have said that families that have already been separated will not be immediately reunited while the adults remain in custody during their immigration proceedings.
Researchers, doctors, and those who have experienced similar situations firsthand conclude that the trauma of separation can linger and cause psychological damage, even after families are reunited. Studies have shown that boys held in detention, even for short periods of time, such as two or three weeks, can develop anti-social behavior, violence and substance abuse problems. Teenage girls more often show depressive disorders and substance abuse.
While the myth of the criminal immigrant has been busted, the current harm being inflicted by perverse governments and harsh policies will add to the layers of intergenerational trauma that our future generations will carry for years to come. The risk factors of incarceration, such as childhood trauma, abuse, and poverty, can be met with protective factors of education, positive relationships, and communities that promote and foster healing. We deserve to live in a world without violence, free from discrimination, oppression, and hate. The sooner we learn this to support and protect each other, the better off we'll be.
If my parents weren't able to find refuge after the Vietnam War destroyed the country and massacred our family, I probably wouldn't be the person I am today. I consider myself lucky and feel a great sense of guilt, simultaneously. I question how it's right or fair that we are entitled to our attitudes and lives here when nearly 69 million people who have fled war, violence and persecution were forcibly displaced last year, people who were in similar boats, both metaphorically and physically.
Photo credit: Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. Mstyslav Chernov.