At One Girl Inc., we are deeply concerned with policies and legislations regarding detained immigrants in the United States. We realize that this is a developing issue that reflects our nation’s long history of harmful immigration policies that ostracized and dehumanized groups. However, it is important for us to clarify the happenings on Capitol Hill. As advocates, social change agents, and global citizens at One Girl, we urge you to read on to stay up to date!
Our nation’s attention has quickly shifted with urgency towards immigration. In the past two weeks, legislative bills on the House floor have had titles that imply protection of immigrants and family reunification, but the opposite has proven true. For example, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “compromise bill” and Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s immigration bill only function to adjust Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance policy,” not eliminate it. More federal dollars would be directed to border security and families could stay together, but would still be detained together. Family unity is key, but not when it means folks are detained indefinitely without legal counsel, humanitarian treatment, and resources.
Part of being engaged at One Girl means staying informed. While the above is an introduction to much of the fast-paced actions on Capitol Hill, it is important to give this a historical context. We understand that immigration policy in the United States has historically been flawed. Take, for example, President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: a piece of legislation that has largely been considered a failure. It was meant to tighten border security and stop employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, while offering amnesty to undocumented immigrants already in the United States. However, the act provided no framework for future immigration policies.
This is unfortunately not the first time the United States has implemented detention centers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to Pearl Harbor attacks saw the introduction of Japanese internment camps, in which Japanese folks (majority of whom were American citizens) were forcibly relocated and detained en masse. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act of President Chester Arthur also showed the power of courts to not only deny citizenship to Chinese laborers, but deport them as well.
Subsequent presidential administrations have left the framework of this immigration act in place, leading to more separations of families and mass deportations. On April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a “zero-tolerance policy,” which ruled that adult family members would be subject to prosecution and separated from children at the border. More recently, SCOTUS has decided to uphold Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban as constitutional.
As advocates for gender equality, we also realize the ways in which detention and deportation affects women and girls. Over 200 people have been detained at the SeaTac detention center in Seattle, Washington, 174 of whom are women. Many of the women came to the United States seeking asylum as they were fleeing violence. Unfortunately, they were met with even more violence, as they were separated from their children and held in prison waiting indefinitely.
Women and girls face several hurdles in detention: uncertainty, separation from their children, denial of rights and services, and sexual violence according to the ACLU. One Girl stands with the women and girls who have long been affected by ICE raids, imprisonment, and the arduous immigration and asylum process. We urge our communities to stand with us in recognizing each other’s humanity. No human is illegal and no human deserves abusive treatment.
So what can you do? Check out this comprehensive list Slate put together of how you can help fight family separation at the border. Donate to organizations on the ground where detention centers are located to continue funding their pro bono legal services and advocacy efforts. You can also find an organization through the above list to offer remote translation services. Last but not least, join One Girl at the Families Belong Together march in New York City! If you can’t join us here, find a march in your city.
While it can be difficult to keep up with immigration, being well-informed is key to feeding movements. Let’s keep the energy moving forward to #KeepFamiliesTogether.
Daniela and Jaslin