For the last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ face has been running through my mind. I watched as she stood in front of the press corp on June 14th and ignored the suffering of thousands of migrant children.
“Come on Sarah, you’re a parent,” said White House reporter and CNN political analyst Brian Karem in the briefing. “Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through?”
Sanders responded by saying, “Hey Brian, I know you want to get some more TV time, but that’s not what this is about,” ignoring his plea for empathy. Later, when asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ use of the Bible to support the no-tolerance policy, Sanders said, “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”
Sanders, like the rest of the administration, is choosing to prioritize the law and the systems of power over the lives of people experiencing a human rights violation. That’s a belief system that I personally cannot forgive.
Trump supporters, including many of our nation’s white evangelicals, are not opposed to the way the administration is enforcing this policy because they disapprove of the system currently in place and blame the Democrats for doing nothing to change it. These groups are calling on Congress to introduce new bills that will strengthen the borders.
This attitude follows what Sanders has been saying in her press briefings: “The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade and the president is simply enforcing them.”
However, the question of whether or not the current law is the most effective tool for immigration reform is not relevant to the lives of these children. Their wellbeing should not depend on the passing of legislation. Our executive branch should see that humanity and empathy for suffering children is far more important than pushing Congress into making a change. There are ways of coming to an agreement on policy that don’t include punishing innocent children and ripping them from their parents’ arms.
The question that Karem posed in the briefing is one that has been asked of white women like Sanders during almost every humanitarian crisis in U.S. history: don’t you care? Don’t you have empathy? Don’t you know that this is wrong? But historically, white women have been complicit in the enslavement and persecution of people of color, from the slave trade to the Japanese internment camps, and now these migrant children being kept in cages.
Melania Trump made a public statement which some say criticized the new policy separating children from their parents, but then visited a Texas detention center for migrant children wearing a jacket saying “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” While it’s unclear if the jacket was intended to make a statement, her cavalier choice surrounding the issue is not the clear message of support for migrant families that we need from the people in power.
Meanwhile, all four of America’s living former first ladies have made statements against the Trump administration’s treatment of these children, which is a step in the right direction. These women, all of whom are mothers like Sanders, recognize the atrocity of what’s happening on our border and are publicly saying that it will not be ignored.
It’s time for the rest of us to step up. We have to mobilize and ensure that these children will be reunited with their families. We have to hold the president and his cabinet accountable for their actions. But most of all, we have to value human life more than the word of the law.
If you’d like to help permanently stop the separation of migrant children from their families, here are some steps that you can take:
- Educate yourself. Here is a collection of information compiled by NPR on the situation.
- Speak out. Talk to your friends about what’s going on. Use any public forum you can find to make sure your voice is heard. Share these action items with them.
- Call your Senators and encourage them to put a stop to the separation of migrant families.
- Thom Tillis: (202) 224-6342 or (919) 856-4630
- Richard Burr: (202) 224-3154 or (800) 685-8916
- For Senators in other states, check this list for their phone numbers.
- If you live near one of the places where children are being transported from the border, you can join protests at the airports where they’re landing.
- If you have the means to travel to DC on June 30, you can attend a protest with Families Belong Together.
- If you cannot make it to DC, there will be sister protests in hundred of cities around the country.
- If you have the means to travel to the border, you can volunteer to take declarations from families with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
- Donate! Here are some organizations mobilizing on behalf of migrant families: