In the wake of the special edition of last week’s AoC Checklist on immigration, we’re recommitting to centering and amplifying marginalized groups in our actions.
Long version (1,100 words, 4-minute read):
Given that the AoC Checklist has been advocating for humanity in our immigration system for the last year and a half, I was encouraged to see so many paying attention to this issue. The document was opened almost 10 times the normal rate! I was also surprised by the vehemence in some of the messages I received.
Your trust in our work means a lot to me and our team. Many people rely on the Checklist as their primary form of activism. So I want to share how I arrived at last week’s recommended actions, what we learned from the experience, and what we plan to do to avoid misrepresenting issues in the future.
On the issue of tracking kids
I have friends who foster American kids. It was my opinion that our country owed unaccompanied children the same oversight to make sure guardians do not take advantage of them.
Unfortunately, according to the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)—respnsible for the vetting, placement, and tracking of unaccompanied children—is too embedded in ICE policy to provide meaningful support. In the words of our allies, Al Otro Lado, “[ORR] should be a child welfare agency, not a jailer.”
It’s a devastating truth that at this time in our country, tracking kids isn’t safe because it could lead to unaccompanied deportations to even more dangerous countries. At the same time, not pushing ORR to do its job means we’re willing to accept that a few kids will slip into trafficking world. It’s a horrible, horrible conundrum. Fortunately, there’s a solution.
On the issue of increasing numbers of unaccompanied children
Immigrating improperly across the border used to be a civil offense, not a crime. In 2018, the current administration chose to designate 100% of improper border-crossings as a criminal offense. These “criminals” are now immediately separated from children and sent to detention centers—often without bond, without assured bond hearings, without adequate access to legal representation.
This means more and more kids are now forcibly unaccompanied. With our government guaranteeing bed quotas to for-profit detention centers, our tax dollar is paying corporations to warehouse more and more of our fellow humans, including children. Again, fortunately there is a solution.
On the issue of conflating “lost” kids with separated kids
The original 1,475 missing unaccompanied minors were referenced in a 2017 report. The new no-tolerance policy in 2018 criminalizes parents, making hundreds more kids unaccompanied monthly. In the absence of data, we can’t say for sure whether we’re now losing track of separated kids. Fed into the same unaccountable system, I concluded it was probable.
Where things went awry
Last Sunday, I created the checklist solo and with urgency. I’m a perfectionist who takes this work seriously, so I take full and sole responsibility for hurriedly conflating family separation with “lost” children. It was rash to call for our government to do better when it comes to providing post-placement support (“tracking”). Though well-intended, these suggestions were out of alignment with the actions immigrant rights groups were and are calling for.
If you wrote to advocate for tracking, be assured that no permanent harm is done. My team and I debriefed what happened, listed the lessons learned, and refocused on the opportunities ahead.
What we’re doing about it
Going forward, we—myself and all 42 volunteers—are recommitting to amplifying the priorities of marginalized communities and immigrant-rights groups. You’ll also see actions ending with a hat tip (h/t) to the group(s) recommending it.
Every week, we follow more than 25 immigrant rights groups on both sides of the border and 35 civil rights organizations. We pay attention to the actions they recommend. We source quality journals and industry reports for accurate supporting data. We develop collaborative relationships with civil- and immigrant-rights groups.
We view grassroots groups as the authoritative experts on the issues impacting their communities. Our sacred responsibility is to amplify their work so they do not fight alone.
For that reason, our checklist this week focuses not on my agenda for ORR’s duties, but on the priorities of longstanding, grassroots immigrant-rights groups:
1. Defund ICE and defund CPB.
2. Stop the practice of family separation. #FamiliesBelongTogether
3. Hold ICE accountable for its abuses of children and adults.
Your role in this work (part 1)
Stay awake. As a conscious American, your role is to discern, to read quality media, and to scrutinize what you read online (especially with Russia’s agenda to sow chaos in our struggling democracy). Question the authority of anyone using a trending hashtag—including me.
Our research team is full of smart, thoughtful professionals, and I’m committed to doing this checklist through 2020. We will be here for you. But in the end, you must trust your own values and integrity when you decide to speak up.
Your other role (part 2)
Get rest. Since the 2016 primaries, the news has grown more rage-inducing, frightening, and overwhelming. It’s taxing to consume lots of bad news without a break. As one who struggles with chronic anxiety and depression, I speak with authority on the matter.
If we are to succeed in healing our democracy and standing with the silenced, you must also commit to practices that allow to restore your sense of balance. Some ideas?
- When you read the news, follow the advice of Fred Rogers: “Look for the helpers.”
- At least once a week, try observing a sacred day of rest from news—and all the sources where you see news (home screens, email, social media, etc.).
- Try a media fast on the fourth week of the month when the checklist takes a break.
Be mindful in preventing the news-makers from sucking you dry. Taking care of your well-being allows you to be there for the people who need our support. We need you well and rested.
Gratitude and heart
Most of all, I want to thank you for being here and for caring so much about other people’s children. As Glennon Doyle says, “There’s no such thing as other people’s children.” How uplifting to be part of a growing movement that will hold and protect these beautiful kiddos. We love them without even knowing them.
When times seem hard, remember: With one call, one letter, one courageous person at a time—our voices together will create the change we seek. Deep breaths, friends. We’ve got this.
P.S. Our exciting announcement: We’ve set a goal to double number of AoC Checklist subscribers by November. 60,000 Americans in 6 months.
If you want to help us meet this goal, we’ll give you all the tools. Sign up to become an AoCC Ambassador and get the inside scoop on our big plans! (As always, your privacy is important, and we never share your contact info with anyone, ever.) Sign up for details below:
Thank you for all your efforts. It’s so heartening to know there are people like you who care enough to keep us aware of positive actions we can take during scary, overwhelming times. I do have a question about one thing: It seems like the give-thanks section of your weekly missives often lists Republican leaders to whom we are urged to express gratitude for one thing or another. In my view, this is a waste of time and resources. The GOP has signed off on decency and humanity. I don’t care if Marco Rubio or Mitch McConnell said something not entirely fake, racist or unjust. I will not expend one ounce of effort or time thanking them. By letting Trump and his minions get away with ANYTHING, they are supporting and abetting the most evil administration in our history. Thank THEM??? No. I’d love to see you urge your followers to send expressions of gratitude ONLY to those who truly deserve it. Thank you.
Hi Cathie! I’m so glad you enjoy and use the checklist. With regard to the gratitude section, we thank a variety of people from grassroots leaders, people using their fame to lift others up, and yes, even entrenched politicians who take even the smallest steps to put people over party. It’s not entirely altruistic; the health benefits of practicing gratitude–even to our “enemies”–are immense. You are welcome to ignore the ones you disdain, but I encourage you to try it before you writing it off entirely. Our country’s founders disagreed often and vehemently, but they maintained their respect for each other. This is what we’ve lost in the last few decades. It’s my belief that it will take work, respect, and humility for us to heal as a nation–especially when this administration is gone.
“standing with the silenced” is, I believe, precisely what got Trump elected. I love your articles and am with you on almost everything you advocate, but I do think that Trump represents a good many folks who felt silenced before Trump came along. They live in a different, mostly rural world where self-reliance is king, backed up with guns and a strong distrust of government interference in their way of life (like conservation of wolves that kill their young lambs or calves). Many of them also felt as strongly negative about Obama as you and I feel about Trump, and the Democratic Party has paid them little attention for a long time. (The Republicans have paid them far too much of the wrong kind of attention!) So they were, in many ways, also silenced, and probably will be again. So what do we do about them? I marched on Montgomery with Dr. King in 1965 (at the ripe old age of 19), and to this day I do not know how to listen to, logically converse with, or relate to these folks in any empathetic way, and yet I believe many of them – farmers, ranchers, miners, etc. – need to be listened to. We may not be able to change their prejudices, but there are other economic and civil needs that should be addressed. How do we include them, too?
That is an excellent question, Beverly. We follow the Rural Organizing Project, but now I’m curious about researching more. If you find resources for reaching these cross-sections of our country, I hope you’ll share them with us!
This is not an answer to the question, but rather a different way of asking the same question, perhaps a better way of asking it.
I am often reminded of the baby chicks that hatched in my 9th grade biology class. They peeped into our world on a Friday and we didn’t have much chance to do anything but feed and water them before leaving for the weekend. On Monday morning, we came back to discover that three chicks had been pecked to death: the 3 black chicks had been killed by the 27 fluffy little yellow chicks . . . because they were different, I guessed then and still believe. So I ask, is it our biological search for self-preservation that drives our “us versus them” mentality, and is it possible for us to overcome that divide? What will it take for “us” to find value in “them?”
That is a really honest, really amazing question. (And a super sad story!)
Not that I have all the answers (because I definitely don’t), but I find a lot of hope from people like Krista Tippet (On Being) and Heather Mizeur (Soul Force Politics) who are having courageous conversations with the “other side” in search of common ground. Groups are popping up all over the country to facilitate discussions between and among political divides (Like Bridging Our Divide.org). People are flocking to them.
One of the common themes I hear in these places is the importance of understanding the values that inform our opinions. Values like respect, freedom, fairness, justice, cooperation all transcend political ideology. Talking on the level of values deescalates the rhetoric and refocuses on what we have in common. While “We” may disagree with “their” policy, we’re likely to appreciate the values that inform it. When I asked my conservative family member how he became a Republican, I learned a lot about what he values: honesty, responsibility, accountability. I refrained to point out how his party is failing at these because it would have shut down the conversation. It was really fascinating to discover that I value those things too–and I felt a lot closer to him by the end of the conversation. After years of political animosity between us, it is almost gone.
There are no easy answers. I think the most crucial thing of all–if “we” are going to find value in “them”–is willingness to try. To make a full-on, conscious decision not to peck each other to death, to keep a long term view of how working together and valuing each other can help our goals in the long term. With the caveat that extremism is a social toxin, I believe our democracy will succeed or fail based on whether we can restore respect in spite of our differences.
Thank you so much. You encourage me and give me hope . . . and a lot of things to go look up and hopefully learn from!
Go team Jen GO! Sign me up to ba an AoCC ambassador… and thank you for all you do to help me not lose hope…
Awesome, Amanda! Thank you! I’m so excited about this!
Be sure to fill out the form above so we can send you all the details! 🙂
Thank you, Jennifer, for being a champion of the Resistance. With the continued hard work and dedication of people like you, more and more of us will wake up to the fact that democracy is not a given in this country. If we continue to pull together to make our voices heard, the United States will come through these contentious times to a better place for all those who have been misled, harmed, sidelined, and negatively targeted by people whose main agenda is to win at any cost and acquire ever-increasing wealth and power. I applaud you for your willingness to admit your mistakes and for encouraging us to treat everyone—even our avowed enemies—with respect.
Thanks so much, Christina! We’re all learners and making mistakes is part of the journey. Live and learn, right? I’m so glad to be in such good company!
Hi Jen, and thanks for your continuing leadership and sensitivity. Humility and a willingness to admit mistakes are in short supply these days but very important to maintain alliances.
As an immigrant myself (albeit a white, wealthy one), living in California, I am encouraged by your recognition of the ongoing inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants. And I agree that it’s vital to listen to the data, facts, and feedback from grassroots groups.
However, for the vast majority of us, unrealistic goals (or goals that are sadly unrealistic for the time being) are exhausting. As you highlight repeatedly (thank you!), self-care is important. So “Defund ICE and CPB” [shouldn’t that be CBP?] may be a great rallying cry for immigrant and refugee advocates, but for me it’s meaningless and exhausting. ICE and CBP have a legitimate role in the protection of our borders and our imports. If nothing else, CBP also handles inspections for endangered animals, drugs, weaponry, etc etc. IMHO, the problem is the abuse and perverted focus of ICE and CBP’s goals and missions towards meaningless hunting of non criminals, apparently to generate headlines.
So I take issue with your statement that you should “amplify their work” [of grassroots groups]. I hope instead that you will interpret and highlight their efforts in ways that the rest of us can feel effective and successful.
We have a mix of actions–from making donations and supporting legislation, to writing letters to people who are detained. We will always include actions requested by groups who have been on the front lines for decades. They are most knowledgeable. The good news is that the effort to defund family separation is already underway in legislation proposed by Rep Pramila Jayapal: https://twitter.com/RepJayapal/status/1004766949937594369
If you are as exhausted as you seem, allow me to encourage you to take the self-care reminders to heart. We need you in this work, but we need you well and resilient.