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: