By Jamie Lindsey
You’re a mother. A mother who would do anything for your children. A mother who would put her entire life at risk to make her children’s lives better.
Imagine that circumstances beyond your control have put your children’s lives at risk. Imagine the harrowing internal struggle as you try to decide if you should pick up and leave your life as you know it and face the unknown in order to ensure a better life for yourself and your children. Imagine the home where you’ve lived your entire life is no longer safe. What do you do? Do you pick everything up and leave?
Surely life can’t be so horrible that you have to find a new location for your family. Surely you will be able to stay in your home praying that dangerous circumstances don’t fall upon your family. Again.
How far would you go? A block away? A city away? A country?
If you are like my mother and most mothers I know, you wouldn’t stop until you know that your children are safe, cared for, and loved. You would walk through sand, rivers, and storms to ensure the safety of your children. Would you not?
Why is it so hard to believe that this is reality for many women around the world? According to the UNICEFUSA website, women seek asylum in the United States for numerous reasons including but not limited to:
“Crushing poverty. Environmental crises. Endemic crime. Gang-related violence, extortion and forced recruitment. High rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse of girls. Scarce social services. Limited opportunities to learn or to earn a living. The desire of children to be with their parents who are already working in the U.S.”
What many citizens in the United States and abroad need to understand is that they have the privilege of not experiencing the conditions asylum seekers face. And even if many citizens experience these types of issues, it is mild compared to what women in third-world or crime-ridden, impoverished countries experience. Is there crime in the U.S.? Absolutely. Do we have a criminal justice system and a police force that will assist with criminal behavior? Absolutely. Is our justice system corrupt? Sure. Can we compare it to a country where war is raging, poverty is inevitable, and gangs are rampant? No, not really. If you have never had to flee from your home in fear or abuse, violence, or trafficking, you have not experienced these issues like many women who are leaving their homes to seek a more stable life.
The Syrian refugee crisis is a prime example of this issue. In 2011, peaceful protests in Syria were returned with violence from their government. The violence continued and forced over 1 million people to flee their homes in March 2013. After the chemical attacks by Syrian President Assad, by September of the same year, another 1 million people fled their homes. By 2019, over 6 million Syrians had to flee their homes for fear of violence from sectarian groups trying to gain control over regions in Syria. Fleeing wasn’t just as simple as moving to another city. Violence was and still is rampant. Hospitals, community centers and any avenue to seek help has been destroyed or damaged. According to an article by World Vision, humanitarian aid had even been cut off due to violence, leaving almost 3 million Syrians without aid because they are in hard-to-reach areas where aid cannot be delivered.
We have all seen the pictures of hundreds of people fleeing in boats. We have seen the reports of refugees dying at sea. We have seen children wash up on beaches. The images are haunting. And anyone who cannot feel for these people has no heart, no values, and no moral compass. To brush off these crises and use privilege as an excuse to ignore the cries of mothers and children is plain and simply evil.
Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters
The above picture is of a Guatemalan migrant named Lety Perez, showing her pleading with an officer to let her across the border. According to an article from NPR, she pleads, “Let me pass, I beg of you…Don’t let them send me back. I just want to give my son a better life.”
This seems to be the case for most migrant mothers seeking safety and protection in the United States. However, the trip to the United States is brutal and dangerous for most families. A 2013 National Foundation for American Policy report states that “evidence suggests an immigrant attempting to cross illegally into the United States today is 8 times more likely to die in the attempt than approximately a decade ago.” The report also notes that Border Patrol does not count the amount of deaths on the Mexican side of the border.
While many families make it to the border, they now have to face a cruel reality of detention centers and separation from their children. According to an article by The Counsel of Foreign Affairs, during the 2019 fiscal year, immigration authorities apprehended over 76,000 unaccompanied minors, many of whom arrived with family members but were separated at the border.
The stories are haunting. The images are overwhelming. To deny mothers and families an opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their children is cruel and unjust. We must be an ally for our neighbors. We need to rid our society of xenophobic slander against immigrants. We are all humans.
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