As we turn the page on 2018, I count myself among those who question the inhumane policies enacted by the current administration regarding asylum seekers.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines asylum seekers as “people who move across borders in search of protection, but who may not fulfill the strict criteria laid down by the 1951 Refugee Convention—a multilateral treaty that defines who is a refugee, defines the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant it.
Refugees are defined as those who have, “been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence and has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” Almost always, these individuals cannot return home or are afraid to do so.
So, when I hear the current administration and those in the Republican party who support its attacks on asylum seekers—either boldly through loud, hateful comments about and/or against them or even worse, tacitly, through their screaming silence—it challenges me to raise my own voice.
It doesn’t take much wisdom or courage, just true human compassion, to look at the widely circulated photos of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal who died seeking asylum along the border in early December, or of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died seeking asylum more recently, and feel the haunting sadness in their young eyes.
Their looks pulled me back in time to when I first heard the cries of babies and young children forcibly separated from their parents, as they echoed through the bars of ICE cages in June. I, like many other Americans, was simultaneously angered and disgusted at the actions of this government.
When I noted the tacit approval given by our government to Mexican authorities who now hold those seeking asylum in the U.S. in their own country until America decides to process them—and watched as they marked the arms of all, including young children, with numbers to keep track—it reminded me of how slaves were branded in this country; of the numbers Nazis tattooed on the arms of Jews in World War II concentration camps. I was nothing less than horrified.
In the wake of all of this, I was still stunned by the dismissive manner with which the current administration has responded to the deaths of young Jakelin Caal and Felipe Gomez Alonzo—I question, “What kind of people can learn of the death of any child and not be moved?”
I can no longer muster political excuses for my Republican friends who continue to support this inhumane agenda toward asylum seekers. I’ve moved beyond ascribing the administration’s wayward ideology to the president alone—I now clearly place it at the feet of his enablers whether they are politicians who serve us locally, on a statewide basis or at the national level—I believe that every Republican politician who is afraid to speak out against these policies is complicit and I say to them, “Your hands are not clean!” Regardless of who you are, voters will remember both your boisterous aggression and support of these policies or your cowardly political silence.
At times like this, I cannot help but recall the brilliant and foreboding words of Albert Einstein who said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.