Families Belong Together

A few weeks ago at a Communities in Schools event we heard from children who have benefited from the program. One of them was an Iraqi teenager who also spoke for his younger brother and sister.

Listening to his story was both inspiring and gut-wrenching. His father, who was in the audience, made the decision to flee Iraq after his son’s school was blown up by a car bomb. The son was injured, but not all of his classmates survived. Unfortunately, they first sought refuge in Syria which was about to experience its own civil war. That sent them fleeing for safety once again, this time in Turkey before they were finally resettled in Tacoma.

They were among the few who were resettled in the United States before the President’s muslim travel ban went into effect.

It’s an extraordinary journey and you could see the pride on his father’s face as this young man talked about his dreams of one day working for Microsoft thanks not only to his father’s sacrifice, but also a community that has embraced them.

I thought about that family as we watched others attempt to claim asylum at our southern border. To deter them from doing so the President decided on an unusually cruel new punishment by seperating them from their children.

Reporting is spotty on what’s going on in these facilities because the administration has restricted access to reporters and even members of Congress, but we have seen some video smuggled out and the details are grim.

Last night a court ordered that families be reunited. This section of the order caught my attention.

Money, important documents, and automobiles, to name a few, are routinely catalogued, stored, tracked and produced upon a detainees’ release, at all levels — state and federal, citizen and alien. Yet, the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children. The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.

I’m going to repeat that last part — “children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”

At best, the administration is guilty of gross incompetence and benign neglect, but combined with totality of his policies towards people who look or worship differently than the President would prefer, it seems more like malevolence.

Yesterday, it was the Supreme Court who made news with a 5–4 decision upholding the muslim ban policy. In this, the President was much more explicit in his purpose which was cited in Justice Sotomayor’s searing dissent.

The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns. But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presidential Proclamation №9645 of the appearance of discrimination that the President’s words have created. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.

People running for their lives deserve our compassion, not hate. Even if their asylum claim isn’t valid, they are entitled to having their case heard and the administration is obliged to respect their dignity while it’s in process. Certainly their children should not be taken away while they wait for a decision.

That’s why this Saturday, 12pm, at People’s Park in Tacoma I will join with others at the Families Belong Together Rally. There will be protests all over the country that day. If you want to show your support for migrants and refugees in our community, push Congress to act, or perhaps even convince the administration that the political cost is too high to continue treating people this way, please join us.

Coincidentally, this week I also met with Tacoma Community House Executive Director Liz Dunbar about their capital campaign. For 108 years, TCM has helped countless immigrants and refugees gain the skills they need to transition out of poverty, navigate a new culture, and find personal and professional success. They have volunteer opportunities and, of course, could use your financial support.

A generation ago Washington’s Republican Governor Dan Evans watched as his counterpart in California, Jerry Brown, turned Vietnamese refugees away. He was incensed and turned his frustration into action, welcoming the refugees to Washington. Try to imagine King or Pierce County today without the Vietnamese community. They’ve become an integral part of our own local culture. Now imagine what would have happened if Governor Evans had also turned them away.

It’s time for us to push our government to live up to what America has aspired to be, a place for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It’s time for America to be America again.

Re-Elect Derek Young, Pierce County Council