When I was five years old, my father who I barely knew at the time told my maternal grandparents that he was taking me to Quito for the weekend. I did not see them again until thirteen years later, at the age of eighteen. During an ugly custody battle, my father felt that his only option was to take me from my mother. Leaving Ecuador and everything I knew was traumatic. I went from running freely in my grandmother’s front yard with my cousins to playing in a small, gated square of concrete in Brownsville, Brooklyn because it was “too dangerous” otherwise. I couldn’t name it then, but what I experienced as a small five-year-old girl were my very first memorable encounters with anger, depression, and anxiety. I was crying myself to sleep, throwing shoes at my father for taking me away from my family and violently biting my nails at the sight of my new life.
It’s all over the media right now. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their families. Detention centers. Cages. Foil sheets. Children pleading for their parents. There is no way to console them. Keep families together. Trauma. Uncomfortable situations. Straight up inhumane and traumatizing circumstances. Do I have your attention?
The circumstances in which I was separated from the family I knew were COMPLETELY different than what thousands of children are facing at the border right now. Despite the trauma I experienced, what I experienced when I got to the States was far from instability. Nevertheless, the impact this separation had on me as a five-year old child was huge and the trauma shaped a great chunk of who I became as a teenager and the demons I work endlessly to combat everyday as an adult. I’ve told this story many times throughout my life because it is so much of who I am. It was the transition in my life that caused a thousand tears and a barrier between me and my inner peace as a child.
I tell it today because when I got to New York, I had loving neighbors, incredible teachers, cousins and family members who took care of me, a father and grandmother who worked to give me the world. Despite such a strong foundation, my suffering did not just stop. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that children are feeling as they are separated from their families and held in detention centers. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear and the uncontrollable tears that must be forming within them. Some of them have been photographed in cages while others work to stay warm with their space blankets? What the actual fuck?
Today, what bothers me the most is the lack of compassion, empathy and humanity for the children that are being separated from their families. Through uploaded memes, status updates, quoted officials in the media, I’ve seen an attack on liberals rather than an attack on laws that allow masses of children to be put into inhumane circumstances. The conversation around immigration in the US is complicated. There are layers and layers of this conversation that myself as an immigrant am working on better understanding. But for those of you who are spending your time uploading statuses that diminishes the pain and suffering these families are feeling, I hope that you allow your heart and your mind to experience something different. You’ve got your president. The least you can do is show some compassion.
Family separation is a common narrative for both documented an undocumented immigrants. Some situations are a lot more traumatic than others but the situation is always really damn sad. Latinos literally had a show called Sabado Gigantewhere part of the segment was reuniting family members after years and years of not seeing each other. Whether the struggle is financial or not, being separated from families within the immigrant community is so real that I am sure that for every immigrants-whether documented or undocumented- the events of over 2,000 children being separated from their families at the border is really hard to see. Whether you agree or don’t agree with Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, is it that difficult to have a little compassion for your neighbors, co-workers, Facebook friends and actual friends that have experienced this? And after you realize that compassion goes a long way, I hope that you consider opening up some of the following resources.
Consider donating to ensure children have the resources they need, protesting to support the Families , sharing this post, challenging yourself to be better.
Image from Familiesbelongtogether.org