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I want to focus on, and draw some connections between, a few recent and upcoming dates.
Sunday, June 16, was of course Father’s Day. I hope you were able to celebrate it in a fulfilling way. But for displaced families, including asylum-seekers, refugees, and migrants, Father’s Day is at best a bittersweet occasion.
As it happens, Thursday, June 20, was World Refugee Day (www.unhcr.org/refugeeday). So let’s take a moment, while thinking of our own fathers, families and children, to contemplate what is happening to refugee families.
Along our southern borders, according to many reports, families who are seeking asylum are being held in shockingly inhumane conditions. Detainees and staffers alike refer to some rooms as las hieleras, the Spanish translation of “iceboxes,” because they are kept so cold. Larger outdoor spaces, enclosed with fencing, are called las perreras or dog kennels.
Meanwhile, separation of families and detention of child migrants continue. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), in coalition with other organizations, marked Father’s Day by staging a demonstration at the Homestead Air Base in Homestead, FL, where more than 3,000 child migrants are being held in a detention center. Watch a video of the protest at migrantjustice.afsc.org.
You may have seen reports that the Trump regime recently cut funding for educational, recreational and legal assistance programs at Homestead (www.bit.ly/TRRtrumpcuts). Congressional oversight has proved difficult, and congresspeople attempting to visit the facility are frequently denied access. Activists are concerned that transferal of detained children to military facilities, such as Fort Sill in Oklahoma, may make it impossible for outside observers to monitor their condition. Ironically enough, Fort Sill was also the location of one of the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Some suggest that the distance between detention centers and concentration camps may not be as far as we might think.
This brings us to contemplate another recent date, June 14, Flag Day; and another soon to come, July 4, Independence Day. These are times when we usually celebrate who we are as a people, and reaffirm our highest national values. We have also just passed Memorial Day, and commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, honoring men and women who fought, killed and died in support of those values. But especially in this patriotic season, in the light of what we see happening now, the way that we are succumbing to the very kind of discriminatory and authoritarian mindsets that were defeated and, as we thought, eradicated in World War II, we may wish to consider how well we are living up to those values, and to the vision of our Founding Fathers.
We have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this who we really are? Is this who we really want to be?’