Our migrant children need love and safety, not hunger and fear

A young asylum seeker peers through the border fence between Tijuana and San Diego. PHOTO: Daniel Arauz on Flickr
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As parents, we tell our children that there is no such thing as the bogeyman. Yet we live under a monstrous system that has proven time and again that it always puts profits before people. Schools teach our children to respect their classmates. Yet this country does not respect human rights and instead separates families, traumatizes children and divides people based on the color of their skin and their poverty.

Miriam Padilla

Capitalism is teaching our children that some lives are more important than others.

Let me make one thing clear: no parent would put their child through the hell of trudging hundreds of miles and crossing deserts — not unless it was their only option.

Twenty-six years ago, my mother crossed with my eight-month-old sister. For weeks they lived in a house with several other migrant families, and barely had anything to eat. Still, this was better than her hometown in Mexico. Staying in a small, crowded house here in the United States meant a chance at a better life for her baby, my sister.

My sister has fought tooth-and-nail to seek an education and prove that our mother’s courage in coming to the United States was worth all the effort. Although this was never required by my mother, my sister and many immigrant children are deprived of their innocence and of their right to be children in order to demonstrate to this country that they are worthy of life. Forced to assimilate and become a “model minority” they are under constant stress and anxiety.

As a mother, I know my children need me to tell them that I love them, every night and every day. My heart would break into pieces, and those pieces into pieces, if my kids were taken from me. But I cannot even imagine the hurt and confusion that they would suffer if strangers dragged them out of my arms and separated them from me — for days, weeks, and months. No child should have to write a letter explaining why she deserves to live, and then wait for some judge’s approval!

This is the reality for hundreds of children here in America. We all have witnessed horrific abuse and jailing of migrant children behind bars, especially over the last year on our southern border, as thousands of migrants fled violence, poverty, lack of education, and crime.

But this is not something that grew out of the Trump administration. It is an ongoing policy created by and for the capitalist system. To live as an immigrant child in this country is to wake up every day with fear of deportation and separation from those who comfort and love you most.

Migrant workers have always made invaluable contributions to the economic and cultural life of the United States and they continue to do so. The government wants us to believe that excluding immigrants is a matter of “national security” for U.S. citizens. What a lie! Scapegoating migrants and refugees secures the profits of corporate jailers, and it provides a convenient bogeyman for cynical politicians who play on fear for personal gain and power.

If we are to have genuine justice, we need fundamental change. We need to demand all immigrant detention centers be shut down and that the borders be opened. Capitalism wears many faces; its brutish immigration system is just one of them. It affects some of us directly, and it affects others indirectly. But rest assured, it affects us all, and we all belong in the struggle for immigrant rights.

We cannot place our hope in this government having a miraculous change of heart. I put my hope in people like you, ordinary working people who seek justice and want to change the course of history. It was people like us, women and men, Black, white and every color in between, of all generations and ethnic origins, who fought against slavery, for women’s rights, for LGBTQ rights — and will keep fighting for humane life.

Miriam Padilla, a mother on a mission, is a working Latina activist on many social justice fronts and a student at Evergreen College in Olympia, Wash. She can be reached at miriamxpadilla@gmail.com.

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