Reunited Families Finally Meet Some Real Americans
Now that the Trump administration has achieved its D+ grade in reuniting 2/3 of the families it tore apart with the family separation policy, what's next for the families who've been reunited? For a lot of them, it's going to be more limbo: waiting to find out whether they'll be deported, and if so, some parents will have to decide whether to ask for their children to be sent to family members here in the US to pursue an asylum claim alone. Other families who have requested asylum and have passed the "credible fear" test (the first stage of screening) are being released from detention, but have no idea how to get to their next stop in America. Fortunately, a small army of volunteers, advocacy groups, and companies has sprung up in to coordinate food, travel, and temporary housing for the asylum seekers across the country. There are far more Americans who hate what the Trump administration has done than support it, and they're doing all they can to tell asylum seekers they're welcome.
Dara Lind outlines the effort in a piece at Vox that's guaranteed to make you tear up a bit. The efforts start at nonprofits all over the country, basically anywhere near where ICE has been reuniting families and then sending them out the door, often without anything more than the clothes they arrived wearing, ankle monitors for the adults, and an appointment to see immigration officials in a week to ten days. Families have some say in where that will be -- most have the name of a town where a relative or someone from their own village may live, and so ICE tells them to be at the nearest field office and shuttles them to a nonprofit (although early on, some were just dropped off at bus stations in the middle of the night).
RAICES, the Texas advocacy group that's been paying bail and finding lawyers for migrants, has joined with Families Belong Together, the tech industry nonprofit FWD.us, and a whole bunch of local social service groups to coordinate and pay for the migrants' first steps into this schizoid country where the government hates them.
Connie Phillips, president of Lutheran Social Services Southwest in Phoenix, says her group doesn't want to rush any of the families:
"They're so raw" — some families have been together for an hour or less by the time they arrive at the intake center. "Hotel rooms can be pretty lonesome."
Many have never stayed in a hotel and need to be shown how key cards work. Most need new clothes, and probably shoelaces, since ICE took those away to keep them from hanging themselves. A FWD.us staffer had to find out for one family whether it's safe to wear the ankle monitors in a shower. And after having been treated like animals, the migrants are often very uncertain about asking for any help at all:
These people are very reserved, very quiet, very compliant," says Phillips. "We have to say over and over again that 'we're here to help you,' because they're very suspicious of us." They are, in a word, traumatized. "I've had children ask us, 'Are you going to take my mom or my dad away now?'"
Fuck this country and the fuckers who elected Trump.
A big part of the motivation for all this seems to involve a degree of national penance, really:
"The American public is going to step in where the government has failed," said Alida Garcia, the coalitions and policy director for FWD.us, on a press call Tuesday. "It's going to provide comfort and love and care to these families."
And so, the way we do, we've started fixing the mess, because most of us are a lot kinder and better than the decent church-goin' women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces (and their husbands waving Confederate flags) who've brought this nation to this point.
Airlines are getting in on the work, too. Delta and American are offering free tickets and coordinating travel with people from FWD.us who have become instant travel agents. Travel assistance is also being offered to immigration lawyers who are taking the families' cases on a pro bono basis. Since most last-minute airline tickets tend to be single seats, that can be a problem for children who won't let their parents out of their sight after being reunified, Garcia says. Some want to have their hands held when they go to the bathroom.
"We'd like them to sit together." Delta has assured FWD.us that if the names of travelers are sent to the airline the day before, it will make sure parents are seated with their children on the flight.
Once the families get where they're going, the challenge will be staying in touch with them and making sure they get to their meetings with ICE and their asylum hearings, so FWD.us scrambled to get them all prepaid phones. That initially hit a snag, since many states and retail chains only sell two per customer, to avoid helping drug dealers. The group considered trying what FWD.us president Todd Schulte called a "Dunkirk plan":
"People of America, buy two cellphones, and send them to this hotel in Phoenix." [...]
"I got a guy at T-Mobile now," Schulte boasts with a laugh. "I could get you a couple thousand, if you need."
Lind points out that Americans are pissed off enough at the New Cruelty that the Dunkirk plan probably would have worked, too, considering the millions of dollars they've donated so far.
Of course, as Lind noted on Twitter, it's "deeply weird" that the family separation story, as it plays out in much of the media, seems to stop at the supposed happy ending of reunification, "as if families cease to exist once they're reunified." That's obviously not the case, and obviously the kids -- and the parents -- still need all of us. Definitely in November, but also right damn now.
Look for the helpers. Could be one in your mirror.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.