Where are your children? You sure? How nice for you. Truly. And for me. Mine, both more or less adults, with promising futures, sleep soundly in their rooms as I type nearby in mine.
We made it, I think. If something happens to me, well, they’ll be okay. They’ve got this. They’re lucky. I’m lucky. Mere accidents of our births, this fact. But my heart hurts because others’ in the motherhood are breaking. Domestic and gang intimidation and violence, the likes of which most Americans hopefully never will conceive, inspire some mothers and fathers, including many in impoverished South American countries, to desperately flee the only homes they’ve ever known. With their babies, and not speaking the language predominant in the country they pray will offer asylum.
Dear moms and dads, with the same hopes in their hearts as yours and mine, they flee, as would I, were I in their shoes. As. Would. I. Like neighbors we only waved to as we fetch our mail, who suddenly appear in crisis at our door, scared children and tears in tow, and what – we call the authorities? Really? Whatever happened to offering a reassuring hug and a mug of tea while we sort it all out? But no, we know now that many of our neighbors from south of our border received no such treatment upon finally making it to America. Instead, they’ve been treated cruelly, forcibly separated from their babies and placed in virtual cages as they wait to be ‘processed.’ And before they were even sentenced, most of their children were spirited away and scattered by American immigration officials without any apparent mechanism for ever linking them back to their parents, let alone reuniting them. What the actual hell?
One mother recently shared the story of her arrest with BBC:
“They told us, ‘You are criminals. You will be imprisoned and your children will be given up for adoption.’ They yelled at us so badly that our kids got scared.” She and her 6-year-old son reportedly came to the U.S. from Honduras. “They told us to lay our kids on the floor. At midnight they came to pick up the kids. There was a mom breastfeeding a baby. And one of the officers told her she wasn’t an animal to be taking her breast out like that and they took her baby. They cuffed her and chained her in front of the kids. What they’ve done is horrible,” she said.
Oh, Miss America, your dark side is showing, and I’m so ashamed. But our beauty is showing, too. We’ve gotta focus on the beauty. Over 700 marches and “Families Belong Together” rallies were held around the country on Saturday. I participated in one, held on all four corners at the intersection of Randall Road and Route 64 in St. Charles, alongside my uncle, Nelson Smith, visiting from West Virginia.
Yes, it was hot. At least 300 protesters were in attendance at the St. Charles rally in spite of the muggy heat and blazing sun. But it’s a lot hotter, in all kinds of ways, for the kids we demand be reunited with their parents. So we held up our signs and stood our ground. My friend Silvia Pelech, an immigrant from Italy, protested here too. Most passersby honked their horns or gave us a thumbs-up, but some felt differently.
“One Ferrari gave us the middle finger,” Silvia observed, “and the other gave us a thumbs up. Ha! Okay!”
“They came in illegally!” someone shouted from his big red truck awhile later, as he sat cornered in that intersection by a red light. Well, as Uncle Nelson quipped, “They (asylum seekers) are not on holiday, folks.” That said, it’s true: a brave few, more afraid to remain home, and already wise to the family separation trauma awaiting them at official U.S. border crossings, picked their poison and risked their lives by attempting to gain access another way.
Again, were I faced with such nightmarish options, so would I. And guess what? Illegal (asylum seekers) or not, when they get here they work jobs most Americans turn their noses up at. And the vast majority pay taxes, too, whilst not receiving benefits or Social Security, contrary to misinformation campaigns designed to confuse the masses. Consequently, too many Americans don’t get it. Or they refuse to get it. Or it’s too uncomfortable to get it.
Fear of the “other” inclines some, I think, to rest on the current administration’s narrative that the other must really be dangerous. Rapists and drug dealers. Really? People, they’re fleeing rapists and drug dealers. The vast majority migrate to our border asking, begging for protection. Seeking asylum is not against U.S. law. It’s not. But kidnapping is.
“Family reunion now,” Uncle Nelson wrote on his sign.
“Family values at the border,” read the one he shared with a stranger.
“Fight ignorance, not immigrants,” another’s sign said. Ooh, that’s my favorite. And my sign?
“Where are the kids?” I’d scribbled. Sunscreen and sweat stung my eyes as my skin burned, but we waved our signs in hopes we’d to turn heads and hearts. I found asylum on the sidewalk, thanks to sweet strangers who offered popsicles and cold water. And my good neighbor for a spell, a kindly woman named Mildred, even offered shade from her umbrella.
“You need this,” she said, as she glanced at my bare head and shoulders. I couldn’t deny it.
“Want me to hold it?” I asked.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll hold it for you,” she offered. “You hold your sign.” Yes, my sign. Where are the kids? Where?
Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Kane Weekend section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.