Thursday, July 4, 2019

Reaching out to Congress is Patriotic

Photo: Cynthia Levin

UPDATE: This blog now contains links and references to a newly released report by the US Inspector General.

Happy Fourth of July! Today, while we celebrate our freedoms with parades and fireworks, let's not forget that one of our greatest privileges as Americans is the ability to contact our elected officials (emphasis on elected, right?) and tell them our best ideas about how to govern our country and communities.

This year, more than any other in my adult lifetime, is incredibly important for us to speak out as we have so many suffering people at our southern border struggling with the double whammy of poverty and U.S. immigration policies. I offer two advocacy actions so that we, as Americans, don't sit idly by in celebration while others are in crisis.

Please call and write your members of Congress with one or both of these actions and urge them to do the following: 

1) Stand up to the White House and find a way to stop the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at our borders.

Here's a sample of what you might say:
"The U.S. Inspector General released a report detailing the deplorable conditions in our Rio Grande Valley detention facilities. I urge you to get involved to oppose these practices by our government. Support solutions for people seeking asylum at our borders that does not involve separating families and keeping men, women, and children in inhumane conditions."
Photo: Office of the Inspector General,
Department of Homeland Security
The Office of the Inspector General is not a partisan group. It's not an NGO watchdog group. This is a branch of our own government reporting on conditions that violate human rights in a breach of our own rules. The report spoke of 826 children (31%) being kept over the 72 hour maximum period permitted by the 1997 Flores Agreement without access to changes of clothes. It included photos of human beings being kept in over-crowded cages. It said the prolonged detention of migrants without proper food, hygiene or laundry facilities (sometimes for over a month) requires "immediate attention and action."
Photo: Office of the Inspector General, 
Department of Homeland Security

If you are interested in actions after making your call or writing your letter, look for info from Lights for Liberty is organizing a national day of action with local events to protest conditions faced by refugees on July 12th. 

2) Support poverty programs for impoverished people in developing nations. 

Here's an example of what you might say: 
"I'm asking you to support robust funding for poverty-focused foreign aid, especially those that empower women and promote nutrition. Helping families live dignified lives in safety and security allows them to stay at home instead of leaving in desperation."
I don't know everything about the complex problem of the wave of immigration from Central American countries, but I do know that mothers don't leave everything they have to risk the lives of their children or - worse - send their children north unaccompanied unless they are fleeing much worse things behind them. CARE, knowing this, took three Republican congresswomen on a learning trip to Guatemala to find out firsthand why people are leaving and to see the impact of successful aid programs that are helping families stay in their native countries. Indeed, after the trip, my congresswoman Representative Ann Wagner co-authored an article in USA Today in support of such aid. In describing the assistance provided to local nonprofit partners by the U.S. Agency for International Development, she noted, “Our programs empower moms, save lives, and stabilize the region. U.S. aid tackles the migration crisis by giving poor families the tools they need to stay at home and thrive.”

So, by all means, do go out and have a happy 4th of July and honor our veterans when you see them out an about today. But let's also honor our patriotism and their sacrifices by exercising our rights to speak up for those who need the help of our great nation and those who suffer under our nation's policies today.

Photo: Cynthia Levin