A U.S. policy has kids being taken from parents at the border. Here's what we can do.

The stories of parents and children being forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border are unfathomable.

The Justice Department's "zero tolerance" policy for families attempting to cross the border has led to heartbreaking stories. Advocates and lawyers who have traveled to the border describe scenes one might expect to see in a Holocaust film:

— A mother was told by agents that they needed to take her son "to give him a shower," but then she was denied information about when and where she would see him again.


— A 5-year-old girl who'd never before been separated from her mother screamed and vomited when they took her away, and her mother was refused even a moment to comfort her.

— A mother seeking asylum after escaping a country that offered no legal protection from the beatings and attempted murder from her child's father was mocked by border agents before having her child taken from her arms.

Seriously unfathomable stories.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

The border policy being used now criminalizes all attempts to cross the border — even for those seeking asylum. And it's simply cruel.

Border crossings have traditionally been treated as civil offenses, with families being detained together while the administrative logistics are figured out. Family separation is new and has been touted as a deterrent. But tearing a child from a parent's arms when neither knows where the other is going crosses a line into inhumane treatment.

In fact, a recent Washington Post article equates such separation with literal torture. The U.N. human rights council has called on the U.S. to "immediately halt" the practice, stating there is "nothing normal about detaining children" and that the policy "runs counter to human rights standards and principles."

Even some who would normally support conservative politics have voiced opposition to Trump's policy. "There's nothing conservative about illegal immigrant parents being ripped from their children," wrote conservative writer Liz Wolfe in the Washington Examiner.

This isn't a partisan issue; it's a human one. As Glennon Doyle said, "We know immigration is complicated. We understand that. But still — not this."

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Here's what average Americans can do to advocate for these families.

There are two big ways people can help the kids and parents being harmed by this policy:

— Support organizations that provide legal aid and advocacy to migrant families.

The most important thing these families can get is legal representation and advocacy. That doesn't come free, but there are many nonprofit organizations that specialize in this work. Here are a few examples:

ASAP: Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project connects families seeking asylum to community support and emergency legal aid.

The Florence Project for immigrant and refugee rights provides free legal and social services to detained immigrants in Arizona and ensures that people facing removal have access to counsel, understand their rights under the law, and are treated fairly and humanely.

KIND: Kids in Need of Defense ensures that no child appears in immigration court alone without high-quality representation.

Tahirih Justice Center provides a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

— Call lawmakers and demand an end to this policy.

Many of us might not be used to getting on the horn with our reps. The good news is that the folks at Together Rising have done all the legwork to make it super simple to contact your senators and representatives in Congress — even if you have no idea who they are or how to contact them. Just go to this post and follow the directions. It'll take less than 20 minutes. Easy peasy and so, so important.

It's up to citizens to rise up when government falls to cruelty. When we hear stories of inhumane treatment being done in our country's name, we must act. People's lives — and our collective humanity — depend on it.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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