Writer and comedian Baratunde Thurston received a text at 10:55 p.m. Minutes later, he was out the door and on his way to New York's LaGuardia Airport.

"Calling our #HeretoStay Network! Youth & children separated from their families are arriving at LGA airport right now! Still being transported by American Airlines!! Meet us at terminal B arrivals right now!" read the text, sent from immigration advocacy organization United We Dream.

Thurston threw on a pair of pants, grabbed his external phone charger and passport, and caught a ride share to the airport. "Realized I left my Sharpies at home and my driver was like, 'I'm a mom. I always have crayons. Will that help?'" he recounts. "So I brought some crayons."


Organizations like United We Dream, Make the Road, Jewish Action, T'ruah, and the ACLU were joined by hundreds of supporters to take a stand against family separation.

Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump had responded to backlash over his administration's "zero tolerance" policy about undocumented immigrants caught crossing the border by issuing an executive order ostensibly designed to end the practice of separating families. With these now-unaccompanied children being flown into New York for a placement in facility, advocacy groups sprung into action.

For the next several hours, protesters held signs, greeted children, said chants, and sang songs.

"There are few things New Yorkers hate more than LaGuardia Airport," said Thurston the morning after the protests. "But one of those things is state-sanctioned child kidnapping. So it was beautiful to see hundreds of my fellow New Yorkers show up for immigrants and human rights last night."

On Twitter, he urged his more than 238,000 followers to "keep the direct actions coming."

Even if the practice of separating families comes to an end, Trump's executive order might not improve immigration policy.

Some even argue that it'll make things worse. His order ditches the idea of children and parents being held in separate detention facilities in favor of families being housed together in the same place. If child separation was inhumane, family internment isn't a vast improvement.

Our immigration system is broken, and as much as some supporters of Trump's policies might say the answer is simply for people to come to the U.S. through legal means (it should be noted that crossing the border in order to seek asylum is legal), it's harder than ever for people to do.

These problems go further back than just this one president. In May, the ACLU released a report cataloging abuses in immigration detention facilities dating back to 2009. Recent reports by investigative journalism organization Reveal found that a number of people within the immigration detention and shelter industry had backgrounds that included sexual assault and abuse. That group also reported on a lawsuit that alleges that some immigrant children being held were forcibly injected with psychiatric drugs to make them more docile.

These aren't new problems. They didn't start with Trump, and if nothing is done, they won't end with him, either.

We are live from NYC's LaGuardia Airport where Trump admin has sent immigrant children separated from their parents. We are here to witness where they are taking them. (Rafael Shimunov) sign up for call bit.ly/actionready

Posted by Working Families Party on Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It seems now more than any other time in recent history, people really are paying attention — and taking action.

Those who showed up at LaGuardia are evidence of that. And if that focus remains, systemic change of America's broke, cruel immigration system is possible.

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Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

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It's also important to note that in a way, I remember my time in Biloxi from a place of privilege that some of my friends do not possess. It may be strange to think of privilege when it comes from a Black woman in an interracial marriage, but being cisgendered is a privilege that I am afforded through no doing of my own. I became acutely aware of this privilege when my friend who happens to be a transgender man announced that he was expecting a child with his partner. I immediately felt a duty to protect, which in a perfect world would not have been my first reaction.

It was in that moment that I realized that I was viewing the world through my lens as a cisgendered woman who is outwardly in a heteronormative relationship. I have discovered that through writing, you can change the narrative people perceive, so I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with my friend—not only to check in with his feelings, but to aid in dissolving the "otherness" that people place upon transgender people.

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As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

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I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

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While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

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Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

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