Lift Your Lamps America, We’re Better Than This

BY: RIYA KATARIA, CONTRIBUTOR

When I was in the first grade, my teacher would always get annoyed by how often and enthusiastically I would mention that my parents were immigrants. It was a topic I would bring up at every point possible. I simply could not remain quiet about how happy I was that this country was amazing enough to accept anyone and everyone with open arms. Amusingly, I recall one time where, after I announced that my parents were immigrants for the umpteenth time, my teacher put her head in her arms and refused to talk to us for the next ten minutes.

It’s been 10 years since that moment, and it’s heartbreaking to see how our values have changed. Scrolling through a multitude of summer photos and funny pictures on Facebook, I came across a chilling video; three minutes of the pure terror that children on the border were experiencing as they were ripped away from their families. Even now, I’m….numb to say the least. There’s nothing that could possibly prepare you to see an image so clearly displaying a loss of humanity.

No longer am I proud to live in the country that once announced: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe”. This time, we are not the ones helping them breathe. We are holding the heads of these families struggling for a better life under the water. This time, we are the ones drowning them.

There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant on stolen land. To hear the tearful and pleading sounds of the children who are younger than I was when I was so proud of this country’s immigration policy is just heart-shattering. There’s no other way to phrase it. We are not just destroying these families. Every time we build yet another “infant detention center”, every time we are reminded of the anguish these children are going through, every single time we hear their cries again, we need to realize that we are destroying the very foundations this country is built upon. The land of the free and the home of the brave has slowly morphed into the land of the feared and the home of the scared.

“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” America, it’s time for us to lift our lamps.

There are a couple things you can do to help these people. Firstly, if you have money, there are certain organizations you can donate to ensure the safety of these children. Among these organizations are KIND: Kids In Need of Defense, RAICES: The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, The Immigrant Child and Family Rights Project, ASAP: Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, The Florence Project, We Belong Together, United We Dream, Human Rights First, and Al Orto Lado. If you want to support multiple organizations, donate to Act Blue, which will split your donation up amongst different human rights organizations.

Even if you don’t have money to donate, you have something more valuable: your time. Call your representatives (the ACLU has generously provided a script for you to use) and encourage others to do the same. Furthermore, if you know anyone with legal expertise, ask them to contribute their skills to the Immigration Justice Campaign and help represent refugees in court.

The last thing you can do is directed to Generation Z especially: vote. As simplistic as it sounds, it’s essential to create change. If you are eligible to vote, make sure you do so in November. If you aren’t, make sure to register the minute you are. Don’t just talk about creating change; make sure your voice resounds in the government.

“In a land of immigrants, one is not an alien, but simply the latest arrival” -Rudolf Arnheim

Image Credits: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-surprising-factor-for-immigrant-success-1498517898