DAYL President’s Page
Can You Imagine?
My sister-in-law Amy turned to me and my wife, Rachael, and asked us, “can you imagine?” We were lucky enough to be with her and much of Rachael’s family this past Fourth of July in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We were comparing notes about our trips through TSA and customs that morning– some sailed through, others took a little longer. But that morning, while Amy and her husband (my brother-in-law, Tom), made the trip from San Francisco with their 19-month old son, three suitcases, a car seat, and a diaper bag containing all the essentials a parent needs for a 3.5-hour plane ride with an antsy toddler, Amy was lamenting the horror facing our brothers and sisters trying to go the other way. She fought back tears, holding our nephew and godson, Colton, in her arms. “He has food, diapers, creams, toys, he has A/C, he has a dozen people here all watching and caring for him, he can go to the doctor if he wants, he can get his diaper changed when he needs it…” She could barely finish. “Can you imagine? Can you imagine what people must be going through, that they would try and make a trip all the way up there with nothing but the clothes on their backs?”
Writing about the border crisis through the lens of white privilege is admittedly trite. How can I truly understand what thousands of men, women, and children are facing at this very moment as they travel north, in constant danger, to flee corruption, violence, gangs, drugs, human trafficking, and countless other horrors? Kids just like Colton, but born in places with less food, less medicine, less stability, or less safety, are scooped up by their parents to go search for just a little more food, a little more medicine, a little more stability, or a little more safety. They risk everything to get here and many now end up at the dozens of detention centers along our southern border (and elsewhere), or worse. Many lose their lives on the trip. And now, many children are separated from their parents while in detention, only adding to their horror. There’s no sufficient way to pay this crisis the respect and urgency it deserves. An upside-down, bizarro nightmare has come to terrorize children along our country’s southern border– kids that didn’t, and still don’t, have a choice.
This issue– our broken immigration system and the dire consequences it has for children as tiny as infants– affects all of us, even if we want to pretend it does not. We can point fingers at one another, focus on our disagreements, and loathe those that oppose our ideas and solutions. But as we get wrapped around the axle, these horrible consequences fall on children. Children!
Young lawyers and other privileged professionals have a role in solving this problem– in protecting children, no matter where they come from– and in leading our communities with moral clarity. We young lawyers must help untangle these intractable conflicts playing out over kitchen tables, at town halls, and in ballot boxes all around us and throughout our community. Many of us, along with our neighbors and families, often gravitate to over-simplified narratives about the immigration crisis and become entrenched, unwilling to consider opposing views or to compromise. All the while, possible solutions and compromises fall by the wayside, and we are left with the travesty we are not just witnessing, but tacitly ratifying through our inaction and inability to work together, today: children being separated from their parents, held without proper childcare or hygiene for days at a time, and in some cases, appearing alone in court to plead their case to stay. A tragic lack of empathy and urgency on all of our parts– not just those that we disagree with– is also to blame. We are better than this, and we can all do better.
We are all trained to distill complex issues into easily understandable narratives. This is not the space or the time for me, or any other young lawyer, to necessarily advocate for a specific solution, or against a certain policy. But we can all focus on helping those around us better understand what’s happening, what the issues are, what the possible solutions are, and how we can put an end to the nightmare for these kids. Otherwise, kids just like my nephew Colton will continue to sit alone, terrified, without the diaper changes, food, and care they need constantly. This alone should be impetus enough for all of us to take some action.
DAYL can help you get off the sidelines. Our Pro Bono Partners committee can connect you with multiple non-profit agencies, including Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and Catholic Charities of Dallas, to take an asylum case or to help represent someone along the border. These groups also organize and collect donations to address various dimensions of this crisis. Our Lawyers Serving Children committee is here to help kids across our community both with legal help and through community service opportunities. Our Lawyers Against Domestic Violence committee serves area shelters and domestic violence victims seeking to grow past their abuse, flourish, and prosper. Our Politically Aware Committee also helps educate young lawyers regarding current events and issues. You can join any of these initiatives today, and we invite you to reach out and get involved.
Countless other organizations are helping asylum seekers at the border, including Justice for our Neighbors, Immigration Defenders, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Human Rights First, and RAICES. All of these organizations seek lawyers to help advocate for men, women, and children in need. You can also be a part of the solution with these organizations.
Whether it’s through a DAYL committee, a donation to a local non-profit, or your own support of children in need, let’s focus on what we know: there are children facing injustice, all alone without a parent or guardian, without a place to safely and comfortably call home. Let’s work together to start solving that problem first.