Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy that seeks to criminally charge those who cross (or attempt to cross) the U.S. border without documentation. As a result of the enforcement of that policy, nearly 2,000 migrant children have been separated from their detained parents and are being held in “temporary shelters,” which many critics have referred to as “prison camps.”
The ongoing discussion about the separation of families at the border has sparked national outrage, and understandably so, as many of the stories are absolutely heartbreaking. What’s more, doctors and medical professionals have warned that separating children from their parents could have very serious and tragic consequences. After visiting a shelter in Combes, Texas, Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN that this policy could trigger something called “toxic stress” in children, which could disrupt brain development. “The younger the child is, the more likely it is to really do long-term damage and short-term damage,” Kraft explained. “It’s creating a whole generation of kids who are traumatized.”
Given the barrage of devastating anecdotes that are out there in the news (like the woman who says her baby was taken from her as she breastfed in a detention center), it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and even helpless. But it’s important to know that there are some things you can do — right now — to get involved and take action. Ahead, learn five ways you can help these in need, use your voice, and contribute to the ongoing fight to keep families together.
On June 14, The Families Belong Together network held more than 60 events across the country, with thousands of people standing up for migrant children and their families. Others have also organized marches of their own. If there’s no local event happening near you, check out our guide for planning your own march or rally. Get a group of your friends together, make some signs, spread the word, and hit the streets.
There are many groups that are currently working to keep families together by fighting the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. The Texas Civil Rights Project recently filed an emergency request on behalf of five parents who were separated from their children at the U.S./Mexico border. Last month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit to reunite a woman with her 7-year-old daughter who were separated after seeking asylum in the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Groups such as Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Legal Aid Justice Center work to make sure all people have adequate legal representation.
If contributing money isn’t an option, you can always contribute your time. KIND frequently hosts events throughout the country, and the Texas Civil Rights Project is currently calling for volunteers (and even law students) to help. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) also has a volunteer page where you can apply to become an intern. RAICES is also seeking people to volunteer for their Accompaniment Program, where “allied individuals, organizations, and congregations provide solidarity to individuals facing deportation or contact with immigration officials for which they would like support.”
One of the easiest things you can do without even leaving your room is calling an elected official. The website YouLobby.org offers a simple way to find the contact information for your local officials, and they even provide a script that you can follow so you don’t have to worry about what to say.
Given the quick pace of the news cycle, the spotlight might shift from the separated families to another topic. Stay on top of it by sharing information on social media and reminding your friends that this is still happening. (Just be sure to avoid hoaxes and fake news, as with anything else on the internet.)
It’s also important to practice self-care, especially when navigating an issue that’s as upsetting as this one. If you need to take a break from the news, that’s entirely understandable, and it’s OK to log off, do something else, and get a breath of fresh air. Doing so can help you feel re-energized — and even more ready to fight for what matters.