There are many lessons Humanity in Action Fellows have studied in the histories of our member countries. One is that building camps to hold innocents should always raise acute alarm and be subject to intense scrutiny. Another is historical moments when, in the name of safeguarding the body politic of a nation, actions are taken that are later understood to have debased its spirit insofar as they defy commitments to human value and liberty.
The forcible separation of children from their families in the name of deterrence and safety is such a case. Within it, we find crystallized astonishing cruelty and a profound challenge to the core values that our organization, among many others, holds. It is not some mere moment in which we find ourselves situated on the precipice of a proverbial slippery slope, but rather a moment in which we are already careening down it, uncertain of how much further the nation can still descend.
Indeed, even as the executive order has allegedly halted the policy of family separation, this is a moment to recognize the power that civic pressure can have, but also still a period for profound concern. What we also know is that we need to continue to scrutinize its aftermath, to keep the pressure on, and to remain vigilant about the other acts borne from a policy of “zero-tolerance.” It’s a sign of our political moment that the prospect of “indefinite detention” is being characterized as a better option than parental separation. Both are inhumane. As journalists continue to uncover the actual nature of the detention, we remain aware that 2300 children are still detained, with hundreds secreted to New York alone. This is far from over.
It is this moment that compels us to reaffirm our values. We note how participation and all legal forms of protest have long been central to safeguarding the life of a democracy and, no less, to protecting the weak, the vulnerable, and the powerless.
In keeping with our values and democratic culture, we urge you to get involved with organizations that are mobilizing to help immigrant families, organize or join a rally or mobilization, and contact the Administration and your representatives to voice your opinion.
We will post on the website a list of the activities of fellows working in these areas, as well as other resources that offer opportunities for action.
In robustly reaffirming our values, we hope to remind ourselves and others of those lessons we teach every year on the precarity of human liberty. Through this reminder, we affirm the fundamental lesson that we must together act to safeguard it.