Last Night, I Heard the President Address the Nation
Yesterday, I started my day at the bus station in Atlanta where I go several days a week to assist asylum seekers who have been released for ICE detention centers and are in route to meet their sponsors. Most have been released from McAllen, Texas and when I meet them in Atlanta, they have already spent between 24 and 48 hours on buses trying to reach their sponsors. During their layovers in Atlanta, myself and many other Atlanta Transit Angels* (the grassroots volunteer group that I work with) offer food, blankets, and a phone to call their sponsors. Most migrants I meet are very confused. They don’t speak the language, don’t understand our bureaucracy and are expected to get themselves across the country on bus after bus with no money and no way to communicate. Every shift I take breaks my heart but everyone single one reminds me how important it is that we continue to show up. For most, their sponsors are the only life line they have in this country, helping them get there is the least we can do.
Last night, I ended my day by listening to the President address the nation describing a fabricated national security crisis. He spoke of immigrants who are criminals, rapists, murders and MS-13 members. This image is entirely incompatible with the migrants I’ve met. Yesterday morning, I met three fathers from three different families. One traveling with three children, another traveling with a little girl no older than two and a third with a 6-month-old baby. I met a mother traveling with her sister and three children. One father told me he and his son had not eaten in two-days. Last week, I met a woman whose 18-month-old baby was crying inconsolably. He was hungry. They too had not eaten in two days. I gave him a banana and a water bottle. He looked up at me with his big dark eyes and smiled. These are the people the President has told you to fear. These are the people the President is demonizing. These are the people the President is describing as a national security crisis.
The migrants’ reactions to me, every time, I approach them at the bus station, speaks volumes about their fear. These people that the President has told you are killing American citizens, they fear you. They hide from you. It’s Americans who are throwing tear gas at them and putting them in prisons. It is Americans who have taken away their children, denied them medical care when they have been dangerously ill and denied them the opportunity to exercise their rights to seek asylum under international law. It’s Americans who ridicule and chastise them in detention centers: reminding them at every turn that they are not wanted here. These are not terrorists. These are not criminals. They have no weapons. In fact, those who have any belongings at all carry them in a single grocery bag. When I look in the eyes of these migrants, it all becomes crystal clear to me. The monsters in this story is us. The demons in this story are Americans.
I have never been more embarrassed to be a US citizen. Never have I been more disgusted at my fellow Americans. The United States has an obligation to give each of these migrants a fair asylum hearing, not only because it’s a matter of international law… but because the United States directly contributes to the demise of the countries they come from. This is not philanthropy. It is not charity. It is not a hand out. It is our obligation, our responsibility as Americans to allow these migrants to seek refuge in this country because We. Did. This.
If you are still not sure where you stand on this political fight: Ask your President how much time he has spent on the border. Ask him how many migrants he’s met. Ask him to point to an actual security threat instead of isolated incidents of violence. As someone who has grown up in immigrant communities my entire life and as one who has met many of the migrants that make up the current exodus, I can say with complete certainty that he is lying, Intentionally, to manipulate your fear. Tomorrow this will go down in the history books and the only monsters will be us.
* if you would like to make a financial contribution to the Atlanta Transit Angels’ efforts, visit our Gofundme page.