LETTER: ‘Lights for Liberty‘ vigil planned for 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, 2019

To the Editor:

I sit down to write this letter having just tucked my children into bed. It was already late, so I made my youngest close her book and turn off her light. I reminded her of the fun things she would get to do in the morning. I sang her a lullaby, smoothed her hair, kissed her goodnight then repeated the same for my middle child. I emailed my oldest good night, knowing she was safe at a friend’s house.

Nearly every night when I put my children to bed, it breaks my heart thinking of the families who are separated at our southern border. It has been a whole year and more, and still our federal government runs an inhumane situation.

Children and adults are warehoused in overcrowded U.S. Customs and Border Patrol detention facilities in violation of federal rules. An uncle not allowed to wash his nephew’s baby bottle for days, so he has to feed him with a dirty bottle. A teenage mother denied clean clothing when her infant has diarrhea, so she has to wrap him in a plastic hospital pad with his little body sticky and dirty. Rooms of detainees at standing-room-only capacity, standing on the toilet for breathing space. Guards putting toddlers in the care of 8-year-olds.

I can’t find it in my heart to blame the parents who are migrating looking for a better life. I know what it’s like, in small measure, to move my family thousands of miles to an unknown place. We were only escaping high housing costs and long commutes. No one had threatened to kill my children or husband. The police didn’t laugh when women complained of abuse. There were jobs. So how can I, who chose to migrate for lesser reasons, have anything but understanding for those who need to migrate for urgent reasons.

I don’t want to blame one political party or another for how we ended up a nation that violates our constitution’s Eighth Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” – on children, on infants. But here are the facts: Ports of entry are being metered to allow only a limited number of asylum-seekers per day, and they have to choose between waiting for months in unsanitary conditions or making an unauthorized border crossing.

The U.S. Department Homeland Security implemented a policy of separating children from their parents without first coming up with a plan for keeping track of whose child was whose. Border Patrol has thousands of employees who participated in a Facebook group mocking detainees and threatening a member of Congress.

The federal government can do better than this. But they have shown that they won’t unless we push them to. That is why I will be standing with my friends on Route 5 near Lenox Avenue at 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, 2019, during Lights for Liberty, a national vigil to end human detention camps: because everyone should have the luxury of seeing their children comfortable in their own beds at night.

Margaret Milman-Barris, Oneida

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