Where Are the Children?

Post #2 for today. This is a re-post of something I have been working with the last two days. I’ve been hearing about the nearly 1,500 children “lost” by the US Department of Health and Human Services in the past five years, and when I read the National Public Radio article about it, and some thoughts began to swirl around.

Here is what I’ve been thinking.

Friends, what if we were to call this last week of May this year “Advocacy for Immigrant Families Week”? What if we would commit ourselves to contact Jeff Sessions or John Kelly or the Department of Health and Human Services, or the President, to advocate for immigrant children? What if we would write letters to our local papers? Speak up on social media? Donate money to organizations that are helping the families who are being torn apart? PRAY?

All week, whenever we have an extra moment, we call, write, pray, donate, speak up.

We avoid name-calling. We let our rage and anger give wings to our words, and let our compassion and tenderness be the guiding force. We avoid partisanship, calling on people of any political persuasion to work with us. Join me.

1. It sounds like the 1500 are primarily unaccompanied minors, and that some of those children may have been placed with family or family connections and simply never attended their immigration hearings.

2. It seems pretty clear that some of those children were released directly from the Department of Health and Human Services to traffickers. (How does this happen? Who is accountable for this? Whoever was in charge of what happened here should be out of a job and prosecuted.) This has been happening since at least 2014–during the previous administration.

3. I looked up Steven Wagner, the Acting Assistant Secretary for the HHS Administration for Children and Families (ACF), who answered senators’ questions about how these children were left unaccounted for. He actually served with the agency’s anti-trafficking program in the past, and that program won an award for anti-trafficking work.

4. The current head of the HHS ACF’s Office on Trafficking in Persons is Katherine Chon.

5. This is the Address for the HHS ACF: 330 C Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201.

6. The Contact Information for the Department of Health and Human Services is: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201, Toll Free Call Center: 1-877-696-6775 The current head of the HHS is Alex Azar.

7. This is the contact page for ICE: https://www.ice.gov/contact

8. Now that Attorney General Sessions has stepped up the prosecutions of people attempting to enter the country illegally, more children and parents are being separated at the border. Without structures in place to protect them, these children are clearly endangered, too. At this point, it appears that they are being released to HHS (even while the HHS is under fire for apparently releasing children to human traffickers).

9. This is the contact page for the DOJ: https://www.justice.gov/contact-us

10. I think we need serious public outcry here. I think we need careful and reasoned expressions of our outrage. We need to avoid name-calling and shrillness, but we need to be intense, and we need to hold the people making the decisions accountable.

11. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called this new policy of AG Sessions a “tough deterrent.” I cannot find specific contact information for Kelly, so it might work to write to him at the White House.

12. Less than two hundred years ago in the United States, we had similar policies of separating children from their parents: separating enslaved African children from their parents, separating Native American children from their parents.

13. Rachel Held Evans has also called for action on behalf of the voiceless children this week. Look her up on FB, and read her suggestions as well.

14. Sign the ACLU petition (look it up on FB).

I would be grateful for any other ideas about effective responses.

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