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July 2014

“Racist, Immoral Dehumanization of Immigrant Children”

There are two main challenges in addressing the border issue of increased numbers of undocumented children traveling alone from Central America to the US.
The first is that the dehumanization of Latinos in the US has been so tremendously successful that a basic call for decency and humanity is absent from the conversations surrounding this situation. For example, I recently highlighted the issue in an op-ed to a local newspaper and the comments reveal people hiding their racism behind arguments of “legal” and “illegal.”

An absence of decency and humanity can also be seen in the protesters who turned away buses of children or who are protesting detention centers across the country where children are housed because we’re a “nation of laws” or because the children “carry diseases,” “bring crime,” will grow up to “rape women.” This is all to familiar language that uses the same fear tactics, dehumanization, and racism once used towards African Americans during slavery and Jim Crow and towards the Chinese during the late 1800s—language used to justify atrocious acts of oppression of these groups then and language used to justify monstrous cruelty to these children today. One has to wonder if these protesters would have the same response to refugee children coming from Eastern Europe. Perhaps there would still be a backlash against thousands of Eastern European refugee children arriving alone to the US; however, I doubt it would rise to the shameless levels we’ve seen recently, or that it would use the kinds of language being used–language that has roots in removing people of color outside of our human and national family throughout American history. This underscores how effective the racialization of Latinos in the U.S. currently is.

The second hindrance with addressing this issue is the problem of politicians who either do not care or if they do care are acting first and foremost in their self-interests by being in lock step with xenophobic Americans’ preferences. This response by our nations leaders underscores Schneider and Ingram’s research revealing that politicians make laws that benefit certain groups and burden others. This explains why Congress refuses to act in a bipartisan fashion and pass laws addressing this situation. This explains why traumatized children are being put on planes and sent back as a deterrence to others. This is not just, rational, or wise public policy but this is what our political leaders are engaged in.

Instead, there must be another way. There must be collaboration and civility between the nations involved to come up with short-term and long-term policy solutions. For example, Héctor Perla Jr. recently provided examples of both short term and long term solutions in a recent article. Perla gives the example of granting the children refugee status rather than seeing them as undocumented immigrants in the short term, and in the long term he argues we must address economic policies in Central America that are creating the conditions pushing children and their parents to migrate.

Other short term ideas with the goal of preventing further harm to the children immediately by keeping more children from dying or being injured on the train include finding them earlier in the process of migration. This would require creating a coalition between the US and the countries from where the children depart to check the trains and help the kids at that point. Long term of course must address the roots of the problem. This requires taking into consideration why children are fleeing their countries and finding ways to address these issues as Perla suggests. This too, must be done in collaboration with leaders from Mexico and Central America. Of course, civility, compromise, and collaboration across national leaders seems impossible to accomplish when it doesn’t happen across political leaders in this country who follow the desires of many Americans who cannot see Latinos as human beings, not even the children.

Check out more articles on race & politics on “Racism Review: Scholarship and Activism Toward Racial Justice”

First Generation Civil Rights Fellowship

FirstGEN is a ten-week, summer program for undergraduate students who are the first in their immediate families to attend an institution of higher education. These individuals must be passionate about pursuing careers in social justice. Fellows gain hands-on experience working on civil rights matters as full time Public Policy and Social Justice interns while also participating in a parallel advocacy training program.  FirstGEN creates a greater community of advocates by linking emerging leaders with existing ones and by creating a FirstGEN alumni network.  Each fellow receives a $1,000 stipend.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) launched FirstGEN, during the summer of 2013, coinciding with the Lawyers’ Committee’s 50th anniversary.  Shortly after, the Washington D.C. office of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) agreed to become FirstGEN partnering organizations.

FirstGEN is a Lawyers’ Committee, NILC and CLINIC collaborative program, with the Lawyers’ Committee serving as program lead.  Each organization will host two fellows during the summer of 2014 and all six fellows will participate in a weekly advocacy training program.

Requirements:

  • Fellows must complete his or her freshman year before commencing this program.
  • Fellows must be first generation college students.
    • This means eligible candidates are the first in their immediate families to attend an institution of higher education.
    • Fellows must be currently enrolled either as full time or part time students.
    • Fellows must be able to reside in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for ten weeks during the length of this program.
      • Please note that the Lawyers’ Committee and NILC are located in downtown Washington, D.C., while CLINIC is located in Silver Spring, MD.

Financial Award:

  • $1,000 per fellow.

Check this link for more information: FirstGen

 

 

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