We all saw it. That photo of a little girl with the tear-stained face.
Then the tweets. The blame game. The executive order. The ranting and raving and the terrible scenes on the 6:30 news.
For many, this appeared to be the tipping point. You just don't take babies from the arms of their parents to prove a political point. It was and is disgraceful.
But while we are busy working on a solution, I realized that I couldn't just sit and do nothing (besides kvetch, which wasn't really helping).
As the stories came in about these kids, the mistreatment, the diseases, the sexual abuse, the audiotapes and the photos. The real stories told in parking lots and grassy fields by the American social workers who have been trying to help these families. I could not move. I felt as though I was weighed down. Nightmares of crying kids, the inescapable vision of tear-stained faces, sad eyes, cages.
One day while watching the news, I saw a very quick item that I found quite shocking: many - hundreds - of the children were moved from the squalor of the detention centers at the border to 17 states around the country. And in the flash of a second a graphic popped up and I saw that New York and New Jersey were two of those states.
I guess Mayor DiBlasio was watching the same news, because as I was driving to work the next day, I heard on the radio that there was a media circus at a children's shelter in Harlem.
I did what I have done before: I called my Senators and my Representative. I left messages. Then I wrote them letters. (I have attached it below because it was a pretty good letter, if I do say so.) Only one of my elected officials wrote back, but I will say that I did see videos of all of them on the Senate and House floor, speaking strongly against separating families, so I am happy to say that they were doing their jobs.
And then I decided to do more. I "went to the Google." Through the course of about an hour, I found where I thought the children might be and made a few calls. After striking out a few times, I called one place and I had a feeling I found the right place, though they didn't confirm it. I left my name and number and town, and was told I'd get a call back. I didn't for about a day and a half.
I was torn between despondency and hope. (Were they just giving me a line, or maybe doing a little background check?)
Finally I got a call from the coordinator of Public Relations of the Center for Family Services.
Yes, they have about 28 children in the Juntos Program, 20 teen boys and girls and 4 teen moms.
Kids stay for about 30 days while staff work toward family reunification.
Yes, they desperately need some things- she'd send me the list.
They have been housing kids crossing the southern border since 2017.
Some girls were teen mothers when they arrived, and both moms and babies need our help.
They would desperately like to find short term shelter homes in South Jersey for the younger children, and aside from other stringent guidelines, the families must be bilingual (Spanish).
I was overwhelmed at the end of our call. Relieved that I could do something, worried I couldn't do enough. Frustrated I couldn't start immediately! (I was driving at the time.)
So that brings us to now.
I have the time, and I have the energy. I now need the community to stop kvetching too and be my partner. Pick up an extra educational toy when shopping for a birthday party, or an extra pack of twin sheets when college shopping for your soon to be Sophomore. Grab a gift card at your local CVS or Target and pop it in the mail to me. I have already enlisted my mom to drive the 3 or so hours (not really sure) to wherever they tell me to go.
When this is over, this ugly chapter in our history, will you look back and say "I helped?" or will you say, "I posted a lot on Facebook?"
Here's the info.
NEW ITEMS ONLY PLEASE:
- Overnight bags & totes
- Teen clothing
- Winter coats
- Twin Bedding
- Educational Toys
- Gift Cards: Target, Walmart, Amazon, Old Navy, CVS, etc.
- Items for moms/babies
- Diapers, wipes, formula
- Newborn & baby necessities
- Care packages for teen moms
Here's MY info: Juliet.Barr18@gmail.com - I'm not posting my address here for security reasons, but if you get in touch we will make this happen.
Here are four organizations that are doing great things and you can donate directly to them.
Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
Services, Immigration Rights & Education Network (SIREN)
Sample letter sent to elected official:
Dear ___My name is Juliet Barr. As a registered Democrat, a voter, and most importantly as a human being with a conscience I am writing to you because I am horrified by what is going on at our borders. Children being taken away from their parents, and people being held in cages like animals. If what we are seeing on the 6:30 news is what we are allowed to see, I shudder to think how terrible the reality is, how filthy the conditions and how wretched the children must be.
The whole scene is all too reminiscent of the rise of Nazism, with children torn from their parents’ arms, families forced into concentration camps, and people simply “following orders” from a law that no one seems to be questioning.
Is this the same country that was created by immigrants? The very immigrants who arrived – many reading the words at that iconic statue’s feet, “Give me your tired, your poor your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…” To take back a phrase which now has a bitter taste, what has truly made America great is the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, a melting pot, and we have always been proud of that. Suddenly, now, we seem to have no room for families who want to escape persecution and injustice? I don’t buy it and I know that most of the people you represent don’t either. It’s racist and xenophobic, at the very least. I would also add immoral and unjust.
I hope that you are disgusted as well, and I implore you not to sit idly by as innocents are treated like criminals, and our misguided system systematically begins scarring people for the rest of their lives. Please take a stand, and let us, your constituents, know what we can do as well. Now is the time to act.
Thank you in advance for your leadership, Juliet BarrRamsey, NJ
July 20 - It has been nearly a month since I posted this blog originally. I have attended one rally, posted and reposted, and received about a dozen emails from concerned people. A local synagogue collected three huge boxes of items, and the kind folks at a local Jazz Club hosted me one night to collect even more items and cash, which I used to buy playground items on Amazon for the Shelter.
Thank you to Beth Haverim Shir Shalom and Maureen's Jazz Cellar for promoting this cause and helping young people you don't know, who will never be able to say thank you! (FYI - According to Maimonides - this is a very high level of giving- so in lieu of a thank you note, you've got that going for you, which is nice.)
In about ten days, I plan to bring what I have to office address. It's about two hours south of where I live. Stay tuned for the obligatory full-trunk photo!
If you still want to donate, there's still time and there are still children in need. Please email me, message me on FaceBook or reply to this blog.
If not now, when?