Migrants at the US Border - What We Can Do From Here

I imagine most of you are like me and have been losing sleep over the stories and images of children being separated from parents at the US / Mexico border. Many Jews I know, some Holocaust survivors, have likened this situation to the Holocaust. Parents have been told their children are going to “showers” and the children don’t return. People are separated quickly, roughly, without any chance to say goodbye. Children are being kept in jail-like conditions. It is horrific. I know there is new information that families may be jailed together. This is still unacceptable and doesn't address the thousand of kids already separated.

As Jews we understand the plight of refugees who feel unsafe staying where they are and are also unsafe where they end up. We recall and consider the Canadian history of “None is too many” as a stain on our country. And yet this exact sentiment is being used to justify these torturous acts and conditions.

There are people mobilizing, including interfaith groups. I consider us part of the interfaith movement, even without faith, and want our community to be a force for good in this situation and in the world.

I’m asking you to consider our Jewish teachings of “tikkun olam” - repairing the world - and use your voice to help repair these families, who are right now undergoing terrible trauma.

Here are some things we can all do:

1) Write your MP and Prime Minister Trudeau, asking them to use diplomatic channels to end this disaster. I know we are in a trade war of sorts. I know Trudeau has said he isn’t going to “play politics” on this issue. We have to show him he’s wrong — we’re not playing and this is the time to act and speak out as we wish other countries had done when it was Jews in cages

2) Sign this petition by Amnesty for Canada to end the Safe Third Country Agreement. This is something I engaged my MP on last year as well. This agreement says migrants must apply for status in the first “safe” country they reach. The US is no longer safe. Here’s the petition: https://www.amnesty.ca/news/safe-third-country-agreement-must-be-suspended-say-canadian-council-refugees-and-amnesty

3) If you can, support one of the many organizations working to fix this situation. I have recently donated to RAICES and the ACLU. This article has a link to these and other organizations: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/06/how-you-can-fight-family-separation-at-the-border.html

4) Engage any friends or family you have in the US, especially if they vote Republican or live in a place with Republican representation, to work to stop this through their own Congressperson or Senator

5) I’ll be at the rally in Toronto on June 30th at 10:00 am at the US consulate. I hope to see you there. I know of an event link only in Facebook for now: https://www.facebook.com/511013648/posts/10155946732608649/

6) We have problems here at home too with family separation, particularly for Indigenous communities. Our history of residential schools and the 60s scoop continue to impact many families. There continue to be children separated without good cause by child services. And we have some migrant family separation at our border as well. We need to continue to speak out in support of Indigenous and refugee rights, as individuals and as a community. 

One final note: you likely heard that Jeff Sessions used the bible to justify these horrific policies and actions. This is exactly why we must defend both the separation of church and state — for the bible is not the rulebook for government policy, and also why we must engage with our religious heritage and tradition to be able to say that for every line justifying this behaviour is another that condemns it. Sessions used: “the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” I give you: “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

I am so proud to be part of this community and I know you’ll stand with me as we work to end this. Wishing you all peace and love.

Rabbi Denise