I was surprised by my first thought waking up on November 3, 2020. It wasn’t about the election, the one that not just Democrats had so much riding on, but seemingly the entire planet. I wasn’t thinking about the election-watch event planned by Democrats Abroad Canada for later that evening. I wasn’t thinking about our global GOTV effort – postcards, phone calls, podcasts, videos, lawn signs – to take back the country many of us living abroad still consider home.
My first thought was of the children. The Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy in 2018 turned the U.S. southern border into a hunting ground. Like so many, I was horrified, mortified, shocked – there is no adequate word – by the images of children taken from their parents as they crossed the border into a country they prayed would be safer than the ones they’d fled. We’ve seen the photos, heard the cries on videos. I don’t need to describe them here.
And, yes, thankfully Joe Biden beat out the forces behind this particular evil, but too many of those children and their parents have not. Of the 5,550 families separated at the border, only some have found their way back to one another. As of early April, more than 1,000 children have yet to be reunited with their families; the parents of 445 children have yet to even be located.
“Intentional cruelty or incompetence?” asks Spencer Tilger, communications manager for Justice in Motion, a U.S-based non-profit founded in 2005, that’s been tasked with finding and reunifying families, especially the most difficult cases. “Who knows? The result has been the same.” Not only were many parents deported without their children, the U.S. government lost track of some of the children left behind. As Tilger explains, “The government basically said, ‘We give up. We don’t know where they are.’” (A news update this week from a Trump-appointed Inspector General, confirms not just the incompetence, but the deceit behind the policies. Department of Homeland Security officials did not, as claimed at the time, give deported parents the opportunity to take their children back with them.)
Justice in Motion – which I discovered last December when searching for an organization to donate my first CARES cheque to – has been involved with family separation since the first stunning headlines. Acknowledging that since “migration is an international issue, the solutions have to be international as well,” Justice in Motion created its Defender Network of lawyers and activists in the countries where many families are from – Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, among them. Working closely with the U.S. side of JIA and with the American Civil Liberties Union, these boots-on-the-ground attorneys navigate dirt roads to remote villages where perhaps only indigenous languages are spoken, knock on doors, piece together the barest of details. Sometimes all they have is the name of a relative; often the data is old. “There are enormous gaps,” admits Tilger.
As are the gaps in trust. After the harrowing experiences these families have endured at the hands of U.S. border officials, a trust deficit makes the work harder yet. JIM’s in-country legal counsel are especially sensitive to this, often acting as impromptu therapists. Imagine the pain and shame, Tilger says, of a deported father coming home without his child and having to admit to his family that he doesn’t know where that child is. “These families live with this everyday.”
The question is can we live with this? Can our current administration? Immigration has been a stuck place for every U.S. president since … well, since I can remember, and I was around for the Dewey-Truman election. Will we be able to guide/nudge/or shove this administration into real immigration reform? Reform that includes a pathway to citizenship not just for Dreamers, but families who crossed the border with hopes and plans, only to be sent home with so much less than they began.
Believing that time’s finally up on continued inaction, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) re-introduced the Families Belong Together Act in late April. As Castro said, “The Trump Administrations’ cruel family separation policy will go down in history as one of America’s worst moments. While we know we can never fully do right by the children who will be forever traumatized by this political decision, the Families Belong Together Act is the bare minimum our nation owes the families … as an apology and a promise to do right by them.”
That bare minimum would provide “humanitarian parole” to eligible parents and children, would establish a process by which eligible parents and children can be adjusted to lawful resident (LPR) status. It all sounds promising, though the word “eligible” worries me. What will it take to be “eligible?” I have family members who’ve fallen outside definitions like this through successive administrations.
But as in all things immigration, it’s better to err on the side of hope. In his first days in office President Biden signed three executive orders to kick-start some of the most pressing needs. “I’m not making new law, I’m eliminating bad policy,” he said on February 2. (CNN Politics). He appointed Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security Secretary, the first Latino and immigrant to helm that position, and named Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, director of a new immigration task force. “Michelle is someone with the requisite expertise and empathy,” says Tilger, who acknowledges the “enormous challenges on the immigration front, while remaining optimistic. “The good news is that of all the issues, [family reunification] has the most bipartisan support.”
Sarah Jackson’s view of political unity isn’t quite as rosy. Jackson founded Casa de Paz, a refuge for detainees released from the massive ICE detention centre in Aurora, Colorado. If found eligible to remain in the U.S. – often after months of incarceration – detainees are unceremoniously dumped on the streets of the Denver suburb, with no money and no support to find their way to family or sponsors still waiting for them. The Casa, founded nine years ago in Jackson’s one-bedroom apartment – but which has since grown exponentially in resources and volunteers – feeds, shelters and provides transportation to the places where new arrivals should have landed in the first place. “They’re reclaiming their dignity,” says Jackson. Still, she wasn’t “dancing in the streets,” as she puts it, when Biden was elected. Not because she was a Trump supporter, but because she sees the limitations of government when it comes to immigration. “They are politicians. We are activists looking at the actual person. We’re here to welcome people humanely.”
Those limitations partly have to do with speed, or the lack thereof. Some immigration activists feel there still isn’t enough urgency from the Biden administration. For Justice in Motion’s attorneys working in Central America, change can’t come fast enough. For Dora Melara who’s undertaken more than three dozen searches in remote parts of Honduras, it all feels urgent. Motivated by the “harm done to people who sought asylum in the U.S.,” she continues to drive to remote places, some of which can only be reached on foot in the last stretch, working to connect parent to child, child to parent. “Every interview and story I hear from the parents is sad, and it moves me,” she says. “As parents we want to protect our children.”
People like Melara, and the courageous non-profits they work with, continue to heal what has been broken. When I think of the children crying for their mamas, their papas, I think of them and it brings a measure of hope.
Learn more about Justice in Motion’s Defender Network
To enlist the support of your senators and representatives for the Castro/Blumenthal Families Belong Together Act, please go to: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Letter from the Editor
This month we celebrate mothers, families, childcare workers, nurses, mothers who are nurses, nurses who care for children, mothers who’ve supported their families, well...you get the point! This month we honor these women, but particularly give appreciation to the unbelievable load they have carried this past year. As VP Kamala Harris noted, we are experiencing a state of emergency; women are being forced to leave the workforce in unprecedented numbers due to the unpaid and unappreciated work of caretaking. The GWC celebrates and honors you!
We invite you to check out some of our resources for Mothers, and engage with our team on social media. Scroll down for important updates on our actions, insightful articles on our research including motherhood and labor, and make sure to take our April Newsletter quiz! Don’t forget to check out our Artist’s Corner by scrolling down to read a poem by award winning poet, Natalie Diaz. Lastly, we would love your participation in our #MyStoryGWC campaign, where you can connect with other members through shared stories, to highlight the issues most important to us.
We hope you enjoy this edition, and we look forward to seeing you at our events!
Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-Chair Global Women’s Caucus
Over 10,000 members and growing! Join us
Over half of Americans woke up on November 9th, 2016 to a dystopia they didn’t see coming. How could a society so civil elect a president laser focused on dividing it, rather than conquering it? My partner at the time (now husband) and I had spent the evening prior at a Democrats Abroad event in Cologne, Germany, posing with Hillary Clinton cardboard cutouts, tossing toilet paper printed with Donald Trump’s face around the room to other expats. It was a night of optimism and exuberance. When we arrived home later that evening and turned on the tv, the mood shifted abruptly. Donald Trump was polling well? We stayed up as late as we could, but in the interest of sleep, and with the notion that just like visiting the toilet at a restaurant prompts your food to be at your table when you return, we went to bed, assuming a Hillary victory (you know how that story ends).
I read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 speculative fiction The Handmaid’s Tale sometime in my mid-twenties. Her novel poises America as a split country following a tumultuous civil war (is there any other kind?) The new factions of the former United States consist of a totalitarian patriarchal theocracy known as Gilead and a few remaining strongholds occupied by American rebels. In response to a devastating infertility pandemic, the women of Gilead are sorted and declared one of seven working titles. June, our protagonist, who can be seen marching for women’s rights in the days leading to the civil war, becomes a Handmaid: a fertile woman assigned to a high ranking official for the purpose of breeding. Ranchers and Animal Fancy enthusiasts know their counterparts as mares, heifers, bitches and does. Once a Handmaid's assignment is completed, they are to be reassigned to a new official, until no longer able to reproduce healthy offspring, upon which they are sent out to pasture (colonies covered in nuclear waste they will clean until they die).
It goes without saying - Atwood’s America is a brutally harsh place. But it wasn’t always that way. Throughout the first three seasons of the book’s successful television adaptation, June and other Handmaids have flashbacks to their lives before Gilead. Hints of what’s to come begin as attacks on women’s rights. First their credit cards are all declined - their individual wealth having been rerouted to the account of their closest male relative. Then, employers are forced to fire all female employees, restricting each woman’s duties to her own household. Not much longer, travel is blocked, ICE wielding a heavy hand to keep citizens from emigrating. All the while, many Christian beliefs are quickly adopted and written into law, most notably banning abortion and homosexuality. June and other brave Handmaids refuse to accept this new world order and begin Operation: Mayday, a ploy to topple Gilead.
Reading the book (in my rose colored Obama world), I would have characterized it no more than "speculative fiction," as I would George Orwell’s 1984. This was a reality we had dodged decades ago, with flavors of Nazi Germany extinguished in WW2. That’s not how progress works, right? It doesn’t go backwards. What struck me with the Trump election and the four years that followed was the truth about progress -- that it is not linear, but more akin to a square dance, a constant negotiation. While some progressive laws may stick, others are prey to the whim of swinging door politics. And politics, not passion, it certainly is. Donald Trump, a man formerly of no known theology, standard of ethics or conservative conduct, preyed on the fears of the Republican electorate, turn-coating his entire personal history (much of it recorded on audio and video) to appear like a man of God, aiming to return the nation to His values. The novel's "Sons of Jacob," the political powerhouse running Gilead, appeals to the same conservative notions of piety, while in private, they practice no such thing. In both cases, the ruse worked.
You may be thinking to yourself, “these observations have all been made before, what’s your point?” Well, I'm late to The Handmaid’s Tale series fandom. I gobbled up the first three seasons this March in a manic COVID-exhausted binge. Just shy of my second trimester with my first child, I found myself reassessing my priorities. My new focus: a healthy planet not just for me, but for my child to live on, and finding solace in a future of equity-focused and trusted lawmakers - frankly, an animal-need to protect the future of all children. Watching the world crumble around the Handmaids, I felt like I was doing research into the signals of what now feels like a speculative future. In the first few weeks of this year, wasn’t a wave of reproductive bans passed or proposed? In the last few months, did we not see an attack on the rights of Transgender children? In a flashback episode to pre-Gilead June, her husband and daughter watch the news helplessly as it’s announced that the President’s been murdered and the Capitol has been overtaken. The heaviness and disbelief of the very real events on January 6th resurged, knocking me sideways. This almost happened in our America and people died. It felt like a fourth-wall breach. It became less a paranoid notion to wonder: is America a safe place to raise a baby? I’d never considered these questions before this year, but now I had a whole new generation to consider past my own and I felt deeply responsible for it.
With the show's fourth season debuting now, I’m holding my breath for June and her Handmaids. I see now that it was a luxury to assume progress would continue in my general favor - in the favor of women. Margaret Atwood says she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale "hoping to fend off [a theocratic dystopia]” and that "a lot of people have been jolted out of political slumber and are paying attention … the Constitution still stands.” I agree with Atwood. As long as the Junes of the world are here, there will be resistance. And when the going gets tough, Atwood tells us to "support your leaders who are standing against unconstitutional laws; keep informed, as best as possible.” And who are we to argue? She’s been right so far...
Letter from the Editor
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that humans are just as resilient as Spring’s first blooms after a long and dark winter. While we admire those first sprouts of crocus petals waving their vibrant colors proudly, let us emerge from this past season strong and ready for action, too. Our GWC has a lot going on!
We have a host of events this month in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a new GWC Initiative: Women’s Economic Wellbeing and Leadership, as well as Earth Day. While women and women’s issues are finally getting their deserved attention, our Action Teams are also busy preparing campaigns to warrant you the title of "Activist". Scroll down for important updates, insightful articles on the filibuster and the American Rescue Plan, and make sure to take our March Newsletter quiz! Lastly, we would love your participation in our #MyStoryGWC campaign, where you can connect with other members through shared stories, to highlight the issues most important to us.
We hope you enjoy this edition and we look forward to seeing you at our events!
Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-Chair Global Women’s Caucus
Over 10,000 members and growing! Join us
On December 5th, Senator Tina Smith (NM) shared on Twitter that she was in favor of removing the filibuster, in an attempt “to move this country forward.” With previous convictions over using the filibuster to protect voting rights, civil rights, and women’s health, she took an abrupt turn stating, “it’s been a highly effective tool to thwart the will of the people.”
The filibuster, a congressional tool requiring a supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate, was mistakenly created to protect minority representation. For example, the filibuster in its ideal form looks something like this:Read more
With roughly 9 million Americans living abroad, what does immersion in another culture offer people, and what, if any, environmental factors impact their behaviors as empathic, tolerant human beings? “Being able to take another’s perspective may be a key element in reducing prejudice” a 2012 study stated, but does simply living abroad offer individuals that experience, or does maintaining empathy and tolerance go beyond the effects of environmental exposures? How much does our environment affect our behaviors and attitudes?Read more
Letter from the Editor
This March, we are commemorating the brave and diverse women who’ve carved out a space for the female voice. We will be looking to the past, as well as focusing on the issues and stories of today, to continue the progression of equality and justice for women all over the world.
Join us for our speaker series events, a month-long campaign of informational material for you to brush up on your knowledge of women’s history, and two events-in-a-box. This issue has updates on our various action campaigns as well as reports on current events. Scroll down to see our featured artist, L.A. based Andrea Bowers, to commemorate WHM, and take our February Newsletter quiz!
We hope you enjoy this edition, and we hope to see you at our events!
Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-Chair Global Women’s CaucusRead more
About Ms. By: Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine and our Guest Speaker for International Women’s Day
When Ms. was launched as a “one-shot” sample insert in New York magazine in December 1971, few realized it would become the landmark institution in both women’s rights and American journalism that it is today.
The founders of Ms., many of whom are now household names, helped to shape contemporary feminism, with Ms. editors and authors translating “a movement into a magazine.”
Ms. was a brazen act of independence in the 1970s. At the time, the fledgling feminist movement was either denigrated or dismissed in the so-called mainstream media. Most magazines marketed to women were limited to advice about finding a husband, saving marriages, raising babies or using the right cosmetics.Read more
Essay: What Virginia Woolf can Teach Us About Practicing Wisdom this WHM
By: Stayce Camparo
In the garden near the Divinity School at Harvard University, a small labyrinth is paved in stone. There is only one way to navigate it. In many ways I find this unfortunate, because I believe that questions and choices are where discernment lies, however perhaps the most important factor is not actually losing one’s self, but in the impression of being lost. For instance, the labyrinth takes the form of moving away from the center (the goal), creating an impression that one is moving in the wrong direction. Though you can’t get lost in this particular labyrinth, doubt can easily creep in as the bordered current sweeps the traveler in a contrary direction from the objective. Like philosophers contemplating abstract topics of morality or meaning, politicians debating policy, or friends and family listening and talking to each other, we all at some point navigate labyrinths. Practicing wisdom is the process by which we can allow ourselves to get lost (either genuinely or seemingly), and acknowledge that questions and doubt help us get closer to the wisdom in which we seek.Read more