At least 2,300 children have been separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The stories of separation are heartbreaking: Infants ripped away from their mothers while they were being breastfed; children as young as 6 years old being flown on a red-eye flights to detainment centers; mothers being deported without knowing where their children are—or if they'll ever see them again. And then there's the devastating audio of children crying recorded by ProPublica.
Both sides of the aisle agree the practice is horrific. In a statement via her communications director Stephanie Grisham, First Lady Melania Trump said she "hates to see children separated from their families." In an op-ed for The Washington Post, former First Lady Laura Bush called the policy "cruel" and "immoral." But not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats can't agree on what should be done.
President Trump has put out an all-caps request to Congress to "CHANGE THE LAW!"—effectively refusing to put a stop to the practice himself—seeming to ignore the fact that on Friday, California senator Dianne Feinstein proposed the Keep Families Together Act. So far, celebrities including Reese Witherspoon have voiced their support for the bill, which needs more Republican votes in order to pass.
Kirstjen Neilsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, defended her decision to enforce the policy, noting that migrants seeking asylum should go to a port of entry to cross legally into the U.S. to avoid being prosecuted as criminals. On Twitter, several lawyers, representatives and journalists pointed out that many migrants are turned away at the ports of entry; others are kept waiting for days at the understaffed facilities—and children are still being separated.
But while the ping-pong politics continue, thousands of frightened, wide-eyed migrant children are being holed up in detainment camps and tent cities, where they are outfitted in sweatsuits and handed space blankets for warmth. In her op-ed, former First Lady Bush said the photographs reminded her of images of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, "now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history."
So, what can we do to help?
Call your elected officials.
As pointed out by Feinstein, the Keep Families Together Act needs Republican support in order to pass. If you're represented by a Republican, reach out. (Find information on your local elected officials here.)
Regardless of your official's party, however, you can still let your representative know how you feel. The ACLU has a handy guide that will route your call to your senator, and even has a script so you know exactly what to say. It doesn't get easier than that.
VIDEO: Nearly 2,000 Children Have Been Separated From Their Families During Trump Border Crackdown
Donate to any number of organizations working to protect the children.
If Chrissy Teigen has proven anything, it's that no donation is too small. After calling on her followers to donate to the ACLU as a protest of the policy, Teigen reported that more than $1 million had been raised in under two days.
In addition to the ACLU, you can also donate to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a Texas non-profit which is using donations to pay the bond (between $1,500 and $10,000) for parents held in detention, as well as related legal fees. Similarly, the Texas Civil Rights Project is raising litigation funds to assist separated families.
ActBlue has compiled the below list of groups actively working to assist separated families. You can donate to each group individually, or donate to ActBlue's Kids at the Border page, which evenly splits your contribution between the organizations.
We Belong Together: "Women for common sense immigration policies."
United We Dream: "The largest immigrant youth-led network in the country."
Womens Refugee Commission: "Advocating for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution."
ACLU: "Fighting attacks through the legal system."
Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) "Protecting unaccompanied children who enter the US immigration system alone to ensure that no child appears in court without an attorney."
Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: "Providing asylum seekers with legal aid and community support across the country."
Human Rights First: "Helping refugees obtain asylum in the U.S."
La Union del Pueblo Entero: "Founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, a community union that works in the Rio Grande Valley from the grassroots up."
If you're in a border state, volunteer.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is currently looking for volunteers "who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience" to assist and interview families. The Immigrant Children's Assistance Project is also seeking volunteers with a law background to assist with "Know Your Rights" presentations for asylum seekers in Texas.
Share your story.
Many of the most heart-wrenching reports from the fallout of the policy have come from firsthand accounts. If you have a story to share, and feel comfortable doing so, reach out to the media. Or post your account on social media.
Join a rally.
If there's one thing that we've learned since the 2016 election, it's that marches, protests and rallies can be effective. Find a local Families Belong Together event here.
MoveOn, Women's March, Pantsuit Nation, National Domestic Workers Alliance and a number of other groups are also hosting a Families Belong Together protest on June 30 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Lafayette Square in Washington D.C.. The organizers are encouraging a day of nationwide protests to send the message to Donald Trump that "cruelly separating children from their families" won't be allowed to continue.