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While waiting to see the dentist one afternoon, I found myself flipping aimlessly through the glossy pages of a TIME magazine.
As I turned to the 38th page, the piercing, chocolate brown eyes of a little boy caught my breath.
I sat there, entranced. I could not stop staring into what lay buried deep behind those eyes. Suddenly, unconsciously, I heard the words, “If only we knew your story,” slip from my lips.
But, the truth was that I did know the story this six-year-old Guatemalan boy had lived every day since he’d crossed the Mexican border into the United States. As much as I had been trying to avoid the news coverage to protect my own heartache, this child was going through hell with no tangible end in sight.
I sat there, my eyes blurry. My brain desperately scrambled to find the words, any words, that would make sense of what he was going through, of what our country was putting him through. But, the only words that I could find were, “I’m so sorry.”
My emotions and thoughts were caught swirling somewhere in between confusion and compassion. Suddenly, a mix of tears and sorries began to pour out.
“I’m sorry you falsely trusted the border patrol to help you when you crossed the frontera. I’m sorry the ICE agents did not listen to your cries and your pleas for your Mamá, when you needed her to hold you, to reassure you, to protect you, to hug you. I’m sorry you and thousands of children just like you were placed in a cage when you were promised safety. I’m sorry we let you down when we promised you hope. I’m so very sorry.”
I looked up from the magazine photograph, trying to dry my eyes and get myself back together. Here I was, sitting bored in a dentist office, while a little boy was speaking his truth between a braided wire fence.
Our beloved nation, the United States of America—which was founded on the principles of freedom and justice and built on the dreams of immigrants, just like those that carried this little boy and his mother across the border—had now written a new chapter in its history, The Day We Put Children in Cages.
As individuals, we often feel that changing injustice, especially of this scale, is impossible. We feel so small, so insignificant.
But, when united, our voices rise.
When we call attention to the injustices that surround us, our hearts lead the way, and we are able to ignite change.
Looking back, how did the outside world discover the conditions and atrocities occurring inside the concentration camps under Nazi Germany’s regime? Photographs were leaked, people began talking. We learned that word-of-mouth is stronger than silence and can set change into motion.
Truly, it is up to you and me. We must raise our voices to free the children and their families living in the detention camps around this country.
Even though we may not be able to rewrite what has already been etched in our nation’s history, we can change the direction our story takes going forward. We, the people, hold the power to decide what our next chapter will say. If we want to permanently close the camps and end the trauma our fellow brothers and sisters are living day after day, we must speak up. We must start talking. We must make our voices heard.
What can we do?
We can donate our time and participate in rallies that are popping up around the country.
We can call and write our local, state, and national representatives to tell them that what is happening is not “My America” and that we will not stand by and watch it happen any longer.
Above all, we must stay informed and connect with others whose mission is humanity, whose mission is building community, not camps.
You and I cannot keep turning away from sadness and despair. We must face the reality that stands before us, and take the first step in writing a new chapter in the history of our country, The Day America Made Freedom Great Again.
Please check out additional ways to speak your truth and advocate for the rights of these children and their loved ones: