It took the lifeless body of a small child for Europe to wake up to the refugee crisis and the tragic consequences.
The death of three year-old Aylan Kurdi did not have to happen, but it did. It represents more than the loss of a child for a parent, it symbolizes the loss of our humanity. It brings into stark contrast the deeply ingrained and systematic indifference we still hold for atrocities not occurring in our own backyard. The Syrian civil war has been ongoing for years. It has taken almost 200,000 lives, yet it was not until young Kurdi’s inanimate body was washed up on the shores of Turkey that much of the world began to take notice.
Will another lifeless child be required before the American public sees this as inhumane and demands that the President end the detention of asylum seekers on our borders?
- Annaluisa Padilla
The same indifference is happening in the U.S. with the jailing of thousands of children and mothers fleeing violence in Central America. All this goes nearly unheeded in the press and by most Americans. The reality is our government incarcerates asylum seekers but tries to whitewash what’s happening, calling the jails “family residential centers.” The unmistakable truth is that the Obama Administration is incarcerating women and their young children who are fleeing rape, gang violence and other horrors that qualify them as refugees. Infants have suffered severe weight loss while locked up for months. Bereft of hope, peace, and adequate medical care, some mothers have attempted suicide.
What does it say about our country when this happens within our own borders? Will another lifeless child be required before the American public sees this as inhumane and demands that the President end the detention of asylum seekers on our borders?
We have a real opportunity to show the world how those fleeing persecution should be welcomed and protected. Now more than ever we must lead by example and welcome those fleeing for their lives when they reach our shores. Pope Francis issued such a call to Catholics to make their parishes into places of refuge and shelter. We must do the same for refugees from Syria, Central America, and other lands. We can come together to relieve despair and to embrace those escaping violence, knowing that welcoming them is part of who and what we are as Americans.
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Annaluisa Padilla is an immigration attorney and First Vice President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).