Every day, my heart breaks as we hear about immigrant families being separated when they enter the U.S. to seek asylum. The fate of these families—how and when parents will be reunited with their children and if the adults will face criminal prosecution or deportation— is still unclear.
I wanted to do something to help so yesterday I attended a meeting led by the FaithAction International House called “What You Can Do to Help Families at the Border and in the Triad”. During the meeting, the staff provided statistics of immigration in the U.S. and North Carolina and, most importantly, shared stories from those who have been negatively impacted by these inhumane policies.
When undocumented individuals are apprehended by ICE in North Carolina, they are sent eight hours away to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. VICE news published an article about Stewart (or “the Black Hole of America’s Immigration System” as they coined this detention center) in 2016.
To share one important fact about Stewart here, I’ll quote the article:
“In 2012, it provided 20 percent of the county’s revenue, money generated from the roughly 1,700 beds that are filled with men waiting to find out whether they’ll be deported from the United States. Chances are, they will be.”
FaithAction International House staff and volunteers recently visited detainees in Stewart. I wanted to share this story:
In another first-hand narrative from a family member who has visited her father in a detention center, she shared that detainees are not always given timely medical attention. She described detainees having to stretch their medication to relieve some symptoms because they did not have enough to treat their needs. Can you imagine these conditions? Can you think of this happening to you or your loved ones?
Migrating to the U.S. is not a crime. These families are seeking asylum to flee poverty and violence in their home countries. Every day that immigrants are held in detention centers, companies affiliated with private equity, banking, internet, phone, medical and food services, transportation and construction make a profit from their captivity.
I know you’re asking yourself “what can I do to help?”
It’s also important to know that we can do more to help immigrants at the state level. There are currently laws in place that continue to criminalize those who want to have a better life in our state. As a legislator, I want to ensure that North Carolina is a welcoming place that embraces opportunities for all, including immigrants. I support legislation that would provide ways for immigrant families to have access to in-state college tuition and a valid North Carolina driver’s license. I believe in a North Carolina that is the best state in the country for all who live here.
It is crucial for us to speak out and ask our federal representatives to address immigration policy with the solution of a fair and humane pathway to citizenship in the U.S. Let’s continue to share the stories of those who have endured so much to get here. Their voices need to be heard.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”