Hats for Asylum

Orphan” – A child whose parents are dead. Online dictionary.

Earlier this evening I was honored to listen in on a live discussion from folks volunteering and working along the southern border. It was inspiring. One young woman, whom I have worked with on several projects, continued to inspire me. She’s young, brave, smart, and dedicated beyond belief. She crosses between USA and Mexico several times a week to help asylum seekers trapped in a very dangerous Mexican border city. The things she has seen, the stories she has listened to…yet she continues with incredible grace and determination. Her moral compass totally intact. Anyway, during her talk she said something that I hadn’t heard before. She referred to the “unaccompanied minors”, children seeking asylum, as “orphans”. Yes, that is the word we should be using. It is truthful and evokes strong emotion, as it should. It reminded me of the term “hysterectomies”. This term has been used lately to describe what asylum seeking women held in a Georgia detention center have had done to them. The word does not begin to capture what happened. It suggests a medical procedure women get for a variety of reasons. It does not bring to mind forced sterilizations, which is what happened. Sterilizations is a better word to describe what happened to these scared, traumatized women who were all alone. It was a massive crime against humanity as is our treatment of orphans.

Orphans. We have thousands of orphans asking our help and seeking safety in our country. For years we put them in detention camps where they were treated less than humanely. And actually, this is not a thing of the past as we continue to do this to thousands of children (as well as adults). They didn’t get food they recognized, were forced to sleep in rooms with others they didn’t know. Some were sexually, physically, and verbally assaulted. Many didn’t know where they were or when they would get out. Many were moved between camp to camp in the middle of the night. (Please understand that all these things have been witnessed. I myself witnessed some.) Some of these children were not orphans, but minors who were intentionally and deliberately separated from their families once they hit the southern border. They were taken from them. Their rights trampled on. Our treatment of these children is our ultimate crime against humanity. The ultimate sin, and we intentionally and deliberately cause this harm to children. Many children share how they didn’t know where their families were. Their families didn’t know where they were. Then because separations and detentions weren’t cruel enough for this administration, we began transporting them in planes, what are now referred to as “cattle cars of the sky” in reference to the trains used in Germany during WW2 to transport Jews to the concentration and death camps. They are alone and shackled in 5 point shackles and then flown to the same countries they fled or to countries they don’t know anything about.

I remember when I first began to read about children kept in freezing cold cells where they were forced to sleep with florescent lights on and loud music 24/7. Now if you read the Geneva Convention which states what a country can and cannot do to prisoners of war you will read that lights on 24/7 and ongoing loud noises are not allowed. So we cannot do that form of torture to prisoners of war but we did and do this to children. Thousands and thousands of children. This administration proudly boats how they use it as a deterrent. A deterrent designed to keep other desperate people from seeking asylum here. In our country, land of the free and home of the brave, on our watch. But it isn’t working because desperate people will do anything to save their kids.

Back to the discussion. During this call, the lead volunteers discussed ways we can all help. Yes, it will take all of us to undo the crimes against humanity that have been done to the tens of thousands of people who sought our help and compassion. Which brings me to a knitting project, Hats for Asylum. Up here in the North East, 2,000+ miles from the southern border, we struggle to help in meaningful ways. Those on the border said they need money. That is a constant. It costs a lot of money to feed, shelter, and provide medical care for tens of thousands of desperate people stuck in tents, swamps, abandoned buildings, and overcrowded shelters in cartel land.

This project came about after a friend asked why I was knitting hats to bring to a border shelter; why wouldn’t I make them and sell them so I could send enough money to purchase a lot of hats. Fair enough. So this is what we are doing, knitting hats to sell so we can send money to a very special shelter in Mexico. Notice I don’t tell you the names of the shelters, or the cities, or the amazing people who run them. That is deliberate. Remember, this is cartel land. The danger and threat of harm is real and great. So photos aren’t shared. Names aren’t given. Details are for those who live it day in and day out. But trust me when I tell you that these desperate people living in incredible desperation are just like you, your sister, mother, brother, father, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather, best friend. And they need us, every one of us, to give immense effort to undo the harm our government caused them.

We can help. Each and every single one of us can help. We can send money, if we have it. Any amount. We can read about what is happening. Don’t look away. And then we can teach others about these immense crimes. We can reach out to our members of congress. Recently one of mine told me that for every 1 call like mine, there are 10 saying the opposite. They need to hear from us…over and over again.

Remember, if we are not part of the solution; we are part of the problem.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Martin Niemöller, German Lutheran Minister, Germany 1930’s

Please, look. See. And don’t look away.

May we open our hearts and arms to those who need us,

Mary

PS – If you would like to help with this project by donating money for supplies or purchasing a hat, or knitting please leave a comment and I will get back to you. Thank you.

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