The two oceans that border America brought us millions of immigrants who have enriched and benefited our nation, building on the sacrifices and work of Native Americans, African-Americans, and Europeans. The majority of Americans today are descendants of these immigrants or those brought here as slaves.
The Fourth of July, which we celebrate this week, is a reminder of this. It should remind us that America is a nation that bases its allegiance not on race, ethnicity, or religion, but on upholding its ideals and its laws. Of the 39 Founding Fathers who signed our Constitution, seven were immigrants.
When our first president, George Washington, chose Justices of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, three of his choices were immigrants: James Wilson of Scotland, James Iredell of England, and William Patterson from Ireland.
Immigrants have held onto America’s promise of being a nation for all, and fought for it along with the native-born. When civil liberties were threatened during John Adams’ administration at the turn of the 19th century, the editor of the Philadelphia Aurora, William Duane, an immigrant from Ireland, risked arrest to take on the president and his Alien and Sedition Acts.
Scholars say it will take at least two generations to undo the damage of this current wave of hate, fear, and violent racism and bigotry sweeping our country and the world. And the deaths of two asylum seekers last week are a reflection of that.
The horrific image of Oscar Alberto Martínez lying dead, drowned with his 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria clutching his neck in the Rio Grande River was a painful reminder of the desperation of migrants fleeing war, violence, and poverty, and seeking asylum at our border.
Along with it, reports of the disgusting mistreatment of children, in particular, by our own Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers made clear that we are committing gross human rights violations. Six children have died in CPB custody since last September. President Donald Trump instituted the policy of separating migrant children from their parents last year, adding another layer to their trauma.
According to Warren Binford, a Willamette University law professor who visited one of the detention centers in Texas, 250 infants, children and teenagers were being held without adequate food, water or sanitation, and almost no adult supervision. Almost all of the children came with family and they are trying to be reunited with family living in the U.S., and they have family members here ready to care for them.
It is time for American Muslims to speak out and act. Some of us are immigrants, and some of us are native-born. But as Muslims and as Americans, we have a duty to stand up for what is right.
These children and families have no say in how they are being treated. But we do. As tax-paying, law-abiding, voting citizens of a democracy, our government representatives have a duty to speak on our behalf. This is why we need to contact them and make sure that they are aware of what we expect them to do on our behalf.
- The state of being a refugee is something Prophets Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses, God’s peace be upon them all, experienced in their lives. They suffered and fled persecution based on their beliefs. Had they stayed in the places of their birth, they would very likely have been killed
- Before the migration to Madinah, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his community sought and were granted asylum in Abyssinia, modern-day Ethiopia, which was ruled by a Christian king. They were ensured safety, security, and freedom to practice their faith
- Preserving life is an Islamic imperative (Quran 5:32). That is our own life first, then those of others.
- Allah orders us to stand up for justice for all human beings and in every situation. This is even if it is against ourselves, our families, the rich or the poor (Quran 4:135). The migrants seeking asylum at our border are suffering, and it is our duty to speak up for them.
- Today, the three countries that have absorbed the largest number of refugees are Muslim: Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon. They have taken up the Islamic imperative of standing up for justice. This is despite the fact that they have far less in terms of resources than the United States or almost all European countries
- If You Know a Refugee Who Has Been Detained: For legal assistance for detained refugees, contact the UNHCR hotline or the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). To contact UNHCR from outside the detention center, dial 1-888-272-1913; to contact UNHCR from inside the detention center, dial 566#. To contact AILA, visit this page.
- Fostering: Many of the children coming to the U.S. have family members domestically who can care for them. However, shelters and foster families are a critical need for other children and families. If you are interested in being a foster family for some of the very young children or pregnant girls that are arriving, the best advice is to begin the process to become licensed foster parents. This would be run through your local child welfare organization, and would be required by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. For more details, look at this page of the Office of Refugee Resettlement's website, and at the two organizations that generally manage foster care for unaccompanied minors: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Lutheran Social Services for Children and Families.
- Call, write to, and/or meet with your Congresspersons and Senators. Make sure you share your concerns as an American, and make clear what you expect them to do
Sound Vision Team