1. Educate yourself and others. It is crucial to understand why so many unaccompanied children are making the treacherous journey to the US. Learn the facts first.
2. Words mean nothing without actions. By all means keep talking and writing and educating others about legal issues, the sincerity of politicians and talk show hosts, and how bad things are and how they got this way. But take a minute to stop and do something concrete and constructive: take a case, visit your elected officials, send an email, open your wallet… fill a tractor trailer with teddy bears and soccer balls and drive it to a detention center. But do something other than just talking.
3. But words matter. Notwithstanding #2, find a better word than “surge” or “flood” to describe the numbers of children seeking refuge in the United States. These kids are not a natural disaster or an attacking military enemy, and the population did not accumulate overnight – describing the situation in terms of warfare or disaster dehumanizes the individuals seeking aid, and encourages an inappropriate public response. Anyone who has struggled with labeling and terminology knows that words matter – “surge” and “flood” are just as problematic as “illegal.” The words “many thousands” are an appropriate alternative.
4. Money talks…and then files suit. Make a donation to the American Immigration Council, the ACLU, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, or Public Counsel, which – among other for-profit entities – brought a class action suit against the federal government on behalf of unaccompanied minors in an effort to ensure legal representation on their behalf.
5. It’s an election year. Contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel. There are plenty of scripted letters – many allow you to just type in your ZIP code and hit send. Better yet, contribute time to a campaign you support.
6. Remember the big picture. Find an organization that works on cross-border initiatives and humanitarian relief – there are many, enough to suit sensibilities left, right, and neutral – and make a donation of time or money to that organization’s mission.
7. Open your home. Become a foster parent for a child awaiting a court date. It’s a big commitment, but may be the right choice for those who desire to have a very significant impact. Unaccompanied Refugee Minor foster care programs are available in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
8. Take a case (Texas version).
You may not be able to abandon your work and your own families to provide goods or services at the US/Mexico border, but neither are you helpless to assist. A few clicks is better than nothing. Take a minute to consider the options above, and then do something.