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Ten-year-old Rosa Hernandez was in in the back of a medical transport vehicle in October. She and her cousin were traveling 150 miles by ambulance through the dark Texas backcountry from her home in Laredo to Corpus Christi. Rosa has cerebral palsy and was in need of an emergency gallbladder removal.
As they were passing through the small town of Freer, Texas, the ambulance came to an immigration checkpoint where border agents demanded to see their “papers”. Rosa’s cousin, a U.S. citizen, and the driver both provided documentation. The agents then turned to the ten-year-old girl in the back of the car and demanded her “papers”. Her cousin provided her medical documentation and explained that she did not have identification documents with her.
In spite of this, after the ambulance was detained at the checkpoint for nearly 90 minutes, agents then informed Rosa’s cousin that they would follow them to the hospital and, after surgery, Rosa would be detained and processed for deportation.
Rosa, who is ten years old, who grew up surrounded by family in Laredo, TX, who has cerebral palsy, and who underwent surgery, was detained as an “unaccompanied child” in a resettlement center hours from her home.
Rosa’s story is just one story. It has become one of thousands since President Trump took office, and it will become one of thousands more as this administration continues to indiscriminately target Latinx communities and tear apart families.
Days before Christmas, six young DACA immigrants and one ally were arrested in the office of Senator Chuck Schumer after staging a sit-in, demanding that the minority leader commit to vote “no” on any funding bill that does not include a “Clean DREAM Act.”
These young men and women risked everything: their freedom, their future, their life as they have known it, to ensure that they and their families would be granted protection and a pathway to citizenship in the country they call home.
They cannot stand in this fight alone; we must stand with them.
On Friday at midnight, the United States government will cease being funded. Without a continuing resolution, approved by both the US House and the Senate, it will shut down. Federal parks and monuments will close, veteran and unemployment benefits will be delayed, permits will be put on hold, and federal employees will be furloughed.
A shutdown will cost the nation tens of billions of dollars.
And yet, unless there is a viable deal on DACA and a plan which protects each and every undocumented immigrant in this nation and begins the work to create a path to citizenship, a shutdown is precisely what must happen.
Often, when shutdowns occur, it is because the two parties control different branches of government and cannot agree on a method of funding. The fight remains unresolved when the deadline approaches as both sides are often mired in battles over percentages.
This time, however, is different. This time, as the Republican party controls both Congress and the White House, the fight is not waged on a field riddled with dollar-amounts and talks of allocations; instead, it is waged on the idea of our very humanity.
The movement toward shutdown is not political, it is moral.
A government that has ceased to serve the people is obligated to protect is a government that has lost an understanding of why it exists.
In New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty stands elegantly beneath her crown, holding her torch high as a guiding light for all those seeking refuge in a nation promising them ‘opportunity.’
What is not seen, what is nearly hidden beneath her robe, are the broken chains that lay at her base, the bent knee, and the right foot with its heel lifted off the ground. Lady Liberty is not standing upright waiting for those coming from distant shores to reach her. She is in motion, making her way toward them, yearning to meet them where they are so that she may guide them home.
We have lost sight of what this nation should be. At some point, we stopped venturing over the water to take the hand of our brothers and sisters in need. At some point, we reconfigured our stance on that pedestal and stood with our backs to the sea.
This fight for a clean DREAM Act, for comprehensive immigration reform, for a path to citizenship, for the abolition of ‘The Wall,’ is not rooted in politics, it is rooted in the very idea of what America is.
It is a fight for ten-year-old Rosa Hernandez who sat without her family in a Texas detention facility.
It is a fight for Jorge Garcia as he was stripped away from his wife and children in Michigan and forced to return to Mexico after living in the United States for nearly 30 years.
It is a fight for the DACA high school senior whose dreams of going to college were stripped from them by the actions of a single man.
It is a fight for the El Salvadoran and Haitian refugee who come to this nation seeking asylum to escape poverty and violence.
It is a fight for every single immigrant in this nation, all of whom make this a more prosperous and beautiful place to live.
This is a fight for the soul of who we are.
It is a fight we must win.
And if those in power do not wish to join the fight and be on the right side of history, if they continue to cast aside the most vulnerable in this nation, if they decide to polarize a looming government shutdown using our families as political fodder rather than genuinely serving them…
Then, shut it down.