B1 Intermediate US 49 Folder Collection
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Last summer, I got a call from a woman named Ellie.
And she had heard about the family separations at the southern border
and wanted to know what she could do to help.
She told me the story of her grandfather and his father.
When they were kids in Poland,
their father,
fearing for his son's safety,
gave them a little bit of money and told them to walk west,
to just keep walking west across Europe.
And they did.
They walked all the way west across Europe,
and they got on a boat and they got to America.
Ellie said that when she heard the stories of the teens
walking up across Mexico,
all she could think about was her grandfather and his brother.
She said that for her, the stories were exactly the same.
Those brothers were the Hassenfeld Brothers --
the "Has" "bros" --
the Hasbro toy company,
which, of course, brought us Mr. Potato Head.
But that is not actually why I'm telling you this story.
I'm telling you this story because it made me think
about whether I would have the faith,
the courage,
to send my teens -- and I have three of them --
on a journey like that.
Knowing that they wouldn't be safe where we were,
would I be able to watch them go?
I started my career decades ago at the southern US border,
working with Central American asylum seekers.
And in the last 16 years, I've been at HIAS,
the Jewish organization that fights for refugee rights around the world,
as a lawyer and an advocate.
And one thing I've learned is that, sometimes,
the things that we're told make us safer and stronger
actually don't.
And, in fact, some of these policies have the opposite of the intended results
and in the meantime, cause tremendous and unnecessary suffering.
So why are people showing up at our southern border?
Most of the immigrants and refugees that are coming to our southern border
are fleeing three countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
These countries are consistently ranked
among the most violent countries in the world.
It's very difficult to be safe in these countries,
let alone build a future for yourself and your family.
And violence against women and girls is pervasive.
People have been fleeing Central America
for generations.
Generations of refugees have been coming to our shores,
fleeing the civil wars of the 1980s,
in which the United States was deeply involved.
This is nothing new.
What's new is that recently, there's been a spike in families,
children and families, showing up at checkpoints
and presenting themselves to seek asylum.
Now, this has been in the news lately,
so I want you to remember a few things as you see those images.
One, this is not a historically high level of interceptions at the southern border,
and, in fact, people are presenting themselves at checkpoints.
Two, people are showing up with the clothes on their backs;
some of them are literally in flip-flops.
And three, we're the most powerful country in the world.
It's not a time to panic.
It's easy from the safety of the destination country
to think in terms of absolutes:
Is it legal, or is it illegal?
But the people who are wrestling with these questions
and making these decisions about their families
are thinking about very different questions:
How do I keep my daughter safe?
How do I protect my son?
And if you want absolutes,
it's absolutely legal to seek asylum.
It is a fundamental right in our own laws and in international law.
And, in fact --
it stems from the 1951 Refugee Convention,
which was the world's response to the Holocaust
and a way for countries to say never again would we return people to countries
where they would harmed or killed.
There are several ways refugees come to this country.
One is through the US Refugee Admissions Program.
Through that program, the US identifies and selects refugees abroad
and brings them to the United States.
Last year, the US resettled fewer refugees
than at any time since the program began in 1980.
And this year, it'll probably be less.
And this is at a time when we have more refugees in the world
than at any other time in recorded history,
even since World War II.
Another way that refugees come to this country is by seeking asylum.
Asylum seekers are people who present themselves at a border
and say that they'll be persecuted if they're sent back home.
An asylum seeker is simply somebody who's going through the process
in the United States
to prove that they meet the refugee definition.
And it's never been more difficult to seek asylum.
Border guards are telling people when they show up at our borders
that our country's full, that they simply can't apply.
This is unprecedented and illegal.
Under a new program,
with the kind of Orwellian title "Migrant Protection Protocols,"
refugees are told they have to wait in Mexico
while their cases make their way through the courts in the United States,
and this can take months or years.
Meanwhile, they're not safe,
and they have no access to lawyers.
Our country, our government, has detained over 3,000 children,
separating them from their parents' arms,
as a deterrent from seeking asylum.
Many were toddlers,
and at least one was a six-year-old blind girl.
And this is still going on.
We spend billions to detain people in what are virtually prisons
who have committed no crime.
And family separation has become the hallmark of our immigration system.
That's a far cry from a shining city on a hill or a beacon of hope
or all of the other ways we like to talk about ourselves and our values.
Migration has always been with us, and it always will be.
The reasons why people flee -- persecution, war, violence,
climate change
and the ability now to see on your phone what life is like in other places --
those pressures are only growing.
But there are ways that we can have policies that reflect our values
and actually make sense, given the reality in the world.
The first thing we need to do is dial back the toxic rhetoric
that has been the basis of our national debate on this issue for too long.
I am not an immigrant or a refugee myself,
but I take these attacks personally, because my grandparents were.
My great-grandmother Rose didn't see her kids for seven years,
as she tried to bring them from Poland to New York.
She left my grandfather when he was seven
and didn't see him again until he was 14.
On the other side of my family,
my grandmother Aliza left Poland in the 1930s
and left for what was then the British Mandate of Palestine,
and she never saw her family and friends again.
Global cooperation as a response to global migration and displacement
would go a long way towards making migration something that isn't a crisis
but something that just is,
and that we deal with as a global community.
Humanitarian aid is also critical.
The amount of support we provide to countries in Central America
that are sending refugees and migrants
is a tiny fraction of the amount we spend on enforcement and detention.
And we can absolutely have an asylum system that works.
For a tiny fraction of the cost of a wall,
we could hire more judges,
make sure asylum seekers have lawyers
and commit to a humane asylum system.
And we could resettle more refugees.
To give you a sense of the decline in the refugee program:
three years ago, the US resettled 15,000 Syrian refugees
in response to the largest refugee crisis on earth.
A year later, that number was 3,000.
And last year, that number was 62 people.
62 people.
Despite the harsh rhetoric and efforts to block immigration,
keep refugees out of the country,
support for refugees and immigrants in this country, according to polls,
has never been higher.
Organizations like HIAS, where I work,
and other humanitarian and faith-based organizations,
make it easy for you to take a stand
when there's a law that's worth opposing
or a law that's worth supporting or a policy that needs oversight.
If you have a phone,
you can do something,
and if you want to do more, you can.
I will tell you that if you see one of these detention centers
along the border
with children in them -- they're jails --
you will never be the same.
What I loved so much about my call with Ellie
was that she knew in her core that the stories of her grandparents
were no different than today's stories,
and she wanted to do something about it.
If I leave you with one thing,
beyond the backstory for Mr. Potato Head,
which is, of course, a good story to leave with,
it's that a country shows strength
through compassion and pragmatism,
not through force and through fear.
These stories of the Hassenfelds and my relatives and your relatives
are still happening today; they're all the same.
A country is strong when it says to the refugee,
not, "Go away," but,
"It's OK, we've got you, you're safe."
Thank you.
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【TED】Melanie Nezer: The fundamental right to seek asylum (The fundamental right to seek asylum | Melanie Nezer)

49 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on August 29, 2019
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