Nowhere to Call Home for the Holidays

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A few months ago, I wrote a post about children’s books that address the topic of immigration. Today I came across a wonderful opportunity for children to send holiday wishes of love and hope to refugee families living in detention centers in the United States. The following is a description of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) Hope for the Holidays project:

In 2014, the U.S. government returned to the inhumane practice of detaining mothers and children in jail-like settings in three family detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. Consequently, many mothers and children will spend the holidays in detention, separated from the love of their families and the comfort of their traditions. Join LIRS in bringing hope and joy to children and mothers in immigration detention through sending Christmas cards and gifts. Write a message of hope to a family in detention and then mail your cards to LIRS. We will ensure that they are delivered to families in detention and to those children who arrive at our borders alone.

The holiday cards are needed by December 12th and instructions on where and how to send them are on the LIRS website. They particularly need cards with messages written in Spanish, and their website provides appropriate examples.

This project would pair nicely with the picture book Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat, which I described in a previous post. The mother in this story is living in a detention center while her husband and daughter anxiously wait for her to be released.

Because Donald Trump’s presidential campaign focused strongly on illegal immigration, many young children in the U.S. have become more aware of this issue. It is being discussed at home, in classrooms and on the playground. While we may feel that the issue is too complex for children to understand, we also need to recognize that they will likely be exposed to it whether we feel they are ready or not.

Like so many other issues in our world, I believe that it is important to teach children to approach the subject of immigration with compassion. We can help them understand the reasons why we secure our borders and require people to follow a specific path to citizenship, while also acknowledging the desperation and despair that leads refugees to flee their home countries. If we lived in a country where boys are recruited as child soldiers, where drug cartels terrorize the community, where there is no work, no food, and no hope, can we really say we would stay in that environment? Or would we flee to a new country despite the legality of that decision and the dangers that were in front of us? The goal is to help children see the complexities of the issue and respond with compassion because, in the end, those refugees living in the detention center could be any of us.

Wishing peace to all of you this holiday season…

 

PHOTO credit: Morgue File, chilombiano, http://mrg.bz/fafe41