Editor’s note: Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden is a grassroots organization which seeks to end the inhumane treatment of refugees entering the U.S., seeking asylum. Members made national and international headlines in August when they traveled by caravan from cities and towns across the United States to McAllen, Texas, near the Mexico border, where they protested the current administration’s immigration policies. On their six-day journey, they heard stories of unimaginable sadness from those who have escaped political and gang violence, poverty and deprivation, only to find themselves faced with another kind of terror as U.S. immigration officials at the border separated and detained family members, including young children. The People’s Tribune interviewed a member of Grannies Respond who made the trip to McAllen, Beth Bernstein. Below are excerpts from the interview.
I am an occupational therapist who has worked with students in Massachusetts for more than two decades, including many immigrants and children of immigrants. I find this administration’s policies of separating children from families and incarcerating parents who have come to our country to seek refuge unacceptable. I don’t understand how the administration, and those doing their bidding, can live with themselves, and my heart aches for these children and their families. I am angry and embarrassed that our government is doing this in our name. We need to stop this torture and inhumane treatment. We need to hold the government accountable and persist until all of the children are returned to their families.
Every place we went on our journey we were greeted with incredible enthusiasm and generosity. People wished they could ride with us, and promised they’d be with us in spirit.
We tried to visit the South Texas Detention Center after the news broke that a child died soon after their release. We hoped to speak with the families. However, we were threatened with arrest if we did not leave the property immediately.
In McAllen, TX we walked the Refugee Path and interacted with families staying at the Catholic Charities Respite center after their release from detention. As we sang in English and Spanish, there were smiles and tears as we connected. It was a powerful experience that left an impression on all of us.
The next day we filled backpacks that were then delivered to families waiting for permission to cross the Brownsville-Matamoros bridge to enter the country, and to others leaving on buses to stay with sponsors across the country. We saw the wall, visited La Posada Providencia, and border patrol processing centers. The day ended with the grannies convening for a panel discussion with local aid groups about ways we could continue to support their work.
Since then we have been developing strategies for our own communities. We are holding meetings to raise awareness, writing letters and planning actions to keep pressure on local and national politicians to work for change
It is difficult to understand how we got to this place, socially and morally; we’re targeting the most vulnerable who deserve our compassion. My vision of a moral society is one where no human being is considered illegal, where we are open to learning from and about others and able to appreciate and value our similarities and differences . . . the beautiful tapestry of humanity.