On June 18, the dark image representing the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” immigration policy was cast for the world to see.
A viral photo of a 2-year-old immigrant girl screaming into the night, watching her mother patted down by an ICE agent for illegally crossing from Mexico into the U.S. burned itself in the hearts and eyes of many, myself included.
A weary mother’s penance for seeking the comfort of Lady Liberty — asylum from her country and getting her child out of harm’s way — was the threat of their unwanted separation should she be arrested by ICE.
Tanya Saracho, child of Latinx immigrants and Hollywood showrunner of Starz’ TV show Vida, saw images like this on the news and knew she wanted to do something to help these families be reunited.
She teamed up with friend and fellow Latinx showrunner/child of immigrants, Gloria Calderón Kellet, of Netflix’s One Day at a Time, to rally their writers’ rooms to raise funds to do just that.
On June 19, they took to social media to encourage their followers and other writer’s rooms to donate.
They mashed their show names together and called their effort the One Vida at a Time Challenge using the hashtags #onevidaatatime, #endfamilyseparation and #keepfamiliestogether.
Donations would go to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Legal Services, aka RAICES to work through the federal courts to post bonds for the jailed parents and reunite them with their children.
The donation page on the RAICES website states that despite a typical bond costing between $5 and $10,000, over one million people have donated over $20 million to the fund, which means they could pay for 2,500 bonds.
Trump put a stop to family separations at the border on June 20 due to the massive public and political backlash the practice had received. The situation has been ever-changing.
On July 13, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw made a ruling that would put the responsibility to pay for bonds on the federal government.
After the policy reversal, the One Vida at a Time Challenge garnered further Hollywood support.
On July 1, Kellett posted on her Instagram a list of 80 shows that had pledged donations. Their contributions were a part of the $20 million dollars pledged.
See the list of shows here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bks70f3g85T/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Kudos to the writers who are using their platforms to be a part of ending family separation. Their jobs are to help people to be entertained and escape reality temporarily, so when they use them as a deeper way to serve humanity, it makes you realize the power we have as people when we mobilize our efforts.
The data doesn’t show how many gave to RAICES as a result of the challenge, but you can assume the publicity they helped RAICES to gain, plus their own donations, had to contribute in a large way towards the $20 million total.
They show that some bit of good is coming out of such cruelty on the part of our President.
Trump acted cruelly because rather than support lasting immigration reform through Congress, he used an executive order to put his policy into effect.
He likely knew that Congress and the American people would not have approved of it had it first been suggested as a Congressional bill.
Trump tarnished the values of America, a country long claimed to help people in need, regardless of where they are from. It’s even written on Lady Liberty herself:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me….”
Grassroots efforts to show the true values of America were not lost on Kellett and Saracho. Their shows portray the barriers to entry that immigrant families face to get into this country and hope for a better life.
What they were seeing, as was I, were families being ripped apart, as parents eager for a better life in the U.S. were arrested for crossing into the country illegally, while their children watched in terror.
Having been born in Mexico, I couldn’t help but weep every time I would learn of the fate of these families, the children especially.
Whether it was seeing them in cages or learning that federal workers were not allowed to nurture them, I thought about my own mother.
She is a Mexican immigrant and came to the United States with 4 children. Her crossing was legal due to marrying my father, an American citizen, but the spirit of her struggles as a poor little orphan girl growing up on a dirt floor in Mexico with no shoes and barely a 3rd grade education, always resonate with me that the life she left behind was not as easy as the one she enjoys in America. By extension, my brothers, sisters and I all enjoy that same quality of life.
Watching the photo of the girl who screamed for her mother, I began to cry tears of gratitude and shame all at once.
Although I love America, my country, I do not love some of the sentiments of politicians like Trump that do not put themselves in the shoes, or lack thereof, of families who come here illegally because they are struggling just to survive.
Wouldn’t he want someone in power to take compassion on his family if this was their situation? Is it asking too much to make immigration policies with empathy rather than taking kids away from their parents and putting them in cages without a hug?
Please, Mr. President, become acquainted with the message on the Statue of Liberty and reunite these families quickly. That means love and kindness are not lost on you and there is hope for you and your administration to show us just how great America already is.