Social media is a powerful tool that has the ability to draw mass attention to global crises and bring together digital communities in support of a single cause. However, oftentimes, social media can also under-deliver on two vital aspects: information, and actionable steps. With devastating images posted on Instagram and captions that prompt #prayfor[insert crisis here], it is easy to feel enraged, but helpless. In fact, at this age it can often seem difficult to take political action and drive social change, particularly if unable to vote.
This week, social media rightfully spurred uproar regarding families being separated at the US border due to the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy that led to almost 2,000 children being separated from their families. It is possible, however, that while you were devastated by photos of children being kept in literal cages, you didn’t quite understand how they got there or what the zero-tolerance policy even means. It is also possible, that while you felt the need to share the photo in an attempt to draw attention to this human rights violation, you were left unsure of other actionable steps you could take. Social media fuels the fire, but does not provide the extinguisher with which to put it out.
In summary, the zero-tolerance policy means that every migrant who crosses the border illegally is subject to criminal prosecution (effectively a trial held to determine if a person is guilty of a crime). Since children are not allowed to be held in federal jail, they are instead taken from their parents and treated as “unaccompanied alien children”. This means that they are placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and wait in government-run facilities for weeks or months while agency officials search for relatives or sponsors to care for the child. In reality, these ‘shelters’ are little better than cages, where children are highly distressed and left without necessary parental care. Hence, the uproar.
Just yesterday, Trump signed an executive order that ended his policy of family separation, however, stated that the ‘zero-tolerance’ prosecution policy will continue. This simply means, however, that parents and children will be detained together instead of separating them while their legal cases are sorted. There is also significant wiggle room left in the very vague wording that was used, leaving us unsure of exactly how this situation will be handled in the future.
Above are examples of various posts that have infiltrated Instagram over the past few days. Celebrities and influencers alike have taken to the platform to express their outrage with the current crisis.
With crises like these, it can often seem daunting to attempt to make social change when the issue at hand is so large and any possible actionable steps seem so small in comparison. The truth is, past that of spreading awareness, there are measures each of us can take that do result in visible change, such as Trump signing the executive order. While the executive order has been signed, (seemingly) ending familial separation (for now), it is still important to take steps to ensure that it remains this way, and to help those families that have already been separated, be reunited. Below, we have included five easy steps you can take today:
Plastered all over social media yesterday were prompts to call your senator, but we know that this can be intimidating and, what would you say once you called them? The reality is that it’s much easier than you think. Calling your local Representative or Senator is important because it shows commitment to a cause, and demonstrates that you (and others your age!) are informed and engaged in this movement. Here is a step-by-step guide that makes calling your Representatives quick and easy.
If you aren’t sure of who your local Senator is, call the following number: (202) 224-3121. Once you state your Zip Code, they will connect you with your appropriate Senator’s office. Once you are connected, we suggest saying something like the following:
Hi, my name is _________ and my zip code is ________. I am very upset that migrant families are being separated at the border. I’m calling today to ask for your commitment to reuniting children with their loved ones, and I look forward to you publicly addressing this issue.
Though many organizations are currently calling for lawyers (which I’m assuming we are not yet), there is still desperate need for volunteers, particularly those that speak Spanish, for example. If you speak a second language, or just want to help, you can get in touch with one of theseorganizations.
But it doesn’t end there. If you don’t speak a second language or live near a border state, there are ways you can help make the lives of immigrants in your community better. There are shelters, community centers, and service agencies for immigrants around the country. Contact your local organization and see how you can help. Last but not least, you can just be friendly, and do your part in making America more hospitable to immigrants, which will ultimately help immigrants everywhere.
Take a page from Peyton Klein’s book, a ninth grader in Pittsburgh, and start a club in school dedicated to supporting and aiding immigrants in your own community. In Global Minds, students pair up to learn about each other’s cultures, while providing academic and language help to new students who may still be learning English.
This is a tricky one, since joining the seemingly endless number of protests these days can seem overwhelming and exhausting. I totally understand, however, people congregating and physically making their voices heard has been a long-proven way of bringing attention to a subject and causing change. There are many local protests that are being organized, and on June 30ththere will officially be a Nationwide protest against the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Many organizations including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the ACLU, the Women’s March, MoveOn and others are working together to plan the national movement. The main demonstration is scheduled to take place from 11am to 2pm at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC.
If you plan to attend a protest, speak to your parents first, and make sure to grab a partner to join you to ensure that you are safe, and looked out for. In addition, check out these handy guidelines for how to safely demonstrate at a protest.
This doesn’t mean that you have to scramble together all of the pennies in your piggy bank in an attempt to donate to your local charity. Maybe sit down and talk to your parents to explain why this cause is important to you and discuss whether it would be appropriate for your family to make a contribution. There are lists across the internet of places you can donate to, though we are big fans of Pueblos Sin Fronteras and Border Angels in particular. These are two well-vetted organizations that provide humanitarian aid in the form of shelter, water, and legal services to migrants on the border. Any contribution helps, even if it’s just $5 or $10.
These are steps that you can take not only to address the family-separation immigration policy, but nearly any political or social problem that you would like to see change. It doesn’t matter whether you are of voting age, your voice has a right to be heard, and you can make it loud and clear using these steps. Comment below with the ways you like to get involved, or organizations, charities or movements you like to be involved with.
COVER IMAGE: Pinterest