Do the Right Thing When Tragedy Overwhelms Us, What Can We Do?
In the last six months, we have seen a new administration set themselves up in the White House, and we had reason to hope for a better future. I told you about some of my own small hopes, such as removing damaging words like “illegal” and “alien” from the official language the government uses. But I was also wary — the U.S. government has a long history of treating
Almost all of them already have family of some kind here, and many were forced to leave by the previous president’s anti- immigrant agenda. The government is overwhelmed, and I think all of us feel powerless.
But we aren’t.
When we feel without hope or that we face a situation too big to handle, it is important to find something specific and meaningful to focus on and to address that one thing. It would be easy to say, “If the government of the United States cannot solve this problem, how could we do anything about it?” But the fact is, we know a lot more about the people at the border than most of the people in the government do. And we have always chosen to show those people compassion, solidarity, and love. Can we not do the same thing now? We know so much about the situation — and we certainly care more about the people there. For example, here is something that we know: 9 out of 10 children who are being held in immigration detention have family members in the United States who could take them in and would qualify to legally sponsor them here. Surely, we can do something about this. I have seen the effects that detention for any length of time has on children, and these kids could be out tomorrow if the government wasn’t fighting to keep them locked up. Whether these children are truly “unaccompanied” or not, this situation is completely unnecessary. New Frontier Immigration Law is partnering with the VECINA organization to help solve this problem. There are over 20,000 children in immigration “holding” across the United States, and
immigrants very poorly, and that has remained the same no matter who happens to be in the White House. To make things worse, whether intentions are good or bad, it is also not a situation that anyone has full control over. Sadly, we are seeing that happen right now at the southern border. My heart goes out to all the people who are trying to come here. People have gathered in record numbers for months now, all desperate to get into the United States because they believe the new administration will be a kinder one to immigrants.
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Why Do Immigrants Come Here? A Common Question — And a Simple Answer! Immigration opponents usually have one thing in common: They do not understand the vast privileges they have as Americans compared to the rest of the world. If they did, they wouldn’t be so quick to deny others a chance at those same opportunities and freedoms, and they certainly wouldn’t need to ask why immigrants choose to come here in the first place! We can talk at length about the civil rights that Americans enjoy: the ability to talk badly about the government, to protest in peace, and to have privacy and security in their own homes — even to move about freely from state to state. Some of these rights may not always be as secure as they should be, but compared to many other places, we have numerous protections under the law. And these rights are certainly important to the immigrants who come here. But the most important thing about coming to America for many immigrants is the opportunity to change their circumstances and those of their family — to rise in social standing and gain stability through hard, honest work. Americans do not realize how rare that is across the globe. You can come here from poverty — or be born into it — and gain not just success but also stable success that cannot easily be taken from you. You can even become a citizen, with all the rights of a natural-born American, and if family members are born here, they will be citizens automatically. In other wealthy countries, that is not possible. Although social class, race, and biases do exist in the U.S., they are not nearly as restrictive as they are in other places, especially social class. A place where people can be born into one class and move to another through hard work alone is the exception, not the rule. That makes Independence Day the most important holiday for immigrants because this country was designed to be this way from the very beginning. Our founding fathers believed that all citizens should enjoy a base level of protections and be able to rise or fall according to their skill, intelligence, and work ethic. 250 years later, we still believe that.
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at least 18,000 of them have family to sponsor them here. To get them out, they need attorneys who are willing to help, and VECINA is helping their families connect with those attorneys. Our team has dedicated two full-time people to work phones for VECINA’s initiative. Those two team members sit by the phone, which is a hotline for families to call so they can be put through to attorneys and people who can help. Our firm has also taken on a half-dozen of these cases ourselves, free of charge, to try and get these children free. And when we can do more, we will do more, until this problem is solved. The damage that happens to minors in detention cannot be overlooked, and I know that many readers have seen that. I have seen it with my clients, and I have been in a similar situation myself when I was 15. It is easy to fall into a “black hole” and lose track of time; often, the government loses track of you, and it takes weeks just for the bureaucracy to sort itself out. During that time, you are isolated from loved ones and not given the proper care you deserve. You may also be forcibly medicated with drugs that have long-lasting negative impacts on your health, and we know this is one of the many terrible things happening to unaccompanied minors in detention today. This is not a new problem, but it’s one that is getting worse. Enough is enough. One of the reasons I have grown this firm is to do things like partnering with VECINA. To have built that “muscle” and to use it for the benefit of children — who literally are this country’s future — is an amazing privilege. We have seen some positive things from the new administration; at the end of the day, they did stop using “illegal” and “alien,” just like we’d hoped. But there are tragedies happening every day at the border and in immigration detention. Until the government shows that it can flex its own muscle on those issues, we will keep using ours.
And that is worth celebrating.
Team Member Spotlight: Oscar Luna
Like many of us, sales supervisor Oscar Luna has had an odd job or three in his life. “I’ve worked in the service industry, in hospitality, in tourism …” he says. But there’s one key difference between that work and the job he does now; he is currently helping people — who have potentially life-changing legal questions — so they can get access to answers. “That’s just it,” Oscar says. “So often, the work New Frontier does is changing lives.”
casual, they may not take us as professionals. But if I am too formal, they may think that I’m a bot!” And that’s not good if you want the person to stick around and tell you what they need help with or ask the questions that let Oscar and his team figure it out themselves. “There is a lot of decision-making on our team. Do we pass someone off to another team member? Do we take care of them ourselves? Is this something our firm can even help with?” It’s a lot of responsibility, and the team has to be coordinated. Those morning “booster” meetings help, but so does a good work-life balance. When Oscar isn’t running “triage” on the clock with his team, he enjoys spending time with his friends and loved ones. “I am the guy who tries to stay in touch with as many old friends as I can,” Oscar says. “It’s so easy to lose track, especially with the pandemic.” But it’s another relationship that has Oscar’s mind preoccupied lately: he recently proposed to his girlfriend — now his fiancée — and they’re getting married in February 2022! Congrats, Oscar!
It’s a big difference, and it changes how Oscar himself thinks about and approaches his work. “Whether I’m running our regular meeting every morning or responding to someone on our website trying to get help, I know that the person we reach out and reply to could really need help,” he says. It’s a balancing act sometimes with potentially high stakes. “If someone sends us a Facebook message for example, I am often the chat assistant who responds to them. If I appear too
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What to Do in the Face of Tragedy?
Why Do Immigrants Come Here?
Team Member Spotlight
Have You Explored a National Forest?
On National Get Outdoors Day Explore a National Forest for Free
Many people in the U.S. and across the world have a national park trip on their travel bucket list. While Zion, Yellowstone, and the Great Smoky Mountains are all awesome locales, outdoor enthusiasts often overlook a resource that is less busy, less expensive, and usually right in their backyard: national forests. All but 10 states have a national forest (or more than one!), so if your home state doesn’t have one, it’s very likely a neighboring state does! And there’s no better time to hike, bike, forage for mushrooms or berries, or camp at a nearby national forest than this month. The tree-filled landscape will provide shade and help you beat the summer heat, and to further incentivize visitors, the U.S. Forest Service (the organization that oversees the national forests) is offering a fee-free day on Saturday, June 12, in honor of National Get Outdoors Day! While parking and day-use fees to access national forests tend to be relatively modest, fee-free days open up the opportunity to all visitors. The U.S. Forest Service has a great interactive map tool that prospective park-goers can use to learn more about the forests in their area, amenities and activities, and
accessibility. Visit FS.fed.us/ivm to access the map and see what’s near your hometown! If you’re dreaming up travel plans beyond your state’s border, consider visiting these notable U.S. national forests. • El Yunque National Forest: Located in Puerto Rico, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States. • Tongass National Forest: Spanning 16.7 million acres and several islands across Southeast Alaska, the Tongass is the country’s largest national forest. • Salmon-Challis National Forest: This Idaho forest is the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48 and contains the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. • Cibola National Forest and Grassland: Spread across north- central New Mexico, west Texas, and Oklahoma, this forest and grassland area is notable for its diverse ecosystems and wildlife. The Sky Islands portion of the park is also home to over 200 rare plant and animal species.
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