September 23, 2014
By Chris Punongbayan, Executive Director
*This article originially appeared on the Huffington Post on September 18, 2014.
I’m a dad and I was shocked this week to read a news story about the five children who had been deported back to Honduras who were later targeted and killed by local gangs, specifically because they were children.
What an unspeakable loss. It is a parent’s worst nightmare, to have to attend the funeral of your child.
When I was younger, I remember sitting on my mom’s lap and asking her why she immigrated to the U.S. She told me because the Philippines was under martial law. When I asked what martial law was, she said, it’s when you cannot say what you think about what is happening, and you feel like you can’t do anything about it. So, we left.
My son is too young to understand what is happening in the news, but one day I will have to tell him why our country is treating the children from Central America so inhumanely. I’m not sure what I will say about this shameful moment but I feel a responsibility to speak out now, not only as a civil rights advocate but as a parent.
The children are refugees who are fleeing violence. The fact that families are willing to risk a perilous journey to the United States rather than stay shows how bad the situation is. Our country should be welcoming them, not turning them away.
Like me, President Obama is a loving father. He has the power to be able to bring comfort to those in need, but has chosen to bow to political pressure from critics on both sides of the aisle. His administration is fast tracking hearings and keeping children locked up.
What kind of message are we sending to the world by detaining and deporting children?
I wish the President would treat this border crisis not like a political problem, but instead like an opportunity to show how great a country we can be.