Auntie, I feel like I grew up with you. When I pass you in the street or see you in the spice store, I feel like you’re one of the people who saw me grow up, kept my welfare close to your heart, and had an unspoken authority in my community.
I grew up in one of the most South Asian places in the United States, and when I was young, I knew I had many people I could depend on. I was raised by my aunties, by my best friends, and by my parents, who came here to learn, to work in business and public service, and to raise children that are Indian and American.
I don’t know if everyone understands how precious immigrant communities are. It is so special to know, deeply, that there are people who care for you in ways you never had to ask for. As a child of immigrants, I knew that even when my elders didn’t understand me, they were doing their best to care for me. And I knew that sometimes, when I wore jhumki to school, knew something about Pakistani history, or could recite the names of my favorite Tamil language poets, folks from my immigrant community would be brilliantly delighted to find a piece of their home in this country.
This is a request, auntie, as the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works to divide and traumatize immigrant communities of color, including South Asian immigrant communities. This is a request to help those fighting against the truly evil work of ICE under the Trump administration.
“This is a request to help those fighting against the truly evil work of ICE under the Trump administration.”
Auntie, ICE was founded in 2003. In the US, immigration enforcement through handcuffs, raids, deportation, and detention is a recent development. And I think it’s more and more clear that these people aren’t just earnestly enforcing U.S. laws. They’re waging a targeted, cruel war against immigrants and refugees.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen that ICE under Trump is comfortable detaining children who came to this country seeking asylum, detaining 1,500 boys at a time in former Walmarts, and toddlers in “tender age shelters.” Donald Trump signed an executive order ending “family separation,” but he simply promised “family detention” instead, and the order did nothing to re-unite more than 2,000 children with their families. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called this state-sponsored child abuse, depriving children of playing in the sun and eating their mothers’ food. What ICE is doing has to end.
I am so proud of being of immigrants, being from so many places at once. I am so happy so many in my immigrant community have done well; have made beautiful things for themselves and their children. Auntie, I’m asking you to help make it so more people grow up like I did: safe, free, and with my immigrant family.
Here’s what you can do:
• Join the National Day of Action June 30. On June 30, organizers across the country will host “Families Belong Together” protests in response to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. Find an action near you: https://www.familiesbelongtogether.org/
• Call your elected officials. Make your voice heard on the issues that matter to you. 5 Calls shares relevant contact information and frequently updated scripts on a number of issues to help callers Demand the Reunification of Migrant Children With Families, Block the Indefinite Detention of Migrant Children and Families, Abolish Ice, and more.
• Support organizations doing front-line work with legal services, translation assistance and advocacy. Your support can be spread among up to 14 such organizations via this donation page. Read this Colorlines post for more ways to support front-line advocacy.
• Discuss, support, and join organizations with your community.
– In DC: Support SAALT and United We Dream
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led community in the country. It empowers people to develop their leadership, their organizing skills, and to develop youth-led campaigns to fight for justice and dignity for immigrants and all people.
– In California: Support CIYJA
The California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) focuses on strategically placing youth in advocacy and policy delegations. CIYJA is dedicated to building a mass immigrant youth movement that challenges the model minority narrative and acknowledges the struggles of all oppressed people as one.
• Join a local South Asian organization and amplify your voice:
• Check out the Rapid Response Guide for Muslim, Arab, South Asian Orgs/Advocates
This evolving document was developed for Muslim, Arab, and South Asian groups and advocates interested in taking immediate action to end the inhumane family separation policy of the Trump Administration. The guide provides 10 action steps with resources and links.
SAALT’s Twitter thread sharing the document, embedded below, also provides tips, resources, and helpful links to take action:
Thread: 10 Ways to Take Action – How to Support Efforts to End Family Spearation Policy developed for Muslim, Arab, South Asian groups and advocates https://t.co/V8DLdrIwD0
— SAALT (@SAALTweets) June 20, 2018
This letter is meant as a resource, to share with parents, aunties, and other community members. Send it to your parents, to your mosque or temple or church, to your WhatsApp groups. If you have more resources to add, please share them on Twitter (@theaerogram) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theaerogram).
Sagaree Jain is a writer, researcher, and poet. She grew up in the Silicon Valley and studied history at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the co-creator of the Turmeric Project, which spotlights queer South Asian art, and she works in human rights. Sagaree is fascinated by women, South Asia, poetry, scientific racism, reproductive justice, queer health, decolonization, migration, surveillance, on and on. She lives in Brooklyn.