Father’s Day Solidarity with Migrant Families

This winter, seven-year-old Marcos and his father arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border after a difficult journey from Guatemala. Both are members of an indigenous community and speak the Mam language. Immigration officials interviewed Marcos’s father without an interpreter, and for reasons still unclear to the Young Center, separated father and son. They deported Marcos’s father without allowing him to take his son with him.

The Young Center’s team in San Antonio was appointed to Marcos’s case shortly after he arrived in protective custody, and a Child Advocate began meeting with Marcos every week. He told us about his family, and how much he wanted to be with them.

It took us weeks to locate Marcos’s family in Guatemala—immigration authorities provided no records related to the father’s deportation or how to contact him. When we found them and spoke to them for the first time, they had no idea where their son was. They were desperate to know how he was doing.

As soon as we found his family, we started the process for Marcos to be quickly and safely returned to them (through a process we call a safe repatriation assessment). In collaboration with groups in Guatemala, we identified local resources to help the family upon Marcos’s return. Today, Marcos is back with his family. He and his father never had a fair opportunity to seek protection here, and they face serious challenges in their home country. But father and son are reunited.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, thousands of children are in federal custody, hoping for reunification with fathers, mothers and other family members. In addition to the unknown number of children who were never reunified with parents during the government’s disastrous “zero-tolerance” policy of 2018, immigration authorities are continuing to separate children like Marcos from their families.

As we honor the fathers and father-figures in our lives this weekend, we will continue the work of reunifying families, advocating for a real end to family separation and for the humane treatment of all immigrant children. Here are five tangible actions you can take to be part of this work.

1.       Call on your legislators to oppose Senator Graham’s Secure and Protect Act (S.1494), which would single-handedly erase nearly every existing protection for immigrant children. Most children would be turned away at the border, even if they had legitimate claims for protection. Children who weren’t forcibly turned away could be held in detention indefinitely. Tell your Senators that children need our help, not a cold shoulder that would return them to danger.

2.       In every one of our eight offices, the Young Center has a waiting list for children who need our services. Volunteer Child Advocates help us serve many more children, meeting with them each week and providing essential support. Consider applying to volunteer with us in Harlingen, Phoenix, DC, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, or San Antonio. Learn more about volunteering with the Young Center.

3.       Create a Facebook fundraiser in honor of Father’s Day. Because the Young Center is a non-profit, Facebook gives every dollar donated to us through their platform directly to us. This is a great way to rally your friends, honor a father in your life, and raise awareness about our work. If you’re not on Facebook, you can hold an event to support our work. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment. It can be a dinner or happy hour at your house, a bake sale or car wash, a movie-screening or any other activity you enjoy. Your friends can participate in the event in exchange for a donation to the Young Center. If you plan to host an event, please contact us at info@theyoungcenter.org so we can give you handouts about our work and support you in your efforts.

4.       While funding is essential for us to continue our work, fundraising is not the only way to help. You can support immigrant children and families by simply talking about our work with your family, friends, and networks. You can engage with us on social media, invite your friends to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and share our content and other news on the issues facing immigrant children. Share the stories of unaccompanied children and separated families.

5.       Make a donation to support the Young Center’s work with immigrant children and families in honor of a father, grandfather, uncle, older brother, or any father figure who's made a difference in your life. Your support will allow us to continue our work including our Child Advocate program, which ensures that immigrant children in federal custody are not alone, and our policy program, which is working to change our immigration system into one that treats immigrant children as children first.

Maddie Witters