Jenita Graham: What Sen. Hassan didn’t see at U.S.-Mexico border

  • Sen. Maggie Hassan speaks with Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Capitol Hill on March 14. AP file

For the Monitor
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

An open letter to Sen. Maggie Hassan: I am an immigrant from Guatemala. Although I came in a legal way, through adoption, not everyone has that option.

Think of the desperation that would force a mother to give away her 9-month-old baby. It is my connection to my birth mother that has moved me to learn as much as I can about the struggles that face people in Guatemala and other Central American countries.

We created the conditions that harm Guatemala. Never forget that we overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected, reform-minded government in 1954, and then supported a violent military junta during their civil war.

When people come to our border to ask for asylum, they are asking to escape the treachery we create.

Last week, the Trump administration changed our policy for dealing with asylum-seekers at our border.

Since 1968, the United States has been part of the U.N. Refugee Convention, which requires us to deeply consider claims of asylum. When a person comes to our border to ask for safety, and they face a legitimate fear of violence in their homeland, we must offer asylum.

The Trump administration once again defies international law by creating conditions that try to deter families from seeking asylum: They now intend to separate parents from their children, keeping all in detention facilities.

On May 7, you were at the border and you talked about security, not about our common humanity.

You gave into Trump’s thinking that the people who cross our border are criminals.

Sen. Hassan, put yourself in a mother’s shoes: You would have traveled over a thousand miles, sold everything, risked everything. Yet in the end, your children would be stripped away from you.

Sen. Hassan, you have the power to do something, to speak up, yet you chose not to. But it is not too late, you can speak up now.

As a 14-year-old child, I do not have the power that you have. I am asking you to do something. I am asking you to remember that it could be my mother or my sister at the border asking for safety. I know it is risky to have a different opinion from the administration, but think about the families that we should be helping.

Even though we aren’t all the same race, we are all human and we are all connected. If you take the risk, others may join in, and slowly, we could change the tone of our country.

(Jenita Graham lives in Concord.)