Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Joey is silent.
You know this photo.
None of us remembers the boy, because none of us knew him.
But we remember the image.
On account of one or more of today’s legal bases: Race. Religion. Nationality. Membership in a particular social group. Political opinion.
Today, millions of people of conscience mourned the murder of six million European Jews during World War 2; the persecution of hundreds of thousands of European Jews who escaped and the few who survived in areas the Germans and their allies controlled; the murder and persecution of millions more people who were, among other characteristics, gay, ill, Slavic, Roma; and . . . the murder of people of conscience.
The Refugee Convention was adopted in 1951 by the United Nations. The idea was to prevent another mass murder by giving protection in other countries to people at risk who can escape their own.
The United States, which wouldn’t open its doors to refugees in the 1930s, came late to the party. Our country did not adopt any of the Refugee Convention until 1968, and did not fully effect its provisions until the Refugee Act of 1980.
Much of the lesson of World War 2 has been forgotten. Still and again, we close our doors to refugees.
Under United States law, people seeking asylum have the right to have their claims heard. Our government, in our names, spends many billions of dollars each year on militarized borders (where we turn away asylum seekers), an immigration gulag (where asylum claimants are jailed, sometimes for years, at enormous expense, while their cases languish), and judges and functionaries (rewarded for processing speed rather than for quality), all buried under a staggering multi-year case backlog.
Of course, the “right” people make a fortune from this mess.
And no federal provision is made to help bewildered refugees navigate the immigration labyrinth. By federal law, a respondent in immigration proceedings may have counsel only ”at no expense to the government.”
It doesn’t help to remember the image of that little boy if it doesn’t remind us to work to end conditions that drive people to flee their homes.
And to create conditions that, promptly and fairly, provide a safe home in our country for those who need it.
I respect those who read and spoke and thought in remembrance today.
I chose to remember with my legs, propelling the Human Rights First message through the countryside.
A message of refuge for the persecuted. Free lawyers to help them navigate the system. Advocacy for changes in law and policy to respect human rights here and abroad.
Today we remembered.
Now, let’s act.
A quick look at today’s adventure.
I read every word. If you care enough to write it, I’ll read it. And everything I read becomes part of my experience. Thank you.
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