The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families over the last two months. As we hear more and more stories of family separations both at the border and in our own communities it is hard to not lose hope or become numb to all the news around us. It is hard to stay focused on the reasons why these families flee to the United States rather than on the helplessness that we feel.
With Father’s Day this weekend, we want to honor and thank all the fathers who have sacrificed their comfort, their needs and often their lives to come to the United States in an effort to give their families a better life. These are fathers who make impossible decisions to leave their wives and children behind, often in worn-torn countries, risking their lives on the journey to the United States in order to find work and a better future for their children. These fathers offer up their homesickness, isolation and lack of comforts to send money back home for food, education and homes for their families. These fathers who show up in rain, snow and heat outside the local 7-11 in hopes of finding work, only to go “home” to an apartment shared with many other dads so that they can still provide for their families.
At Just Neighbors, we have the privilege of working with many of these fathers and grandfathers every year. We meet people like Roberto who, after finding a job, sent his entire first paycheck back to his wife and four kids in Guatemala. Fathers like Juan from El Salvador who, while working on his own case to remain in the U.S., continuously asked his attorney how he could bring his daughter here. “I need my daughter with me” he told her over and over. Jose a father of four from Honduras painstakingly worked with a Just Neighbors attorney for five years to see his family again, including his 14 year-old son whom he had never met. He recently told a reporter, “I want [my children] to study so they can do what they want to do, so they don’t have to go through what I went through.” These fathers are now reunited with their children here in the United States.
There are countless stories and joyful examples of family reunification that we as staff and volunteers remember in the face of hopelessness. While we continue to push for systematic change to the unjust and cruel policies and practices families face being separated at the border, we also continue to “look toward the good” and celebrate the successes we do have. This weekend, we are thankful to all the immigrant dads out there who inspire us to continue the struggle.