By Nancy K. Kaufman

For too long, we’ve read heartbreaking stories of families directly impacted by the Trump Administration’s immigration policies – of toddlers taken from their parents, mothers fleeing rape, domestic abuse, and gang violence, children being held in detention centers. This week, I traveled from San Diego, California to Tijuana, Mexico, along with other Jewish leaders to meet the people behind the headlines and hear their stories firsthand. It was a life-changing experience.

My ancestors came to this country to escape religious persecution and seek a better life for their children. Most of the people seeking asylum in the US from Central America and Mexico are doing the same thing— seeking a better life for their children.

I met Pablo and Federico, who were fleeing violence and poverty in southern Mexico and searching for a better life for their families, only to be shackled in chains and then deported the day they arrived in the US. They have no hope back home, and no hope in the so-called land of opportunity.

With the Jewish Leadership Border Mission, led by HIAS and the Anti-Defamation League, I visited a detention center that housed children ages 7-17. I saw a shelter for women and children that housed 105 people even though there were only 44 beds. I met Monica, an incredible lawyer who represents asylum seekers who were victims of abuse and who suffer from PTSD and serious mental illness.

Now more than ever before, we need to increase the alarm bells around the migration crisis. We must tell policymakers that we will not allow them to justify cruelly separating families – and that we’ll continue to advocate for migrants based on our Jewish values of welcoming the stranger and of kavod ha’briot, that all people deserve respect and dignity.

We are all immigrants ourselves, or descendants of those who came to the US to escape violence and to seek a better life, and we must use our voices for those women, children and families who don’t have one. And we must keep telling their stories.

Watch what we witnessed at the border for yourself in HIAS’s powerful video.

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