I teach the children of immigrants. I guide them through metal embossing, gardening, and watercolor painting. We play in the museum together, and sometimes, perched at the top of the 30 foot climber, we talk about the places we’ve been, the places we’re from. Down below, their mothers or uncles or big sisters call up to give encouragement. The children smile at their newfound independence. “You can’t get me,” they taunt. The caregivers laugh. The children climb back down for a hug and a high five.

Today, in this same nation, thousands of children of immigrants are held in chain-link cages. They sleep under emergency blankets and don’t know where their parents are. They are not criminals.

Today, in this same nation, mothers cannot fly home to see their children, because they come from a Muslim country on the US travel ban. They are not criminals

Family separation and detention have roots stretching back to the founding of our nation. From Native American children sent to forced immersion boarding schools, to black slaves brought in chains, to Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps, racist policies have severed families and brought life-long trauma to the children involved. This trauma manifests itself in ways that range from severe depression to heart disease. Every generation wrings their hands and promises not to do it again. And yet here we are.

Our museum caters to the family unit. We celebrate foster families, adopted families, and extended families. We have whole family workshops and encourage all generations to play and learn in our exhibits together. We who promote family unity cannot stand idle as kind, lawful people just like you and me are discriminated against because of the color of their skin and the religion of their homeland.

It is no longer appropriate for individuals or organizations to be silent. In the words of Elie Wiesel, a Jewish author torn from his own family during the Holocaust, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Stand up against racist and inhumane treatment of children. Use your vote, your legal experience, your interpretation skills, your dollars, or your voice. There are plenty of organizations that advocate for immigrants in King County, and they always need volunteers. Elections are right around the corner – find out who’s running in your district. This is an issue that affects you, and you are not powerless. Don’t let your own children grow up believing that some kids belong in cages, or that some families are worthier than others. Today I taught the children of immigrants. Their parents sat close by, watching.

Contributed by Daniela Garvue