My Story, Like Every Migrant’s Story, Is A Love Story

By Ari Belathar
Boston Organizer, Jewish Voice for Peace

The first time I saw a border, I was three years old.

It was late at night and my mother; my sister and I were waiting behind some bushes with a group of strangers. We were waiting for the “coyote” that was going to get us across, so we could reunite with my father.

My story, like every migrant’s story, is a love story. But my story, unlike so many, didn’t end up with family separation.

Family separation is horrifying; the images of children in cages are more than most of us can bear. But ending family separation on its own cannot be the only win. We have to harness this moment of awareness to ensure the whole story is heard.

The goal remains: humane border policies, fair access to asylum, the end of the Muslim Ban and of family detention and of racial profiling… and an end to the U.S.’s destabilizing role in Central America – and the world – so people can stay home.

“That’s the border,”

my mother told me that night many years ago. But it wasn’t a border; it was a river. The water so deep and dark, it looked as if the night had fallen upside-down.

“Your dad is on the other side; we are going to cross the river and walk for a bit,”

she added. After crossing the river on a makeshift raft, we walked for two nights and two days across the treacherous Texas desert.

My mother was the only woman in the group, later in life she told me that at first she was terrified, but soon she felt blessed because the men in our group did everything they could to help us. I was lucky; I got a piggy-ride all the way! At some point, when my mother felt that she couldn’t keep up, the men in our group carried her, my sister and our belongings up a very steep hill, because they refused to leave us behind.

After walking across what felt like an endless desert, we made it safe to Chicago, where dad was waiting.

The Executive Order signed in June by President Trump does not soften the brutal criminalization of migrants, nor does it permit the minors and adults indefinitely detained in internment camps to remain in the country. Trump’s decree does not grant any protection to the families that were already separated, and it does not guarantee their reunification.

The images of children held in cages should not be forgotten, but neither should we accept the transferring of these children to another type of prison with their parents as a victory. We need to stay focused, outraged, and involved.

As we face the increased criminalization of migrants and the expansion of the for-profit prison industry, we must prepare for a long, hard fight.

As migrants, our stories are all we have to fight off the trauma, illness, and death created by tragically failed border policies. Whether we migrated a few years ago, or many generations ago, we must honor and uplift our migration stories to protect the human rights of those forced to flee now.

None of us came this far to give up!

My story of migration is the love story of my parents – the love story of my family. But what if we understood every migrants’ story as a love story?

What if we believed there is no crime in crossing an imaginary border in search of better opportunities for you and your loved ones?

For, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, “what crime is there in crossing a border, compared to creating one?”

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