The truth of parenthood that I didn’t fully comprehend until I joined the world’s harried throng of parents is that it truly does take a village to raise a child and support a family. I finally understood Mrs. Weasley, the beloved mother-figure from Harry Potter, when it was revealed that her greatest, most terrible fear was losing her family. A transformation took place, and I suddenly felt in the pit of my stomach a profound connection to children—not just my own sons, but all children, as is the case I think with most parents. This bones-deep need to protect children results, for many parents, in a feral reaction every single time we hear stories of parents saving their kids by moving them across dangerous deserts and oceans in search of a safer life. After all, how terrible must their living situations have been for them to have packed up their families and traveled across such tumultuous expanses of earth? This reaction also surfaces when we’re faced with stories of children being torn from their mothers’ arms as their mothers are detained by ICE agents. We imagine how horrific it must be to actually live through that experience.
For my family, the “village” that supports us is heavily represented by immigrants. And the reality is that many Utahns share similar “villages.” According to the American Immigration Council, one in twelve Utah residents was born in another country, and another one in twelve is a native-born U.S. citizen with a foreign-born family member in the home. Six percent of Utah children live in a home with an undocumented immigrant. These children attend school with your kids; they all attend dance classes and music lessons and play on the playground. They and their families are a part of our communities, and these families are the ones being torn apart. Regardless of why they are here—whether they were fleeing violence, trying to keep their children safe, or simply seeking a better life for their families—they are an integral and interwoven part of our society.
Recently I had the honor of speaking with representatives from Action Utah and Utah Coalition of La Raza about a specific way in which we can better support these undocumented members of our community. In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a directive which instructed ICE agents not to target undocumented individuals at sensitive locations. These locations include churches, schools, and hospitals. In March of 2017, a bill that would codify and expand this directive, the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, was introduced in the United States Congress. It has not passed yet, and I was saddened to see it is not yet supported by any members of Utah’s Congressional delegation.
Because of the impermanence of department directives, the sensitive locations rule could be revoked or changed at any time. The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act would add the weight of law to the ICE directive, which would add stability to a vulnerable population in Utah. Most importantly, those six percent of Utah children would be able to attend church, make a trip to the doctor, or could get picked up from the bus stop without fear that their beloved family member would be torn from their grip. All Utah children benefit from having stability and trust in their community’s important spaces. After all, what do you say to your small child when they tell you that their friend’s father was taken away at church?
This is an easy win for our entire federal delegation that works to be pro-family and pro-compassionate immigration reform. It’s time for them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and support the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act.