Last August I traveled to McAllen, Texas as part of a group of evangelical women to learn about family separation policies on our border with Mexico. As a woman who believes every person has God-given dignity and the family unit has a unique role in society, I wanted to cut through the media noise and hear people’s stories firsthand.

While on the border, I spoke to young mothers about their journeys and toured facilities with chain-link fencing holding children fleeing violence in their home countries. I learned how the McAllen community was responding. As a mother of four, my heart was shattered.

Returning home to Denver I was unclear what my role as a U.S. citizen could be to contribute to a solution.

HOMELAND SECURITY WATCHDOG REPORTS OVERCROWDING AND MIGRANTS PLEADING FOR HELP DURING DETENTION-FACILITY TOUR

More than once I said to myself: “There are people much smarter than I am who have been working on these issues for years.”

My response felt like a resignation that these problems were too big and complex for me to have any significant influence. But the resignation of accountability is not how democracy functions.

Recent news reports of immigrant children in detention under horrible conditions sound hauntingly familiar. I am grieved that a year after the first news stories broke we continue to have children suffering in detention centers and dangerous crossings under our watch.

As U.S. citizens and decent people, it is time to take ownership of what is happening at our southern border. It is time to move past whose “fault” the situation is, and collectively take responsibility to improve our response.

This week as we celebrate our freedom, we must remember that our job – our duty – is to use the privileges democracy affords: to speak up when things are not as they should be.

There are solutions that smart people have come up with to decrease stress on our immigration system systems and alleviate human suffering.

My role – our role as citizens – is to not look away from the stories at the border in discomfort or apathy, but to communicate to our lawmakers and fellow Americans that these issues are a priority.

Together we can ensure laws already on the books are upheld and ask for programs already proven effective to be expanded.

As U.S. citizens and decent people, it is time to take ownership of what is happening at our southern border. It is time to move past whose “fault” the situation is, and collectively take responsibility to improve our response.

Here are some examples of what should be done:

The Flores Settlement Agreement should be upheld in court. For 20 years this court settlement has appropriately ensured that immigrant children are transferred to non-secure licensed facilities within three to five days of apprehension and limited their detention to 20 days.

Reasonable numbers of family units should be allowed to meet with Border Patrol agents at designated entry points to make their legal requests for asylum. While in McAllen I met a 19-year old woman from Honduras who was apprehended trying to cross the border with her 16-year old sister. Afraid they would be raped if they stayed in line at the official checkpoint for weeks in Mexico, these two young women decided to cross the Rio Grande illegally. Delaying the legal asylum request process pushes desperate families to choose between catastrophic options and thrusts them into an illegal process.

Release families and children to wait for their asylum hearings by using alternatives to detention. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) spends on average over $200 a day to detain an individual and $319 per person when detaining families. Alternatives to detention like electronic ankle monitors cost as little as $4.50 a day. If we reserve long-term detention for those individuals convicted of serious crimes, we could save American taxpayers approximately $1.44 billion. According to the Department of Justice, from 2013 to 2017 92 percent of migrants seeking asylum appeared for their court hearings. Alternatives to detention are more humane and cost-effective.

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This Independence Day as we wave our flags of freedom we must not let personal comfort be our strongest guide. We the people must hold our government accountable to humane and legal standards for migrants at our borders.

It is time to end the blame game and move forward with proven tactics to reduce the stressors on the immigration system. This crisis is happening on our watch. History will decide our decency as a generation, based on how we treat the most vulnerable people arriving at our doorstep.



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