Monday, July 14, 2014

“America: Mother of Exiles” Initiative

When Hurricane Katrina drove thousands of New Orleans residents to Atlanta and other cities, I took part in an initiative to help these displaced families find temporary lodging, after hotel vouchers and local shelters were exhausted, with local residents.

This initiative was very successful in a number of ways---one of which was that many “white” and more affluent Americans opened their homes to many poorer people from different cultures and races, living up to our American motto that “all men are created equal” and have the inalienable right to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

With the current humanitarian crisis of children and families fleeing violence and crossing our borders, we are at a similar crossroads and we are hoping for a similar response (see more detailed info here regarding the facts surrounding this crisis).

To this end one Cobb County resident, activist, attorney, friend & colleague, Gary Pelphrey, has proposed and undertaken an initiative, entitled “America, Mother of Exiles”, which we at the Cobb Immigrant Alliance and others are supporting, and which encourages and assists Americans to open up their hearts and homes to this new wave of refugee children and families, in stark contract to those few but loud folk who are protesting their arrival here.

Rich Pellegrino

Unaccompanied Children Immigration Crisis - Bull XXXX!

It appears that the inundation of our southern border with illegal juveniles is in full swing, and will continue to increase throughout this election year, and continue the increase well into next year. Our divided government, and President Obama’s request for almost $4 Billion to deal with this problem suggest that it is unlikely that there will be any effective response to the crisis during this election year.

I’m not sure if any of the $4 Billion has been earmarked to write a brief pamphlet, in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, explaining to these children about our election year politics, and suggesting that if they think they might get hungry before the elections are completed, they might follow around any truck they see carrying a Dempsey Dumpster to find one placed outside a restaurant where they may find something in the garbage to eat. As a cost-saving measure, particularly in view of the multi language costs, this booklet will be made available on the Internet.

Those who walked across our borders without a computer can use our excellent library facilities. Libraries are harder to find than restaurants because they generally don’t use Dempsey Dumpsters, but asking anyone you see carrying a book with a plastic-covered dust jacket, they will probably tell you where a library is, if you ask politely.

I have literally started to cry, as I write this introduction. I’ll admit it. I’m an unabashedly tearful, bleeding heart liberal.

Isn’t this what we’re really talking about?

It’s not just 4 kids, like those sleeping on the floor here. It looks like maybe a quarter-million of these children will come here, over this year and the next.

So what?

That’s one hungry, homeless kid, without his parents, for every 488 families in the U.S.

As I write this, there is a dog asleep at my feet; he came from a rescue group, the same as another of my dogs. The other dog we have now is a stray, whom we adopted. In the past 30 years we’ve adopted a dozen strays or more.

Our next door neighbor does the same thing with cats; I wouldn’t pretend to count the number of stray cats he’s fed, adopted.

On second thought, one kid per 500 families is peanuts; make it half-a-million kids, scared enough, with their parents’ agreement, walking a thousand miles to the border.

Forget that, make it a million kids; we need this kind of dedication and strength. Put up  a sign!

Put up a sign, indeed!

Enough of my wonderful prose. Let’s refresh our recollection of Emma Lazareth’s poem called, the New Colossus, referring to the Greek Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. If you’re like me, the first part won’t ring a bell, but keep reading.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Here’s what I want to do. I want to bring one of those 250,000 children into my home, to be fed, to have a safe place to sleep, to go to school, and learn English, and play with my dogs.

I need 249,999 more to join me. If you’re in, send me an email ( with America as the first word in the Subject, and we’ll get organized. I’d like for Labor Day to be a day to celebrate the rebirth (Labor? Day) of the American Dream for these kids. The next 750,000 will be easy.

I’ll need some help:

1. I expect my Internet provider to crash within a couple of days; anyone willing to give us a broader band, in and out, please contact me; (770-953-2952) and I’ll certainly need a team of data massagers - let me know if you can help.

2. We need to get these kids safely to their new homes; Greyhound, Trailways, Delta Airlines, Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe - the court says you’re citizens. Be good corporate citizens and let these kids dead head on your vehicles to their new homes.

3. Recognition of the world we live in requires inspection and monitoring, and control of these frightened children, from the time they leave Federal custody until they become  adults; we’ll need to establish standards, procedures, and inspectors to keep this thing between the lines. I’m a lawyer, so I know that there are also some stringent laws, controlling adoptions, so we’ll need pro-bono lawyer volunteers in each state.

4. I’m sending this to everywhere I can think of - friends, general mailing lists, newspapers, other media; I need to ask you to do the same.

5. Along the way, share your ideas. This is an election year, after all. Maybe candidates could donate a portion of their advertising budgets to helping this project take off, in exchange for a 15 second TV placard at a reduced price, saying Candidate X supports this project.

It only takes one hare-brained idea and a connection to the Internet to do something right.

If I could leave you with the flame in your belly that I feel right now in mine, I’ll be more than thankful.

We call her the Statue of Liberty but Ms Lazareth called her “ Mother of Exiles.

God Bless America!

Gary Pelphrey:


No comments:

Post a Comment