We Will Defend Immigrant Families

By Stacy Kono

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. — Maya Angelou

When I was six, my mom tried to get me to pick up my toys by sharing with me the story of when her family was sent to camp during WWII. She said that she only could bring what she could carry - and left so many things behind - when they left Seattle.

In the face of racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and war hysteria, my parents’ families, along with 120,000 people of Japanese descent, were removed from their homes on the west coast and taken to camps and detention centers in desolate areas across the country. When I was six, it made me angry that anyone would treat families, and children in particular, with such cruelty.

Both my parents told me how their parents were afraid for their lives, and feared that they would be separated from their children. They felt alone. I wondered how 120,000 people could disappear from communities without people speaking up? Didn’t their neighbors wonder where they were going and worry about them? I learned that the mainstream ideas of the time, rooted in a longstanding history of racism, created a climate that enabled this injustice to happen.

But there were people who stood up and fought back: Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, Minoru Yasui, and hundreds of draft resisters entered into legal fights with the government. Many non-Japanese Americans fought back too. American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, protested the policy and provided aid to people as they were released from the camps. Many other religious organizations also educated their congregants about the injustice of Japanese American incarceration and lobbied the government for their release.

It’s 76 years later, and we have an opportunity to make sure our resistance visible, too, so that the thousands of immigrants in detention know we will not stand for their criminalization and do not accept the argument that our freedom depends on their incarceration or exclusion.

All of us at Hand in Hand have been participating in and organizing collective actions as ways of expressing our outrage against the terror our government is waging on immigrant and refugee people through detentions, family separations, and raids.

In our work with domestic employers (people who hire childcare providers, house cleaners, or home attendants—a largely immigrant workforce) at Hand in Hand, we see the attacks confronting immigrant and refugee communities as attacks on all of us. We know, from personal experiences, that immigrant workers are an essential part of our communities’ fabric. They deserve respect and dignity in our home workplaces and in our communities, because they are ensuring we can live and be cared for with respect and dignity too.

That is why I joined the Hand in Hand staff - to contribute to building a society where we value each person’s contribution and fight against the dehumanization of immigrants and people of color.

As employers, as neighbors, as parents and friends, we have an opportunity to collectively take action for justice, interdependence, and humanity over racism and greed. Let us draw upon our connection to each other and our awareness of our histories as we work totowards put an end toing these cruel, inhumane policies.

What can we do? Make sure you’ve joined the #SanctuaryHomes campaign, because our strategies are necessarily changing as the situation does. Organize your own action.  Check out the Families Belong Together Action Planning Toolkit and Hand in Hand’s Playdate Action Guide. For support with whatever action you're planning to take, join our Monday evening calls and email us at info [at] domesticemployers [dot] org. We’re here to support you in figuring it out.

Stacy Kono is the Network Director at Hand in Hand.