In a powerful new essay for Time, superstar Shakira slammed the United State’s “unimaginably cruel” family separation policy that took immigrant children away from their parents at the southern border. In October, it was reported that 545 children who had been taken from their families were in limbo as the Trump administration could not locate their parents. It was also revealed that this could be due to the “zero-tolerance policy” which resulted in many of the parents being deported.
Shakira begins the essay by describing her family’s history of immigration. “I am the daughter of a New Yorker who was born to Lebanese immigrants amidst the great economic depression of the 1930s, immigrants who, thanks to their entrée into the United States, were able to build a solid foundation for themselves and their family before they finally settled in Colombia, where I was born and grew up,” the singer explained.
Shakira then goes on to compare the United States with her home, Colombia.
She compares her home country as a beautifully diverse place that is, unfortunately, “rife with inequality and a lack of social mobility.” She explains in the piece that she grew up thinking of it differently than the U.S. which was “a place that was always held up as a paragon of equal opportunity and limitless aspirations, where anyone could succeed.” Recent events have changed her views and she expressed concerns about the country’s commitment to immigrants.
“What rationale could justify separating children from their families, with no intention of ever reuniting them, when the U.S. has prided itself on being a beacon of hope for those who come from places where not even basic needs or safety are a guarantee?” she asked.
Shakira also described how the policy has affected her on a personal level, as a mother.
“In ‘the land of the free,’ there are 545 children now stuck in no-man’s-land, at risk of growing up without a mom or dad, 545 children who have to go to sleep without someone to reassure them that they aren’t in danger at any given moment, 545 children who can’t hug, laugh or have any contact with the people they love most,” she emphasized.
The Grammy winner then wrote about her experience as a mother and how she would feel if her son was taken from her. “As a mother, I think about my youngest son, who is now 5,” she explained. “I think about how he cries for me when he skins his knee, and the pain I feel if I am not there to comfort him. Who answers the cries of the children left without their parents? I cannot imagine the pain I would feel not knowing where my son was and whether he was safe, or the fear that these children must endure and the emotional scarring that is inflicted upon them.”
It’s not just Shakira’s humanity that should urge us to end this policy. She noted that over 7,700 mental health professionals signed a petition that called for the president to end family separation. She then pivots to the mental health legacy the policy will cause. “This policy shows a complete disregard for everything we know about child development, the brain and trauma.” She also reminded readers that many immigrants are “fleeing violence, poverty, persecution or climate catastrophes in their home countries.”
“This is not about politics,” the musician cautioned. “There is simply no justification for the harm caused to these innocent children, and the people responsible for this cruel policy must be held accountable.”
She concluded the essay by urging all parents and people of the U.S. to show compassion to immigrants and especially their children. “Every effort should be put toward finding and reuniting the families that have been ripped apart.”
“Speaking up isn’t always easy, especially when one is not an American citizen and can be perceived as an outsider commenting on domestic policies. However, the United States’ decisions affect us all, even more so when children’s lives are on the line. So it becomes a common and urgent responsibility to share the stories of these families, no matter where they are from, to keep their names in the news, and to bring them back together. Now is not the time to be silent.”
We appreciate Shakira using her platform and voice to speak to the issues immigrants have faced in the US recently. We hope the country heeds her call to speak up. Now, really is not the time for silence.
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