By Neel Saxena, Executive Director

Photos courtesy of Various Sources

AALEAD was founded to support refugee youth and families. Refugees who saw their family members, neighbors, friends, and coworkers killed back home or lost during their passage, facing danger from pirates, over-crowded boats, and storms.

Dr. Lance, Camp Pendleton, discuss medical subjects with a Vietnamese Refugee as she holds her child on her lap.

At that time, as Vietnamese fled, they settled in squalid refugee camps in South East Asia, as those countries struggled with the infrastructure to handle the exodus. Recognizing this humanitarian travesty, the United States and other Western nations worked with Vietnam and South East Asian counties to accelerate resettlement. In another policy, Ameriasian youth were provided the opportunity to accompany their mothers and settle in the US.

Today, we see gut-wrenching images, sounds, and stories of young people forcibly separated and isolated from their parents challenging our perceptions of humanity. In the 1970s our leaders chose compassion as a guide to support refugee families. Our American history is full of reprehensible actions like the internment of Japanese Americans, actions that lacked morality, acceptance, and compassion. Parents are being separate from their children from Texas to Seattle, infants to teens, Spanish to South Asian language to Chinese language speakers all connected by actions devoid of kindness, empathy, and love. The American Academy of Pediatrics President says, “These children have been traumatized on their trip up to the border, and the first thing that happens is we take away the one constant in their life that helps them buffer all these horrible experiences. That’s child abuse.”

As an organization that puts youth first and that our AALEAD family believes in the power of love, I urge each person connected to AALEAD:

  • Educate yourself on what is happening to these young people and share their reality and stories in your community.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings around family separation with decision makers in your community and your elected officials in Congress.
  • Seek out avenues and opportunities to take action that supports young people’s physical and psychological well-being.

To all youth, many times you may not feel or see this but know, in the words of Fred Rodgers:

You are loved and capable of loving

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