Tuesday, 17 September 2019

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Florida and America must find their lost compassion | By CAIR-Florida's Yusuf Nganga

By Yusuf Nganga, For Orlando Sentinel, On 21 August 2019, Read Original
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As the world leader of democratic values and defender of human rights and dignity, it is un-American and immoral for us to detain refugee children as we do felons.

It is shameful that Florida, a state that has been defined by its international and multicultural identity, was host to the Homestead Detention Center. The center was once the largest detention facility for immigrant children in the United States, but according to government officials it is no longer holding children as of earlier this month.

Yusuf Nganga
Yusuf Nganga (Courtesy photo)

Our creed as Americans should always be that of compassion towards our fellow human beings in need. Our greatness as a country and a state does not come from the might of our military nor the size of our economy, but from that sacred American principle that we will not turn a blind eye to injustice and that we will defend human dignity and life anywhere in the world, especially within our borders.

It’s in moments like these that we must turn back to the scribes of history to remember the humanity and compassion we all possess. In the 1960s, the late Father Bryan O. Walsh of the Catholic Welfare Bureau created Operation Peter Pan and, in the process, provided a better life for at least 14,000 political and economic refugee minors from Cuba. He saw the hopes and dreams of those innocent children in a foreign land. It is a shame that we cannot see the same innocence and aspirations in the eyes of the Central American refugee children in our detention centers.

Most of us have heard of the gang violence and human rights abuse in Central America. We have witnessed stories of mutilated bodies of victims and of minors forced to join gangs or become victims of rape, human trafficking, and murder. We know of the inefficiencies of the security agencies in those countries to protect children, such that they have crossed our borders to save their own life. How much more pain, indignity, and fear can a child or a mother endure for us to understand their plight? Aren’t they the huddled wretched masses yearning to breathe free in the warm embrace of Lady Liberty?

We should learn from the sad story of the MS St. Louis, an ocean liner that carried 900 Jewish refugees escaping the Nazi regime in 1939. The MS St. Louis was turned away from the shores of South Florida and its bright lights of freedom, back to the death squads and gas chambers of the evil Third Reich where the refugees were turned into ashes in human ovens.

That act of indifference and refusal as Americans, and as human beings, to stand up to those in power and demand the protection and well-being of refugees will forever be a bloody stain in the fabric of our country and our history. We swore then, never again!

I write this with full realization that what happened to the Jews of Europe was a form of brutality and hate unimaginable in human history. I also write this with the conviction that bad history left unanalyzed is bound to repeat itself in one form or another.

Our political differences must not be allowed to overshadow our humanity and compassion, in turn, staining our conscience. It is time for us to come together and stand for what is right. Let us not look to quick political victories at the expense of the soul of our nation. Let us look to the horizon of history knowing that we have set firm moral principles to guide the next generations, and rest assured that history will vindicate us. Let us be the salvation of the oppressed and persecuted.

* The author is CAIR-Florida’s Community Outreach and Events Coordinator and a Political Science major at FIU.