July 3 2014

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, it’s a time for reflection. A time of gratitude. I love the USA and I’m grateful I was born in this country. I did absolutely nothing to make that happen – truly it was luck-of-the-draw or the birth lottery, as they say.

One of the many reasons I love the USA is our freedom to be compassionate, our freedom to care about our fellow humans, and our freedom to pull together in a time of crisis. There’s no better example than after the 9/11 tragedy. We Americans opened up our hearts and our wallets to help our brothers and sisters who had suffered unjustly. Our compassion was overflowing for the victims and their families. We stood together, as one nation. We’ve seen this time and time again. We are great humanitarians.

As Americans we also admire courage and bravery. Remember, young Malala Yousafzai, who risked her life for an education? Today we are witnessing bravery and courage in epic proportions at our doorstep.

Right now, we see thousands of children seeking asylum in the U.S. from the gang violence in Central America. One of these children who didn’t make it, an 11-year-old Guatemalan boy, was found dead in South Texas on June 30, his rosary still around his neck. They are not abstract beings, they are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces – all of whom mean something to their families, friends and communities.

Central American refugee children in a holding center in Nogales, AZ

Regardless of the myriad positions on immigration policy, as an American I’m compelled to view these policies through a human lens. In particular, I think of the children – or unaccompanied minors as they are designated by the federal government – as human, as precious, as innocent, as unlucky. Before we jump to one side of the debate or the other, I ask every parent to ask him or herself one question: Under what circumstances would I be compelled to separate myself from my child(ren), risk their safety, and send them thousands of miles away from their homeland? Would it be threat of starvation? Abject poverty? Gang violence? Rape?

Let’s cherish our freedoms: Our freedom to have compassion, to protect vulnerable children, to stand together in a time of crisis, to give a damn! On this July 4th, let’s ask ourselves: What do I want for my children, my sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces? And what do I want for these refugee children?

Click here to learn about The California Endowment’s #Health4All campaign which seeks to expand access to health coverage and health care to all of California’s residents, regardless of immigration status. While there, join us by signing up for regular communications about the campaign and how you can help.