Then They Came for the Immigrant and Refugee Children by Marie Cartier

I started this blog June 18, 2018, writing about the horrific policy of the trump administration of separating children from their parents who seek asylum at the border. And this is where we are…a human rights disaster.

Then I watched with the rest of the nation as Rachel Maddow, our top news reporter, cried while trying to report the news that the Trump Administration has opened and is using three “Tender Age” facilities to house children 3 years and younger. They will soon be opening a fourth.


We cannot normalize this or get used to it. The news has gone from bad to worse and then worse than that.

If this is not directly affecting your family, your relatives, your direct community…then why should/ how can you fight as if it was directly affecting your family/ your relatives? How do we actually fight– besides feeling awful, or posting about it on social media, or talking about it to our friends? How do we stand in the struggle with those directly affected, as if we, too, were directly being affected?

It makes me think of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, First they came…, his cry of protest against those who did nothing to stop the Nazi rise to power, and who stood by as the Nazis purged group after group of “undesirables” in their country.

Read here the original version in German, followed by the English translation:

First They Came For The Jews – Poem by Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller

And below is the beginning of a poem, by the inimitable African American poet, Pat Parker that takes off on the same idea. Read the whole here.

WHERE WILL YOU BE? by Pat Parker (1978)

Boots are being polished
Trumperters clean their horns
Chains and locks forged
The crusade has begun.

Once again flags of Christ
are unfurled in the dawn
and cries of soul saviors
sing apocalyptic on air waves.

Citizens, good citizens all
parade into voting booths
and in self-righteous sanctity
X away our right to life.

I do not believe as some
that the vote is an end,
I fear even more
It is just a beginning.

So I must make assessment
Look to you and ask:
Where will you be when they come?

What can we do to stand with those who are persecuted? Because history has shown us, over and over again, that they will come for the next group—who will they come for after immigrants?

You can do any of these things and it will make a difference. Because now, today, they are coming for the immigrant children.

Let us be a human family. Let us speak out. Let us march, donate, volunteer. Let us be there.

Where will we be when they come? Let us all be there.


Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

Categories: Children, Ethics, Family, General, In the News, Politics

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16 replies

  1. Thank you for this post.You are absolutely right when you say that we should not get use to this! This situation gets more heartbreaking each day.I have given copies of First They Came For The Jews to just about anyone I knew or taught for years.I was not familiar with Pat Parker,but want to read more by this poet.Thank you again,as always I am inspired by your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve lost the source, but one meme that I came across that really spoke to me asked the question of where we would have stood as individuals in situations such as slavery, the Holocaust, and the Civil Rights movement, and stated that the way we react to this event may mirror how we would have handled past atrocities. I have often wondered if I would have been on the “right side” of history; I can of course only speculate about past events, but I found a moral indignation rising in me in reaction to this crisis that felt distinct in its uncompromising force. I believe that our response to this situation is a direct test of our moral fiber as an individual, and I don’t say that lightly. I got into one of the worst arguments I’ve had as an adult as a result with someone who felt otherwise. What I realized, though, is that my empathy and compassion are best directed at supporting the victims of this oppression, not at worrying about reaching those who fail to exhibit moral behavior when it really counts. Thank you for sharing specific ways in which we can make an impact!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How can this atrocity NOT be affecting each and every human being on this planet???? I cannot wrap my mind around the idea that this behavior continues whether we march, post, discuss, volunteer, sign petitions, whatever. WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO STOP THIS INSANITY?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post, Marie. Numbers to call today: WE DEMAND REUNIFICATION OF CHILDREN WITH THEIR FAMILIES. Cruz (Austin office): 512-916-5834; Cornyn (Austin office): 512-469-6034.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also called Senator Gillibrand. Her aide suggested I call the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. Left a message at the former. Was referred by the latter to Homeland Security who gave me a wrong number for Refugee Resettlement. No one seems to know what is being done to reunite the families already separated now that the administration has ceased that policy. No one seems to agree about whose responsibility it is. All the Congressional offices I spoke with said Congress is working to pass bills to get reunification in motion. It is taking too long!


  5. Brava!!! I’ve also been thinking of Niemoller’s heartbreaking poem. Also of the Nazi show camps. The Nazis turned some of the concentration camps into jolly playgrounds with cozy little cottages for the dear children, whom they turned loose to frolic and play while observers from other countries visited. “See? Our Jewish children are perfectly safe and perfectly happy.” As soon as the visitors left, the jollity disappeared, and the children had to face concentration camp reality again. Where observers were not permitted. How is what’s happening now different?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t remember feeling so angry as I do now. My tears are not of sorrow, but the fury and energy of a mother tiger fighting off those who would harm her cubs. I’m not even a physical mother, but can’t imagine how women like Sanders and the others can stand before a nation and say “yes” to this pile of sh-t. Just writing this my temperature is rising quickly.

    As a Canadian I can’t march in the US. But there are marches happening here. I spent last night writing to my MP- urging action on Canadian withdrawal from the Safe Third Country agreement with the US. Now I find our PM feels he can’t interfere with the trump obscenity. He will hear from me today – this charming father of little children and teacher of small ones. Spineless hypocrite.

    There is a question of how the children already taken will be re-united with their mothers. They are probably lost in “the system”, if not disappeared into abusive situation. But then, trump honours and admires dictators who prey on the vulnerable.


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