A sign reads "Where are the children?" at an anti-ICE rally in Chicago, June 5, 2018. (Photo/Flickr-Charles Edward Miller CC BY-SA 2.0)
A sign reads "Where are the children?" at an anti-ICE rally in Chicago, June 5, 2018. (Photo/Flickr-Charles Edward Miller CC BY-SA 2.0)

On Father’s Day, I thought of fathers whose children are taken by ICE

One hundred years ago, my grandfather was stabbed in the back during an anti-Jewish pogrom in Kielce, Poland. That convinced my grandparents to leave Poland and, eventually, come to the United States.

The pogrom was not state-sponsored (though the authorities looked the other way). It was, perhaps, a bit like the gang violence some people are now fleeing in Central America. Which our government now says no longer justifies asylum.

My grandparents arrived in the United States in 1922, just when the U.S. government was implementing a new quota to restrict certain kinds of immigrants. Those like my family, from Eastern and Southern Europe, were restricted by the new quota, which privileged “whiter” immigrants from Northwestern Europe.

Leaving Poland with two young boys in tow to meet up with my grandfather at the Belgian port, my grandmother had to confront spiteful bureaucrats, who confiscated her passport and told her she would never be able to return to Poland to visit her family. Little did she or the Polish officials understand how horrifically accurate that prediction would turn out to be.

But no one took her kids away.

David Waksberg (right) with his father, Irving Waksberg, in Puerto Rico, 2009
David Waksberg (right) with his father, Irving Waksberg, in Puerto Rico, 2009

They all crossed the Atlantic in 1922 and a year later, my dad, the first “Yankee,” was born. He died a month ago. This Sunday was my first Father’s Day without him. And this week, on Father’s Day as well as every other day, the “golden land” my grandparents and young uncles struggled to enter, the land they loved because it welcomed them and so many others, is now separating fathers and mothers from their children.

And who are these parents being separated from their children? Parents who are trying to do what my grandparents did a century ago — bring their families here for a better life. Some of them are fleeing violence and persecution, like my grandparents did.

To honor their grandfather’s memory, my kids are donating to causes on fighting the separation of families today.  Here are two: actionnetwork.org/fundraising/bondfund and lupenet.org.

We all miss my dad. He was taken from us at the age of 94. It was the proper order, it was the way of all things. What is happening at our borders, in our names, is not the way of all things. Donate, write to our senators or your congressional representative, or call the Department of Justice at (202) 353-1555. Register your disgust with the separation of families at the border and with the refusal to consider domestic and gang violence as reasons to seek asylum (known within the DoJ as the Matter of A-B). Please, do something.

David Waksberg
David Waksberg

David Waksberg is the CEO of S.F.-based Jewish LearningWorks.