Traci Feit Love with her interpreter Julie Manrique in Matamoros, Mexico, last August. Matamoros is one of the border cities where asylum-seekers can wind up while awaiting the outcome of their immigration cases in the U.S. CONTRIBUTED BY MICHAEL NIGRO
Photo: Photo by Michael Nigro
Photo: Photo by Michael Nigro

Roswell mom applies heart to asylum-seekers, immigration policy

When she surveys the tent camps in Matamoros, Mexico, where migrants don’t even have access to a place to shower or the means to care for their families, Traci Feit Love can’t help remembering stories of her Jewish ancestors who were dragged from their homes, persecuted and killed for their religion.

When she was growing up, they were the source of many a restless night.

“I had nightmares,” Love said recently.

It’s the same way after spending days at makeshift refugee camps at the border, where she and other members of Lawyers for Good Government work with migrants forced to stay in Mexico for months while they await the outcome of their immigration cases.

“When they first cross the border into the United States and request asylum, everything is taken from them and they are put in this very cold detention center known as the hielera or icebox,” she said. “And then it gets even worse. Instead of allowing them to remain in the U.S., where they could live safely with family and work on their asylum case with the help of an attorney, they are returned to Mexico with nothing.

“They are dropped off in very dangerous border cities like Matamoros and Reynosa, where according to the U.S. State Department, Americans shouldn’t even go because it has a level 4 security risk like Syria or Somalia. Yet they have sent tens of thousands of asylum-seekers there, where they are obvious targets for cartels and gangs.”

RELATED | US takes step to require DNA samples from asylum-seekers

Let me hasten to say that Love isn’t comparing President Donald Trump to Hitler. It’s just that in her estimation, much of what happened to Jews in the 1930s — scapegoating, dehumanization, demonization — is now happening to asylum-seekers coming in through our southern border.

And no matter how you look at it, Love says, “It’s not fair.”

Traci Feit Love of Roswell is the founder of Lawyers for Good Government. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It’s a refrain we’ve all uttered at one time or another when we think some are favored over others, when the rules don’t apply to everyone or when some people are given advantages that cause harm to others.

It’s not fair.

We teach our children that life isn’t fair and too many of us come to accept that things are not fair and so instead of trying to change things, no matter how unfair they may be, we accept them as they are.

Traci Feit Love isn’t willing to do that. She understands why people do it, but she believes deeply that we’re called to see the world honestly, without fear or favor, to right what is wrong.

“I feel like we should try,” she said.

RELATED | US-Mexico border bridge reopens after migrant campout

That’s where Love found herself as she tucked her daughter into bed hours after learning that the potentially historic moment of watching the first woman become president hadn’t materialized and instead Donald Trump was president of the United States.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

But make no mistake, this wasn’t just about a woman losing. Like so many of us, Love was still reeling from the anti-immigrant rhetoric she’d heard throughout the campaign and feared what might come next.

“Tucking her into bed that night, my daughter looked at me and asked, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

Love had no idea. She hoped she’d wake up the next day and it would all be a mistake, a giant counting error.

Nothing had changed the next day, so Love logged onto Facebook to see what others might be saying. A fellow attorney had posted “a five-point plan to protect our democracy” and the most vulnerable among us. It received a few likes, then it fell off the radar. There was another post that garnered a few likes and then, it, too, just vanished.

Love, a Harvard Law School graduate and attorney, didn’t have a detailed plan either. She just believed that if she could “get a bunch of really smart, motivated lawyers in a virtual room and get them talking, we could come up with a way to make a difference.”

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you might have heard about Love and the work the Roswell mom and Lawyers for Good Government have been doing. If you haven’t, you’ll want to come back Thursday because if you think what this mom is saying is hard, one admirer said it’s harder what she’s doing — fighting a humanitarian crisis with the only tool she has — the law.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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