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This MLK Day, recognize the crisis at our border

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote more than 60 years ago from inside a Birmingham jail.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján

Rep. Ben Ray Luján

Monday, as we commemorate his legacy of fighting for social justice and human rights, his words remain more poignant than ever as the humanitarian crisis persists along our southern border and into Central America.

Last week, along with my Congressional Hispanic Caucus colleagues, I bore witness to the raw human suffering of refugees in Matamoros, Mexico – where thousands of asylum-seekers are living in makeshift tent camps to await their asylum hearings.

My trip to Mexico marked almost one year since the Trump administration implemented its “Remain in Mexico” policy, a cruel and anti-immigrant effort that has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis and forced migrant families to live in extreme danger. To date, nearly 60,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico under this failed policy.

The sheer scale of what the U.S. government is subjecting these refugees to is unimaginable and frankly difficult to relay in writing. The face of this crisis is in the lives of the people it has affected.

What I saw was heartless. It has to stop.

I heard stories of cars and men on foot that pass through the camp at night to kidnap children and women. Desperate families present their children to Border Patrol and are turned back, and LGBTQ+ individuals and children are left without treatment for urgent medical needs.

Parents, explained one man, are so concerned for the safety and health of their children that they have resorted to sending their kids across the U.S. border alone – another cruel chapter of the family separation crisis perpetrated by the Trump administration.

There is no government stepping in to care for these individuals. We saw open toilets, lack of potable water, sick children and families begging for access to an attorney, and people bathing in the river.

Sixty years ago, when Dr. King called for a more just and equitable future for Americans living without civil rights and equality, it was also a call for the United States to build a society based on the values of love, peace, respect and dignity for all.

The reality at the border is heartbreaking and runs contrary to Dr. King’s dream for our future. It is because of the Trump administration’s unimaginable cruelty toward these refugees that we must take up Dr. King’s fight for justice with even more fervency.

Millions of Americans – including myself – are calling out this injustice toward those who are most vulnerable. We are better as a country than the cruelty of the Trump administration.

But make no mistake: With President Trump, the cruelty is the point.

While the world is watching, President Trump is proving himself to be reckless and irresponsible. His policies represent an injustice that Dr. King spent his life opposing – and that the American people are speaking out against.

We are so much better than this – but that must begin with holding this administration accountable for the policies that have created such human suffering. I can see no better day than Martin Luther King Jr. Day for us all to recommit ourselves to this fight and refocus our attention on the lives of the most vulnerable among us.

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