He Was Told He Couldn’t Let Migrant Kids Comfort Each Other—So He Quit

This week’s Recharge profiles people who stood up for their rights—and for those of future generations.

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Antar Davidson quit a government-contracted shelter for immigrant kids when superiors ordered him to tell young siblings that they were not allowed to hug.

“When I received this order, I realized, because of the way that things were going, there would be more situations that would arise in which I was asked to do things I thought were immoral,” Davidson told BuzzFeed News.

He had worked for Southwest Key, which operates 27 facilities housing immigrant children. After a new Trump administration policy to separate families was implemented at the border, things got worse—and the facility’s unaccompanied minors were joined by young, terrified kids ripped from their parents. The new arrivals had no understanding of what was happening.

“Kids are scared of the dark, so imagine what it would feel like for a kid when they’re separated from their parents in a facility,” he said. “An overworked and underpaid staff had to deal with the trauma of these kids.”

Davidson voted with his conscience not to be a part of a policy that violates international human rights norms and has been opposed by 49 senators and former first ladies Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Rosalynn Carter, and Michelle Obama. He spoke further with Mother Jones about his experiences in the shelter. Read more here.

Hi, David Beard here, and this week in Recharge, I’m profiling people who stood up for their rights—and for those of future generations. Recharge is a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. You can sign up at the bottom of the story. 

  • Their stadium, too. They did something they could not do in their own country. They went to a soccer match and rooted for their homeland. In Iran, it is illegal for women to attend men’s soccer matches. But at the World Cup in Russia, Iranian women have been everywhere. “I took my father for his 60th birthday to the World Cup. It was great to be with him and to see other Iranian women in the stadium,” Avda, 28, who is from Cologne, Germany, told the website Where Is Football in Saint Petersburg. On Saturday, she got another treat: The Iranian team defeated Morocco 1-0 in its first match. (Where Is Football)
  • Cleaning up while cleaning up the sea. What if fisherman scoured the sea of plastic, hauled it in, and got paid? What if that plastic was used to build roads? In the southern Indian state of Kerala, it’s happening. Since last August, nearly 5,000 fishermen and boat owners have hauled in 71 tons of plastic, National Geographic reports. “It’s our responsibility, and necessary for our survival as fishermen to keep the sea clean,” says Peter Mathias, who leads a union of fishing boat owners and operators. A cleaner sea, the fishermen hope, will lead to bigger yields of fish. The women in these communities have also come together to help. An all-female crew of about 30 women were hired and are paid full-time to wash and sort the plastic the fishermen bring to shore. The fishermen hope their initiative spreads worldwide. (National Geographic)
  • The cartoonist has the last laugh. His newspaper bosses thought his editorial cartoons weren’t funny. They wouldn’t print his work. They thought he criticized President Trump too much. Rob Rogers thought he was doing some of the best work of his career. And no, he wasn’t going to start praising Trump. Last Thursday, Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which had riled free speech advocates by refusing to run a series of his cartoons criticizing Trump. On Friday, he wrote a column and drew a cartoon for the New York Times. It was one of the Times’s most popular articles over the weekend (I checked, and it held top spots on nytimes.com all weekend), and praise has come in nationwide for Rogers, from Democrats and Republicans. Twitter commentators called Rogers’ work “brilliant,” “hilarious,” and “fair.” “It’s as simple as this: Rogers was fired for refusing to do cartoons extolling Trump. Let that sink in,” the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists said in a statement. To Rogers, the support is vindication. “The paper may have taken an eraser to my cartoons,” he wrote. “But I plan to be at my drawing table every day of this presidency.” (New York Times)
  • Another generation, another playground insult. Esmeralda Bermudez spoke Spanish to her daughter at the playground. A woman admonished her and told her to “speak English,” so as not to confuse her child. For Bermudez, the incident brought back childhood memories of being insulted—she was called a “beaner” and a “wetback.”This time, though, she held her ground. Bermudez, now a Los Angeles Times reporter, told the woman her daughter speaks three languages and is learning a fourth. Her admonisher, who only spoke one, asked how her daughter was doing it. Bermudez responded, “You would be surprised.” Bermudez’s tweet about the incident went viral—and she started receiving 20 to 30 notes a day expressing support for her family’s decision to raise their daughter this way. In case you were wondering, her daughter’s third language is Armenian—her father’s native tongue. And the 5-year-old’s fourth language? Oh, she just wanted to learn French. (Los Angeles Times)

Have a Recharge story of your own or a suggestion on how to make this column better? Fill out this form or send a note to me at recharge@motherjones.com. Have a great week ahead and make sure to sign up for the newsletter below. 

 

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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