Skip to Main Content
Memorial Day
The library will be closed Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day. See all library hours.

Refugees: Justice and Ethics Library Display 2021


Marley Heitkam


Drawing of a family floating on pieces of cracked ice in a thawing blue lake with mist-covered brown mountains in the background.


The picture I drew, called “ICE”, shows a family on cracked ice drifting away from one another. This is meant to represent the way in which children were separated from their parents under the Trump Administration and the way I.C.E. Officials help this process. The American Civil Liberties Union states that as of 2018, at least 2,654 children had been separated from their parents due to Trump Administration policies. This is just one of many reasons why the United States immigration system is broken. A passage by Deng Ajak Jongkuch from the book Refugees in America says, “…it’s true what you hear about the United States. It is a country of milk and honey. But you need to climb to get the honey. You need to work hard to get the milk.” For immigrants like the ones whose families are separated in detention centers and during deportation, the immigration system has many obstacles that prevent them from ever reaching the “milk and honey” that this country has to offer. They are also very much dehumanized during their immigration process and looked at as objects or helpless rather than human beings escaping dangerous situations to change their narrative and better the lives of their families. The journal article Speechless Emissaries says, “The problem is that the necessary delivery of relief… is accompanied by a host of other, unannounced social processes and practices that are dehistoricizing. This dehistoricizing universalism creates a context in which it is difficult for people in the refugee category to be approached as historical actors rather than simply as mute victims.”

Refugees and immigrants need to be looked at with a wider lens rather than have their narratives and identity stripped away by immigration officials, leaving families displaced and human beings treated like second-class citizens. Regarding deontological ethics, it should be our duty to help those who need it if we have the resources to do so. We would all like to think that others would do the same for us if we were in that situation. My drawing shows a mother and two children drifting away from each other because of practices that were implemented by the American government. While the baby is too small to understand what is happening, the older child cries with their head in their hands as their mother watches longingly as she floats away from them. While metaphorical, families really are ripped away from each other like this. This practice is perhaps the least deontological thing we could do for these families and there should be a more responsible system in place for reuniting families and making sure this level of inhumane trauma is no longer inflicted upon immigrant families.


Bycel, Lee T. Refugees in America. Rutgers University Press, 2019. 

Malkki, Liisa. “Speechless Emissaries.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 11, no. 3, 1996, p. 28.

“Family Separation by the Numbers.” American Civil Liberties Union, 2 October 2018. Accessed 12 December 2021.

Ask A Librarian