Leo’s Letter: Common Human Needs

The term “Common Human Needs” has been with me since studying social work in grad school at the University of Chicago. The term serves as the title of a seminal book in the field by Charlotte Towle, a book that is a “compassionate explanation of human developmental need.” In the early to mid-20th century, financial assistance for citizens was regarded the same way that assisting illegal immigrants is today. But leaders such as Charlotte Towle and Jane Addams were pathfinders for those of us in the helping professions. Unfortunately, not all of those needing help were regarded as “deserving.”

And so it goes for Rosamaria Hernandez. Rosamaria is a ten-year old with cerebral palsy and a level of intellectual impairment, but according to many Americans and our immigration service, she is not “deserving.” Rosamaria has lived in the USA since she was three months old and a week ago required emergency surgery. She had been living with family in a border town, and the US border patrol detained her on the way to a hospital in Corpus Christi.

After surgery, Rosamaria was detained and transported 150 miles away from her family by authorities. Her fate is now in the hands of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

On October 27, The Arc released a statement condemning the treatment of Rosamaria by officials. “While Rosamaria is in this unjust situation, she must be provided with legal representation, due process protections, and reasonable accommodations that meet her needs as a person with a disability on U.S. soil,” said Peter Berns, CEO or The Arc.

We agree with The Arc of the US that “we are better than this.” How we treat people during times of need defines who we are.

It reminds me that your activism, your voice, and your time are needed in these days more than ever. Regardless of your position on immigration, please don’t take our gains in the disability arena for granted. I promise you we won’t!




Leo V. Sarkissian

Executive Director

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