Breaking Families Instead of Bread at U.S.-Mexico Border

Families who illegally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border walk up a dirt road near McAllen, Texas, last month. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

“It’s unjust for kids to be separated from their parents. It doesn’t matter the race or where the come from, because we all know, the fundamental base of society is family. So if we separate families, what we are doing, is destroying society.”—Yulio Bermudez spent 45 days trying to get his children, age 16, 7, and 3, back from the Department of Homeland Security

“God is Love and love enfolds us all the world in one embrace; with unfailing grasp God holds us, and every child of every race. And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod, then we find that self same aching deep within the heart of God,”–Isaac Watts, “God is Love” (sung to the tune of the Old 100th)

If you want to send donations to help families at the border, I recommend supporting Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. It is run by Sr. Norma Pimentel.

For more on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that uses children as pawns for partisan political theater, see these articles below:

San Diego diocese launching program to prevent family separation at border

Doctors Say Kids Separated From Parents At Border Face ‘Toxic Stress,’ Serious Health Risks

HIDDEN HORRORS OF “ZERO TOLERANCE” — MASS TRIALS AND CHILDREN TAKEN FROM THEIR PARENTS

 

NEWS: @SojoImmigration Webinar Tomorrow

postTomorrow, Sojourners is hosting a webinar on the current state of immigration reform. Sojourners’ immigration organizer Ivone Guillen has arranged the event. It will be moderated by the most awesome Lisa Sharon Harper and will include a variety of expert partners in the immigration field.

This is your chance to get caught up on the current state of play of immigration implementation and legislation — especially the ripple effect of potential Department of Homeland Security defunding. If you haven’t registered yet please use this link to sign-up: Click here to sign up for our FREE February webinar.

Date: February 25, 2015 Webinar
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Call In number:  (712) 775-7031
Meeting ID: 857-814-852

*Access to the visual portion of the webinar will be sent out on the morning of the event to those who sign up. *

Feel free to retweet @SojoImmigration as that will be the main handle at play for this event.

If you are looking for a quick refresher, please see recent blog articles for more in-depth explanations of relevant issues which will be discussed during the webinar:

DHS Funding: http://www.sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/10/homeland-security-funding-latest-gop-bargaining-chip-immigration-debate

26 State Lawsuit:  http://www.sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/19/ruling-26-state-immigration-lawsuit-3-things-you-need-know

Fr. Jon Pedigo: Discerning Values, Discerning Vote

Fr. Jon Pedigo serves Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in San Jose, Calif. He’s written a wonderful and insightful piece for PICO National Network on how the outcome of elections impacts his community:

I’m a Catholic pastor working in a Mexican immigrant community in the east side of San José. My community is less than a 15 minute drive away from some of the wealthiest real estate in Silicon Valley. Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is in the neighborhood formerly known as, “Sal Si Puedes” (“Leave If You Can”). Though we are minutes away from some of the wealthiest dot-com tycoons, we might as well be living in another country. In my community only two out of 100 children graduate from college and more than half of the students drop out of high school. I am writing this article one week after we buried three murder victims. My community has dozens of families affected by deportation. On my first day at this parish – just this past July – two parents were deported leaving behind four children. The oldest is 14, the youngest 20 months.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is mired in poverty, deportations, a failing educational system and violence. This community, however, is resilient. They regularly engage in society through community organizing. Over the recent past we have had small victories built upon small victories that have resulted in the establishment of charter schools, a change in police and city policies that are more immigrant friendly, and more positive police engagement in our neighborhoods. Obviously we have a long way to go and not all our problems can be solved by community actions. Our community must also engage in the electoral process.

The Catholic Church regularly publishes, “Faithful Citizenship,” a handbook for Catholics designed to help us engage in the political process. Catholics are encouraged to consider their faith values – (and I add and emphasize the word, “all” faith values) – when we vote. Moral theology also teaches that we must also consider the context of our life when applying these values. The context that we must consider is the growing economic gap between the rich and poor and all the social complications that happens when there is gross inequality and how marginalized communities such as mine, are affected by budget cuts that result in fewer police officers on our streets, closure of after school programs, and larger class sizes. We must consider how our national budget will affect the people who depend on entitlement programs and the ways that immigration policy affects our children. To my community, these are literally issues of life and death.

Conscientious Catholics are aware that our faith values are not captured by any single political party or in any single candidate. We must therefore tread very carefully through the political process. Some Catholics have a suspicious and even negative view of the political process. Other Catholics take on a rather simplistic approach when voting, applying only one or two faith criteria when voting. To vote “single issue” is not responsible voting. We must use a discernment process before we enter the ballot box. … —Fr. Jon Pedigo

Read the rest of Fr. Jon’s reflections here.

Today 2 Alabama State Senators Join Immigration Law Protest

Two Alabama state senators, Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, joined an immigration law protest on Thursday, May 3, 2012, outside the doors of the Senate chamber in Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. The six Christian protesters from Alabama Rising were detained by police. A few of them were from Micah’s House community in Birmingham.

Send a “thank you” note to Sen. Singleton [bsingle164 (at) yahoo (dot) com]  and Sen. Ross [Quinton.ross (at) alsenate (dot) gov] for joining in and raising a stink for not being arrested along with the others.

To read more, check out Immigration law protesters detained outside Alabama Senate.

To Be (Brown) or Not To Be?

My buddy Mari Castellanos’ commentary A Supreme Case for the Court is a good preparation for the Supreme Court hearings on the racist anti-immigrant laws in Arizona.

I call the laws “racist” and “anti-immigrant” because they are. But there are legitimate questions that need to be raised about overhauling our immigration system so that it responds humanely to new needs and the massive migrations that are happening around the world. The current spate of “anti-immigrant” laws are rooted in views of “scarcity of resources” and histories of white supremacy.

How can the church model a way of approaching these issues rooted in human dignity and a love that drives out fear? Read Mari’s whole post, and below is an excerpt:

On Monday April 23rd, the Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments in a landmark case, State of Arizona v. United States, which challenges the authority of a state to enact its own immigration enforcement laws instead of following federal regulations. On the surface, this case is about a state usurping a federal power. Underneath the surface it is about a lot more.

At the heart of the Arizona legislation are some dangerous provisions that we had hoped to be done with in this country—at least legally, if not in practice as many of us know. A key provision requires any law enforcement officer to verify the immigration status of every person stopped or detained, regardless of how trivial the infraction, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person may be in the country illegally (Section 2B). Reasonable suspicion, one can just as reasonably assume, may be triggered by dark skin, short stature, or poor English language skills. If a person fails to yield the right of way, she or he can be assumed to be an illegal alien and arrested, if the person has no identification other than a driver’s license. Under similar circumstances, most people would receive merely a citation. Persons who “look Latina/o” and have no immigration papers will go to jail. It is also a crime, under Arizona law, for people who fail to carry their “alien registration document” (Section 5C). One could be justified in thinking that Arizona has legalized racial profiling. Similar, if not more insidious laws have been enacted by other states, such as Utah, Alabama and South Carolina. ….–Mari Castellanos, United Church of Christ

Read the rest here.

Francisco X. Alarcón: “Prayer”

I heard Francisco Alarcón at the Associated Writing Programs conference in D.C. in February. He’s working on a great Facebook project called Poets Respond to SB 1070 (that’s Arizona’s terrible new immigration law). For me, his poetry is like drinking living water.

Prayer
by Francisco X. Alarcón

I want a god
as my accomplice
who spends nights
in houses
of ill repute
and gets up late
on Saturdays

a god
who whistles
through the streets
and trembles
before the lips
of his lover

a god
who waits in line
at the entrance
of movie houses
and likes to drink
café au lait

a god
who spits
blood from
tuberculosis and
doesn’t even have
enough for bus fare

a god
knocked
unconscious
by the billy club
of a policeman
at a demonstration

a god
who pisses
out of fear
before the flaring
electrodes
of torture

a god
who hurts
to the last
bone and
bites the air
in pain

a jobless god
a striking god
a hungry god
a fugitive god
an exiled god
an enraged god

a god
who longs
from jail
for a change
in the order
of things

I want a
more godlike
god

“Prayer,” translated by Francisco Aragón, is from From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche. (University of Arizona Press, 2002)

Arizona Adopts ‘Jimenez Crow’ Laws: Direct and Indirect Civil Disobedience

by NEPHTALI DELEON

Next week, Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 will go into effect.

This bill, among other things, requires local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that said individual is undocumented. Another provision of SB 1070 requires immigrants to carry papers denoting citizenship at all times while in the state.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a suit against Arizona, citing the bill as discriminatory. (For more on the law and comprehensive immigration reform, please see Sojourners’ great campaign Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.)

As the action heats up in Arizona, we’ve got a “teachable moment” about what nonviolent direct action looks like when taken directly against an unjust law — as opposed to symbolic civil disobedience that often breaks a smaller law to highlight the injustice of a larger situation.

Will Travers’ article A Rare Opportunity for Direct Civil Disobedience in Arizona provides an excellent outline for this conversation.  Will’s a scholar of nonviolence with a degree from the University of Michigan. He works with the NYC-based band/nonprofit, Lokashakti, promoting peace and social justice through collective nonviolent action. Here’s an excerpt:

… Not since the end of the draft in 1973 has there been a law in the United States that seems to render itself so well to direct civil disobedience. Arizona SB 1070 requires non-citizens to keep registration documents on them at all times and forces police officers to inquire about immigration status during any kind of arrest or routine stop if they encounter “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be in the country illegally. In addition, the new law gives police leeway to arrest someone solely on the basis of there being probable cause that they may be undocumented, at which point they’re to be turned over directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This basically boils down to the police in Arizona having new license to stop anyone looking remotely Hispanic — for no other reason than that they look remotely Hispanic — demand papers from them, and take them into custody if satisfactory documents are not immediately produced. Predictably this has led some people, such as Roman Catholic Archbishop Roger Mahony, to draw parallels to the lives of those in Europe forced to live under the Nazi regime. Additionally — and this concerns all of us — the new Arizona law makes it a crime to “transport or move,” or “conceal, harbor or shield” undocumented immigrants, reminding me more of something out of the Fugitive Slave Acts from this country’s dark past. Against such blatantly unjust, potentially far-reaching legislation, at least we’re armed with a chance for everyone to participate in its direct disobedience, instead of just abandoning our undocumented brothers and sisters to their fate.

In a relatively short amount of time, Martin Luther King Jr. became somewhat of an expert on unjust laws. In a speech he delivered before the Fellowship of the Concerned in 1961, King defined an unjust law as “a code that the majority inflicts upon the minority, which that minority had no part in enacting or creating, because that minority had no right to vote in many instances.” Although close to 50 years old, this definition holds up in modern-day Arizona quite well. The undocumented minority, having virtually no recourse to its voice being heard, is at the mercy of the majority — in this case that of the Arizona Senate — 60 percent Republican and 100 percent white.

King places upon his definition one condition: that the law the minority is compelled to obey is not binding upon the majority. This indeed rings true again, as one would have a very hard time imagining members of Arizona’s white community consenting to being stopped because of their skin color, questioned by police, and immediately forced to prove their legal status under penalty of detention. On the necessity for civil disobedience when faced with such a law, King writes in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that:

[A]t first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

While it’s difficult for me to speculate as to exactly how this unjust law should best be disobeyed, the inspiring example is already there of the five students and community organizers who staged a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s office in Tucson after the bill’s April signing. Remarkably enough, three of the five were undocumented and knowingly subjected themselves to possible deportation, finally undergoing arrest, then detention by ICE, before thankfully being released the next day. …

Read Will’s whole article here.

Poetry: ‘If You Leave Your Shoes’ by Joseph Ross

My friend Joe Ross has written a provocative and stunning poem in reaction to the new immigration laws Arizona is about to enact.

Joseph Ross is a poet, working in Washington, D.C., whose poems have been published in many journals and anthologies including Poetic Voices Without Borders 1 and 2, Poet Lore, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Full Moon on K Street.

Joe co-edited with me Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib for D.C. Poets Against the War. He has given readings in Washington, D.C.’s Miller Cabin Poetry Series and in the Library of Congress’ Poetry-at-Noon Series. He teaches in the College Writing Program at American University in Washington, D.C. I’m grateful to Split This Rock for posting Joe’s poem.

If You Leave Your Shoes
A Response to Arizona’s Law SB 1070
by Joseph Ross

If you leave your shoes
on the front porch
when you run

to the city pool
for swimming lessons,
you might end up

walking across the sand
of the desert in
scorched feet,

bare, like the prophets,
who knew what it was
to burn.

If you leave your lover
to run to the market
for bread and pears

you might return
to find your lover
gone and the bed

covered with knives,
hot and gleaming from
a morning in the sun.

If you leave your country
in the wrong hands,
you might return to

see it drowning in blood,
able to spit
but not to speak.

Joe Ross appeared on the panel Gay and Lesbian Poetry in the 40th Year Since Stonewall: History, Craft, Equality during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness 2010. Find out more about Split This Rock.

Video: Join the 200,000+ Who Marched for Immigration Reform

For those of you who couldn’t be in Washington, D.C., last weekend for the pro-immigration reform rally, here’s a 2-minute video.

I helped lead the Sojourners worship service in the morning, then spent the rest of the afternoon on the Mall people-watching and selling SojoSwag.