A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Posts tagged ‘deportation’

All are welcome here

There are so many ways to be involved right now and I wanted to share this simple one from American Friends Service Committee. If you feel called to support the Muslim community in this uncertain time – please see below.

Action to Support Muslims

We are living in an extraordinary moment. The Trump administration’s Muslim ban executive order has sparked protests and criticism across the country and the globe. Even more seriously, the administration’s commitment to disregard legal decisions staying the order and to dismiss staff that raise concerns internally has brought us to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

We need you to act now, and call on your member of Congress to oppose the ban.

To recap:

  • Late Friday evening, Trump signed an executive order ending the Syrian Refugee program, suspending visas from seven majority-Muslim countries, and temporarily halting refugee resettlement.
  • On Saturday, people who already traveling from those countries when the order was signed were detained at numerous airports, sparking large protests at those airports as well as at the White House, the Capitol, and in cities and towns across the country. Chaos and confusion erupted around the globe as hundreds, including children and grandparents, were held in detention, deported, or prevented from boarding flights to the U.S. Late Saturday night, federal judges in New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts ordered a temporary halt to the order for those who had valid visas.
  • On Sunday, large protests at airports continued, with shouts of “No Hate, No Fear, Immigrants are Welcome Here!” Meanwhile, in multiple cases Customs and Border Patrol agents refused to follow the judge’s orders to allow those with valid visas to enter, even when confronted by members of Congress at Dulles airport. The administration was silent on the matter.
  • Monday it was revealed that the order was written without input from the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Secretary of State nominee. Instead, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and white nationalist Trump advisors Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, were the primary authors. Monday evening it was announced that 100 State Department officials signed a “dissent memo” against the administration’s policy.
  • Monday evening, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced that she would not defend the executive order, saying, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.” President Trump fired her hours later, saying that she had “betrayed the Department of Justice.”

The Trump administration must be held accountable for violating court orders. Our democracy depends upon checks on executive power, which are being defied by this administration.

Call your Congressperson today, and ask them to: 

  1. Hold the Trump administration accountable for violating court orders and undercutting the independence of the office of the Attorney General, dangerously undermining democratic process and constitutionally mandated checks on executive power.
  2. Support legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate that would overturn this racist, anti-Muslim executive order.

Contact the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask for your senator or representative. When you are connected with their office, you can use the script below. “My name is _____, and I’m from (city/town and ZIP code). I am calling to ask the member to act strongly to protect a core value of our democracy by holding the Trump administration accountable for violating court orders to halt implementation of some aspects of his “Muslim ban.” I also ask that they support legislation overturning this dangerous, ill-conceived executive order entirely.” 

Call three times to be connected to each of your senators and your representative. Call volumes have been high, so if you can’t get through, consider looking up the number for your local office—usually found on the member’s website.

Every action we can take in this extraordinary moment counts! Thank you for your commitment to justice.

In peace,

Mary Zerkel
AFSC Communities Against Islamophobia

A year on the sidelines

This week marks one year until we will elect our next president. Campaigning has already been in high gear for months — months of campaigning and yet, if we had cast our votes this past Tuesday, what knowledge of the country and the candidates would we have actually had?

Media coverage rarely connects the policy statements of candidates (even if they are making them) with the lived reality of the people. Often media’s only focus is a “bump” in the polls. We are not engaged in a popularity contest; we are engaged in choosing a leader who will impact not only North Americans, but the world.

It seems important then that we take the time to know what poverty, the environment, education, immigration, militarism, racial inequities, gender inequities, children, the elderly, health care, etc., look like in America today. We deserve to know what is needed, not just what will play as a sound bite.

Let’s travel to the margins, past the flashing signs of Donald Trump’s hair and Hillary Clinton’s granddaughter Charlotte, to see the world and the election through the eyes of the people and the earth who will bear the burden of our decision next November. I propose a “year from the sidelines” — a year in which we ponder what is needed in a leader, in a party, in ourselves, and in our communities from the perspective of those left behind or blamed by power.

To begin, I would like to share The Rag Blog’s Halloween at Hutto by Elaine J. Cohen that looks at the connection between immigration and militarism. It is easy to talk about stopping people from coming; it’s harder to understand why they come and how the United States is intimately connected to the forces driving people to the border here and the borders in Europe. This blog looks at migrants from Latin America in connection with our own militarism in their region.

Barred window inside of Hutto Detention Facility. Photo courtesy of thewire.com

Barred window inside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center Detention Facility. Photo courtesy of www.thewire.com

As we sat in the waiting area of the Hutto “Residential” Center, an unexpected spectacle unfolded before the three of us who had come to visit. It was Halloween in Hutto.

Originally Peggy Morton and I had planned to take Maria Luisa, field organizer for the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), to Karnes, another family detention center in Texas, that morning. It was October 30, when thunder and torrents of rain poured down on the hill country.

Still, I left my apartment on St. John’s at eight. In the time it took to walk from my building’s entrance to my car, I was soaked to the bone. Driving south on Lamar was an exercise in focus and I’m sure I cashed in a few of my good karma points as I drove with limited vision and somehow got to Wheatsville South at nine to meet them.

Peggy’s husband, Fred, had told her that a tornado had touched down in San Marcos — near our usual route to Karnes. We went to Peggy’s house where my wet clothes were put in the dryer. We decided that if the rain slowed down we would go north, rather than south — and visit with women at Hutto. Their hunger strike had just begun and we agreed that visiting there would be an excellent first visit to a Detention Center for Maria Luisa.

Over cups of hot tea and vegan pozole, the three of us shared stories about immigration, violence shaped and honed by this country’s military might and the extraordinary connectedness of decades of violence in Central America and the number of refugees coming across the border.

Maria Luisa Rosals had come to Austin on a southern/border states journey to learn about conditions here and share knowledge about the complicity of USian interests as manifest in the instruction of violence at the School of the Americas.

Protests began in 1990 at the School of the America’s base at Fort Benning outside of Columbus, Georgia, and have continued despite the change of name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). In a few weeks, the vigil will have its 25th anniversary. Many readers of The Rag Blog are familiar with the organization and its work. For those of you who aren’t, I refer you to the SOA Watch website — because the story today is really about the 27-plus immigrant women on hunger strike in Taylor, Texas.

Though as Peggy, Maria Luisa, and I spoke, it became obvious to us that, in fact, the hunger strike of immigrant women incarcerated under U.S. policy is very much related to the work of the SOAW. Peggy, an active member of the Hutto Visitation Program, has been visiting a woman who has been incarcerated there for over a year. As is my custom, I will not refer to her by her real name. Let’s call her Juana. All three of us signed up to visit Juana, who greeted us with delight.

The Corrections Corporation of America continues to assert ‘there is no hunger strike.’

Although the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the private business that runs Hutto, continues to assert “there is no hunger strike,” we were assured that the strike was real. Moreover, the women are highly motivated and optimistic. I asked Juana if I had her permission to mention her in my writing and she said that the women wanted “everyone” to know that, Yes, they are on hunger strike and that No, it’s not because the food is so bad (even though it is terrible) and it is an insult for whoever is telling those lies (hmmm, the CCA comes to mind) to pretend it is not about the absolute injustice that they are incarcerated for their attempt to escape from domestic, cartel, and state violence.

We laughed and exchanged stories about our families and talked a lot about tamales. Peggy was worried that talking about food wasn’t a good idea — but it seemed to cheer Juana — talking about something from her culture. When Maria Luisa and Juana discovered they were from the same area in Guatemala, there were broad smiles and, I believe, some comfort to Juana. In front of her was someone who knew where she came from — and had also come to the U.S. as an immigrant.

It seems that our visit to Hutto took place on the day that the CCA had encouraged its employees to costume up for Halloween. I’m serious. As we sat in the waiting room we watched as an angel in black tulle and a black halo left. A Thor-like Viking came on shift. The costumes were elaborate and at one point Maria Luisa and I caught each other’s glance and I whispered, “This is surreal.” Her eyes widened in agreement.

In the visiting area, the guard was straight out of the Flintstones. When Juana began to cry, I went up to the guard to ask for some tissue. I remarked on her costume, casually asking, “So, what are you?” She broke into a large smile (the first I’d seen) and said, “I’m a cave woman.” Fortunately, she didn’t appear to have a club. I wouldn’t swear, however, that she didn’t have one, hidden under the desk.

While immigrant women languish in this for-profit prison, the jailers play out their domination fantasies as Dark Angels, Vikings, and Neanderthals. Juana shook her head at the strangeness of the display. I suggested that Halloween was kind of like carnival and she managed a crooked smile. As we left, and we had our final hug (one is permitted at the beginning and another at the end of a visit), she again asked me to make sure to tell as many people as possible about their strike and how unjust is their detention.

In the days that have passed since I started this piece, participation in the hunger strike has grown enormously. This coming Saturday, November 7, 2015, there is a call to come to Taylor and show your support for the hunger strikers.

Sofia Casini of Grassroots Leadership reports of “the continuing escalation in numbers of women inside, far beyond the initial 27. We’ve seen retaliation in the form of solitary confinement, two of the strikers transferred to Pearsall Detention Center, threats of deportation, and citations for not leaving their quarters to eat. ICE continues to deny the strike is happening. Loco!”

The rally will be held across from the baseball field to the side of the detention center (1001 Welch St, Taylor, Texas 76574) this Saturday at 2 p.m. Sofia explains that “this time was chosen because it’s when the women are let outside — the hunger strikers asked us to come then so they can see us and gain strength from our presence. Even if they’re brought inside quickly, we’ve been told from women that in past rallies they can still hear the loud, amplified music — let’s raise our voice so high they can hear us, too!”

I was recently reminded that there may be readers who are unfamiliar with the complex mix of politics, racism, and greed that has brought us immigrant detention. Yet I worry that I have written so much about various aspects of the issue in the past year that some of the material may appear redundant. Am I laboring to explain that which I’ve already laid out? Finally I realized that I can’t assume that the earlier pieces have been read.

The School of the Americas Watch, with its insistence that we recognize and expose the complicity of the American Military in the training of the perpetrators of so much violence in the Northern Triangle, absolutely connects to the women on hunger strike in Hutto. It is precisely that violence which has driven them here.

But what of the violence that is the experience of the thousands of immigrants locked up in immigrant detention? Could it be that the monster personas I saw at Hutto were more than Halloween fun? Were these employees of one of the worst private prison corporations really showing us something about what it means to be a guard in a prison incarcerating the victims of violence?

It is the image of the Dark Angel walking around the Hutto detention prison that I can’t shake.

Read more articles by Elaine J. Cohen on The Rag Blog.

Rag metro writer Elaine Cohen moved to Austin in 1997 after she found Accion Zapatista’s website. She became involved with immigrants when she started work as a bilingual substitute for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). After another stay teaching in Mexico (2005-2010) she returned to Austin and discovered the Hutto Visitation Program and became involved in visiting women and children in Texas’ family immigration detention centers.

Join the Dreamers

Watch the video and join with Presente! and advocate for immigrant youth in detention.

Earlier this week President Obama gave a major speech in El Paso, Texas, where he renewed his commitment to immigration reform.

That’s great news, and we’re ready to continue fighting to make immigration reform and the DREAM Act a reality. But the truth is that there are thousands of young people facing the threat of deportation right now–including University of Texas student Raul Zamora, who hopes to be an architect but first must survive his May 26 deportation hearing.

The President has the power to make sure thousands of young men and women like Raul don’t have to worry about deportation. He can issue an Executive Order that would stop the deportation of DREAMers until we get this critical legislation passed. And if he’s serious about immigration reform, that’s exactly what he should do.

In this critical time following his speech, the media will look to see how the public reacts. If we can show that thousands of us are demanding action right now, we can make a real impact on the public debate around the DREAM Act and help save thousands of amazing students from being forced from the only country they know as home. Can you click below to automatically sign this petition asking President Obama to use his executive authority to stop the deportations of DREAMers? Click here:

http://act.presente.org/go/285?akid=353.187068.B1dvZI&t=5

Sadly, Raul’s story is not unique. In Texas alone, there is Benita Veliz who came to the United States from Mexico when she was eight years old, graduated as the valedictorian of her high school, and is now in removal proceedings. Mario Perez came to this country when he was five and now studies math and statistics as he fights his deportation order.

DREAMers like these across the country have asked the President to use his executive authority to stop their deportations. Unfortunately, despite the advice of legal scholars1 and calls from members of his own party2, the President has refused to halt the deportations of young people like Raul, Benita and Mario.

The longer he waits to take action, the more young people will be deported. They need our help and we need to pressure the Obama administration to grant executive relief for them.

Please join us and ask your friends and family to do the same.

http://act.presente.org/go/285?akid=353.187068.B1dvZI&t=7

References

1. “Legal Experts Weigh in on Executive Branch Authority,” Immigration Policy Center, 4-29-11
http://act.presente.org/go/283?akid=353.187068.B1dvZI&t=9

2. “Twenty-Two Senators Ask Obama to Stop Deporting DREAMers,” Colorlines.com, 4-11-11
http://act.presente.org/go/284?akid=353.187068.B1dvZI&t=11

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