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

Posts tagged ‘immigration’

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.

Children At Our Door Continued…

“Public opinion remains deeply divided over whether the U.S. government has a moral obligation to offer asylum to Central American children escaping political persecution or violence in their home countries,” reports Fusion.net in its recent feature “The untold history of unaccompanied minors.”

The news and digital network posted a confluence of commentary by scholars and activists “who think the United States, a self-professed nation of immigrants, does have a moral obligation to provide asylum to Central American minors, many of whom — experts argue — are fleeing violence that resulted from U.S. foreign policy.”

Mónica Novoa, Families for Freedom communications strategist, says the message to children is that “as Central Americans you’re unwanted, violent, embarrassing.”

 

Says Felix Kury, psychotherapist at San Francisco’s Clínica de Martin-Baró: “I think sending these children back without really understanding why they left is a crime against humanity.”

 

“Instead of reducing the inequalities they thought would happen,” says Leisy Abrego, University of California sociologist, of the U.S. and Central America Free Trade Agreement, “they’ve …  made it impossible for people to remain there and actually survive.”

 

Seven-year-old Anthony Domes and his mother Sarahi fled their Honduran home after a neighbor, killed by gang members, was mistaken for her brother.

Help children in crisis at our border

The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) has shared a simple action that will help children in crisis at the border. The senate is considering rolling back protections provided to these children under the Trafficking Victims Protections Re-authorization Act (TVPRA). FAN is asking for people to call and speak to their senators and ask them to vote no on rolling back protections.

In Wisconsin:

Senator Ron Johnson has said he will vote in favor of rolling back protections

Senator Tammy Baldwin is undecided.

If you wish to call – FAN is asking for folks to tell senator staffers that as a constituent you  urge your representative to vote NO on rolling back protections under TVPRA. If your senators are not in Wisconsin, feel free to ask their staffers how they are planning to vote: you want to hear them say the senator will vote NO on rolling back protections. Click here to learn more about TVPRA.

We will not solve our immigration crisis by criminalizing children and their families. St.Francis’ life call us to stand with these families in crisis and accompany them – not deport and detain them.

From FAN

The position of USCCB/JFI, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and FAN is NO to rolling back legislation that provides protection for refugee children.  PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATOR with thanks for their NO, or encourage NO for those undecided or not declared, or urge change from YES to NO.  Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

SB1070: the path for immigration reform?

Rally for immigrant rights

The battle over SB1070 has gone all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to untangle where federal rights meet state rights, what constitutes racial profiling, and who at the end of the day is responsible for creating immigration reform.

The government is arguing that the law promotes racial profiling and over steps into a policy area that belongs on a federal level. The states are arguing that they have both a right and an obligation to deal with people who are undocumented within their own contexts and that while the law could create circumstances of racial profiling that would only be if it was abused by law enforcement.

The list of questions presented to the court are all worthy and represent key facets of democracy, human rights, and balance of power. At the heart of these questions is how we understand citizenship. Is it a special status that restricts the distribution of legal rights? Or is it a legal reality that confers on each of us a special responsibility for how we welcome and integrate those who come into our borders?

Sojourners and many other faith leaders feel that it is the latter. In light of that they invite those who feel that SB1070 represents a failure of democracy, human rights, and the balance of powers to write letters to their editors. Check out the link below and join the call to never understand a human being as illegal.

http://faithandimmigration.org/action/no-excuses-delaying-immigration-reform

Lost in Detention

The FSPA Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee has been working for two years on the issue of immigration.

PBS is offering a great opportunity tonight to curl up in this great fall weather and watch a Frontline episode about the devastating impacts of detention on immigrant families and communities.

This is great opportunity to learn more about what is happening across the country as politicians refuse to reform the immigration system and instead are “creating” policy by default through extensive detention and deportation. Join with the JPIC Committee and commit to learning more about this human rights crisis tonight!

See below for more information and an action from Presente.org !

Presente

On Tuesday, October 18th, award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa presents the groundbreaking documentary Lost in Detention. It’s an exposé that reveals the devastating consequences of the mass incarceration of immigrants, and the harsh toll it takes on families, women and children.

Hinojosa discussed  Secure Communities (S-Comm) and other issues highlighted in the documentary. Check out the video and you will see why we all need to tune in to Lost in Detention on PBS. Click below to let us know you’re watching on Tuesday and to see the exclusive interview. When you’re done, forward this email to friends and family and post this video on Facebook and Twitter.

http://act.presente.org/signup/lostindetention/

The astonishing and unprecedented footage in Lost in Detention has the power to change how people understand the immigration crisis and motivate them to act. The film starts with the highly criticized Secure Communities (S-Comm) program and goes on to give a look at the overall system of detention and incarceration – and on the physical and sexual abuse that has become commonplace.

Click here for more information on Lost in Detention and to find your local listing.

Thanks so much!

A small win

On Thursday, August 18th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will begin a thorough review of the 300,000 pending deportation caseload to refocus enforcement efforts away from “low priority” immigrants and toward “high priority individuals,” such as those who have committed crimes.  DHS will now consider DREAM Act-eligible youths, relatives of veterans, and other individuals who are currently in the deportation process and who have no prior criminal convictions, non-threatening; they will move to dismiss their cases and, on a “case per case basis,” issue work permits.
This is a step in the right direction and could be crucial for so many facing deportation, yet we still need more comprehensive and compassionate immigration policies that move away from the current enforcement-only strategy and towards more humane and compassionate policies. Last week, August 17th, hundreds of student, community and faith leaders came out to call on DHS and the Obama Administration to stop the Secure Communities Program. Six undocumented students were arrested after participated in an act of civil disobedience, putting their lives on the line to stop the broken Secure Communities Program.  Read more from the Immigrant Youth Justice League
Please take a moment to thank the President Obama for this important administrative action.
“I’m calling to thank President Obama for taking a step in the right direction through more responsible enforcement strategies. We still need more permanent immigration policy solutions that keep families together and to stop the implementation of programs like Secure Communities that are harmful for our communities.” 

Walker and Wisconsin

The story of what happened in Madison still reverberates around the blogosphere gaining new attention with the pending recall elections for Republicans on the horizon. Few of these blogs, however, are looking at the potential impact Walker and conservatives in the State House and Senate could have and are having on the immigrant community. Check out this great video from “The Real News” and learn more about the struggles of the Wisconsin immigrant community.

 

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