Reflections on Three Weeks at the Border

Peaceful Communities

Most days, all we could see of the deportees who were being forced onto planes bound for Central America was their feet shuffling in chains. But occasionally the buses and fuel trucks that were parked in a manner to obstruct our view were not carefully aligned, and we got a clear view of the adults and children. Sometimes the shades on the plane were not closed, and we could see faces looking out at their last view of our country.

On any day, we could go across the border into the camp where children would be playing with sticks and balls just like children everywhere. Parents would be sweeping the dirt outside their tents and tidying up. Some people would be cooking on wood stoves they had built out of mud or tubs from old washing machines. People would be passing the time.

When we crossed back into the United States, there were never more than three people in line ahead of us waiting to present U.S. passports. People from Mexico, who have permits to cross every day in order to work or go to school, have to wait for hours in their own line. We regularly saw paramedics tending to people who succumbed to the heat while waiting.

If we went into the tent courts, we could watch as judges who were miles away conducted hearings via closed circuit television. They were so polite we could almost believe that the asylum seekers had a reasonable chance of winning their cases. But they didn’t. Almost no one ever gets asylum in these courts, by design.

It is generally thought that people from Cuba and Venezuela have an easier time getting asylum than people from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The reason doesn’t seem to be that they are at greater risk and therefore more deserving of asylum. Rather, it seems that our international politics and relationships dictate how lenient we are with people trying to flee their countries. The Cubans and Venezuelans also seem to be more likely to have enough money to hire lawyers, which makes a huge difference.

Lawyers tell us that detainees are being moved inland from American detention facilities that are near the border, presumably so that there will be room to detain more people near the border. This might happen if Mexico decides not to continue to allow the U.S. to warehouse immigrants there, if Central American countries stop letting us dump people there, or if the coronavirus keeps the detention camps in Mexico from being viable.

There is almost no medical care of any sort in the camps and little in the surrounding communities, so an outbreak of COVID-19 could be catastrophic. The organization that has been bringing in volunteers from around the country has asked people who are not locals not to come anymore as a precaution against their carrying the virus into the camps. There is no indication that our government would relax its policies and let stricken people come across in order to be treated in U.S. hospitals. The situation is grim.

I learned a great deal during my recent three-week stay on the border. Along with other volunteers, we were able to help people who came to witness how our country’s policies are being implemented and how they are affecting people. We also helped reporters understand what they had come to investigate. We made sure immigration officials knew we were watching. We supported local relief and advocacy efforts. And now I am home, ready to do what I can to keep this issue in the public’s awareness.

Because of the coronavirus situation, it is unclear what form our witnessing will take in the coming days and weeks, but we will find a way to move forward together. Thanks to everyone who has supported these efforts in so many ways.

Lee Goodman
Peaceful Communities, Inc

peacefulcommunities.org

Horrors on the Southern Border

Immigration Asylum in Mexico - source BDNEWS.com

Until recently, our government allowed people from other countries to wait in the U.S. while their requests for asylum were being processed and decided. Now we make them wait on the other side of our border. Thousands of people are indefinitely stranded in places like Matamoros, Mexico, where I just returned from.

Neither our government nor the Mexican government is doing much of anything for these people. They live in small camping tents. They rely upon volunteers to bring them food. Clean water and toilets are scarce, and medical care is minimal. There is no work and no school. Our government’s policy is to let these people languish and suffer, in hopes that they will go away and that others will learn of their misery and decide not to try to come to the U.S.

Deliberately depriving people of food, sanitation, and other essentials of a decent life was the policy the Nazis followed in the 1930s and 40s in the ghettos and concentration camps. Over time during the Nazi era, what started as makeshift detention became large-scale incarceration. Dehumanization was institutionalized.

Today, child asylum seekers are no longer being detained in the U.S. in large tents the way they were at Tornillo, Texas, and Homestead, Florida. Our government has been building a series of permanent camps where children will be held. I visited an old WalMart in Brownsville, Texas where up to 1,500 immigrant children are being imprisoned. I also stopped by a warehouse in Raymondville, Texas, that is being refitted to hold 500 kids. A friend just stood outside a new prison that is under construction in El Paso, Texas, that will hold more than 500 kids. Other facilities are in the pipeline.

It took a while for the Nazis to develop their system of concentration camps. Dachau, established in 1933, became the model for later camps. What I saw in Mexico and Texas reminded me of something terrible. Our incarceration of immigrants is progressing along a terrifying trajectory. We are normalizing child abuse. We are perfecting systems that traumatize people. We are teaching the people who work at these prisons that it is OK to go along with and make money from deliberate cruelty.

I am disturbed by what I saw. But it is good that I saw it.

We have much to do.

Lee Goodman
Peaceful Communities, Inc.

Stand with Dreamers

Take Action Now to Protect Dreamers

Trump dealt a stunning blow to Dreamers last week when he announced the DACA program will be phased out by March 6th, 2018. But many DACA and would-be DACA recipients are vulnerable now. Take a few minutes to make some calls to show your support for America’s Dreamers:

Call:

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: 202-224-2854

Sen. Dick Durbin: 202-224-2152

Rep Brad Schneider: 202-225-4835

Script:

Durbin: Thank you for sponsoring the Dream Act S.1615. Please continue your hard work pushing this legislation through Congress. I support this bill, and stand with you and our nation’s Dreamers.

Duckworth: Congress has several options to protect DACA recipients. Can I count on you to support the Dream Act S.1615? Thank you.

Schneider: Congress has several options to protect DACA recipients. Can I count on you to support the American Hope Act H.R. 3591 and Bridge Act H.R. 496? Thank you.

DACA Needs Our Help Now: Stand with Dreamers

Trump is poised to let DACA expire and is making a statement on Tuesday, 9/5.

If this happens then 800,000 young immigrants, who have lived in the U.S. since childhood, will lose jobs, be forced out of college, and face the risk of immediate deportation. We can’t let that happen. Here’s how you can help:

  • Call your MoCs and let them know that taking legal status away from these brave young DACA recipients so Trump can deport them is immoral and wrong. Here’s more for your message: http://bit.ly/2vTH0qP
  • Call the @HouseGOP and @SenateGOP. Tell them they have a choice: side w/ 800,000+ young immigrants and protect them… or uphold Trump’s hate agenda. Ask them which side of history they want to be on. You’ll find key GOP phone numbers at defenddaca.com. Call them.
  • Attend the press conference following Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, 9/5 at the Federal Plaza at 5:30.

Please stand up for our nation’s Dreamers.

A Victory for Immmigration

The Illinois TRUST Act (SB 31) has been signed by Gov. Rauner

The TRUST Act is now the national gold standard as it is the strongest statewide immigrant deportation protection policy in the country.

The TRUST Act will:

  • Provide critical protection from deportation for Illinois residents by preventing local police from stopping, searching, or arresting anyone based solely on that person’s immigration status
  • Uphold basic requirements under our Bill of Rights by requiring a warrant issued by a judge before anyone can be arrested and jailed for immigration purposes
  • Ensure that local residents can interact with police without fear that they will end up in deportation proceedings

This historic victory is due to the incredible work of 85+ member organizations from throughout Illinois through the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois. Together we have demonstrated what we can achieve when we come together in struggle for justice.

By Holly K.

Urge Gov. Rauner to Sign the TRUST Act to Protect Illinois Immigrants

Immigrants are our neighbors and shouldn’t have to live in fear. Please call Gov. Rauner today.

Here’s the script:
My name is ___.   I am an Illinois resident. I’d like to thank the Governor for his commitment to sign the TRUST Act, and ask that he sign the bill immediately.   Thank you.

Springfield: 217-782-0244             Chicago: 312-814-2121

The Promise of America – New US Citizens Become Registered Voters

Swearing in ceremony for 114 new citizens from 37 countries

Last week I attended my first Citizenship swearing in ceremony. I was there as a volunteer with ICIRR (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights) to help sign up new citizens to vote. With the Motor Voter registration form, it takes a couple of minutes to fill in the form. It was a bit of a mad house- after everyone has received their Citizenship Certificates, they either go up and have their photos taken in front of the American flag- or just come out of the room enmasse with family and friends. That’s when we are there handing out voter registration forms and suggesting they stay long enough to fill out the form and we will submit it for them. Of the 114 candidates, we got 71 new voters. What a great day for America- and for our new citizens. If you would like to volunteer to help with voter registration, there are weekly ceremonies most Monday through Thursday. Just contact Louisa Sosa at ICIRR at lsosa@icirr.org.

By Holly K

Black Thursday – A Bad Week for Immigrants

Immigrants: We Get the Job Done

by Wendy Rosen

Before you read this post, take five-minutes to watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s piercing rap-music video, “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done).”

 

Miranda vividly reminds us of the contributions immigrants make to our country and the injustice they endure. After you watch, consider donating to the “Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition,” which provides legal representation and advocacy for “…immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who come to us in search of the American Dream.” Do this because it’s been a tough week for immigrants and refugees within or across our borders.

A partial travel ban took effect Thursday, 6/29, at 8 p.m. The 90-day travel ban bars some people from getting visas if they come from one of six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also bans an undetermined number refugees from entering the country for the next 120 days. The rules determining who is allowed in are based on the hazy determination of an “bona fide” relationship with someone or something in the U.S.  Vox tries to make sense of these rules with a concise explainer.

The U.S. House of Representatives also passed a pair of immigration enforcement bills Thursday: “Kate’s Law” and “No Sanctuaries for Criminals Act,” giving the Trump administration a legislative win after major setbacks with the health care reform bill. These two immigration bills punish sanctuary cities and boost penalties for immigrants who re-enter the U.S after being deported.

These policies will not only harm immigrant families, they will also harm our country’s economy, according to Bloomberg. The loss of immigrants is fueling a labor shortage for U.S. businesses. And fearful immigrant consumers are staying home instead of shopping.

The Trump administration’s claims that connect immigration to crime are proven false by a recent meta-analysis that scanned decades of data. This analysis shows overwhelming consensus that there is no link between crime and immigration.

These administrative policies are nothing more than thinly-veiled racism aimed at spreading chaos and fear. They target hard-working men and women, mothers and fathers, and daughters and sons who arrived on our shores seeking better lives. As we are about to launch fireworks into the night sky to celebrate our nation’s independence, let’s remember those immigrants who came before us to shape our future. We can, and must, do better than this.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Il-9) Leads Town Hall in Rep. Peter Roskam (Il-6) District

Author: Wendy Rosen

The Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th (CBIL6) presented Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) with a “Certificate of Adoption” Saturday after she led a town hall meeting at Fremd High School in Rep. Peter Roskam’s 6th congressional district. Seven hundred people swelled beyond the high school auditorium’s capacity and filled an overflow room, according to CBIL6. The town hall was also live-streamed on Facebook, with 17,000 views and counting.

“I want to thank Donald Trump,” said Schakowsky. “Because I think that what he did was awaken a sleeping giant – a giant that knows its power.”

Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, who hasn’t held a large town hall meeting in the 6th district since he was elected in 2007, never responded to the invitation to attend. Roskam calls town hall meetings, “big circuses.”

But this was no circus. Schakowsky responded to questions about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, DeVos’ proposed education cuts, racial and religious harassment, freedom of the press, health care cuts, and the Trump-Russia investigations.

Schakowsky encouraged the audience to combat their fears by staying informed and engaged. “I have never seen a mobilization like this before – ever,” said Schakowsky. “And I’m talking larger and more powerful than when the Tea Party was at its height … this is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen. You call a town hall and it’s standing room only, so we just have to keep it up.” Schakowsky encouraged concerned citizens to run for local office and get involved in local elections.

Roskam, a high-ranking republican who votes in line with Trump’s positions nearly 97 percent of the time, will be facing strong headwinds in 2018. The CBIL6 is a network of 20 grassroots groups who are laying the groundwork now to elect a democrat in their district in 2018. They are organizing voter registration drives, door-to-door canvassing, and phone banks which will begin this summer. Given the mobilization of democrats as evidenced by the turnout at this town hall, and the fact that Clinton carried the district in the recent election, a strong democratic candidate could turn Roskam’s seat blue.