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.

Defend Migrant Families from Trump’s Attacks

Defend migrant families from Trump’s attacks
Hi #Resisters,
June 30th marks one year from the day that #Resisters held over 800 rallies across the country to tell the Trump administration that #FamiliesBelongTogether. Still many families remain separated. #Resisters are coming together to commemorate this anniversary and to demand all families be reunited.
Here’s what #Resisters can do in their own communities:
2. Reach out to #Resist’s organizers to chat about what actions would make the most impact for your area
It’s unacceptable that one year later families are still being separated. #Resisters can make a difference by standing up to this administration and demanding families be reunited. Can you host a #FamiliesBelongTogether event?
Thank you for everything you do,
Anu

Pablo Manriquez Highlights January Meet-Up

Roll Call Director of Communications Pablo Manriquez

Good discussions at our January Meet-Up among our group including several new people eager to stop hand wringing and do something. Joining us from DC via skype was Roll Call Director of Communications Pablo Manriquez who fielded our questions about DACA, Trump-Russia col lusion and more.

Pablo has useful insight to help inform us on the issues and left us with a number of resources worth investigating including online news: At the Races, Fox News (yes) “Halftime Report;” and Emily Wilkins at Bloomberg for Education issues, Dean DeChiaro on Immigration and Brian Williams at 11PM on MSNBC.

Yes, Pablo’s image looks a little frightening here. He wasn’t. Good guy. We’ll have him back.

Legislator Calls: November 6, 2017

Calls Week of November 6

Before you make those calls: Read our Blog post on being an efficient caller.

Representative Schneider and Senators Duckworth and Durbin this week:

  • Tell Representative Schneider*:

    • Advocate for the economic rights of our poorest neighbors
      • Advocate for poor Americans who make less than $18,600 per year and for middle class families who stand to lose tax benefits
      • Thank Representative Schneider for speaking out on this issue in his statement.
  • Tell your Representative and Senators*:

  • Tell your Senators*:

    • Support a clean DREAM act
      • Thank Senator Durbin for Co-sponsoring the bill.
      • Urge Senator Duckworth to become a co-sponsor.
    • Oppose the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime appointment to the US District Court
      • Hundreds of civil rights groups oppose him because of his demonstrated opposition to voting rights, workers’ rights, and civil rights. This appointment is dangerous for democracy.
      • Urge Senators Duckworth and Durbin to vote “No” on this nomination
*Q: Why do I tell my Representative and Senators different lists of issues? Why don’t I read them all the same script?
A: Because certain responsibilities originate in the House of Representative (tax bills start there) and other responsibilities originate in the Senate (confirmations of appointees).
Continue reading “Legislator Calls: November 6, 2017”

Attend this Citizenship Ceremony in Waukegan 10/17/17

You are invited to join Congressman Brad Schneider and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services at the historic Genesee Theatre on October 17, at 11AM, to witness over 200 people take their oath of citizenship and become new American Citizens.
 

Details:

Date: October 17, 2017

Address:: Genesee Theatre, 203 North Genesee Street, Waukegan
Time: Ceremony starts at 11 AM sharp; please plan to arrive earlier
Parking: There is a garage a block west and a lot a block east

Immigration: Citizenship Workshop Needs Volunteers

The Hispanic American Community Education and Services (HACES) organization in Waukegan is holding a Citizenship Workshop on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 9 to noon.  Please come and help participants fill out their papers to become U.S. Citizens.  Address is 820 Greenwood Ave. in Waukegan.  For more information, call 847-244-0300.  No experience necessary, but training may be required.

Volunteers Desperately Needed to Help DACA Recipients

Because of Trump’s announcement that DACA will terminate in six months, all current DACA recipients must re-apply by October 5, 2017 in order to get a two-year renewal. Numerous immigration organizations are holding workshops to help with this process.

HACES in Waukegan has scheduled the following dates and times where volunteers are needed:

  • Thursdays Sept. 14, 21, 28 from 1 PM to 7 PM
  • Saturday, Sept. 16 from 9 AM to 1 PM with a training session beginning at 8 AM

If you are interested in volunteering, contact HACES at 847-244- 0300 or Maria Elena Jonas at mejonas@haces.org. HACES is located at 820 WS. Greenwood in Waukegan. You can also contact me, Holly Kerr, at hollyfk1@gmail.com if you have any questions.

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.