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What Can We Do about Family-Separation and Detention?

As Legislative Liaison to the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, I have been asked by members of the parish and the Diocese what we can do. I offer you a list from Carter Heyward and an article from The Slate which might be helpful.

“Dear friends, sisters, brothers, and sibling Americans, we are living increasingly in a nation in which an authoritarian is ruling via fear, hatred, and lies. This can only get worse before it finally breaks apart. So what do we do at this time?

(1) SPEAK THE TRUTH BOLDLY about what you see happening. Speak, write, preach, draw, paint, sing, dramatize, or otherwise communicate the Truth in whatever contexts and ways you can. Communicate with your legislators — relentlessly. Make a nuisance of yourself if you’re met with unresponsive legislators. Use newspapers, social media, and other media to communicate whatever is true and important. Do this as often as you can. Don’t let a day go by without your truth-speaking-voice being heard by someone!

(2) CONNECT WITH OTHERS. Don’t let yourself get isolated or depressed. Join together with others who want to do something constructive. There are countless organizations from which you can choose ones that appeal to you.

(3) VOTE — and not only you personally. Make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are registered to vote. Use whatever power, skills, and clout you have to help folks register and make sure they vote. Consider joining the Get Out the Vote campaigns of your local Democratic Party or of organizations like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, AAUW, ACLU, Indivisible, and other groups committed to getting folks to vote.

(4) GIVE $$, however much or little, to organizations and people who are working for justice — for immigrants and refugees, communities of color, women and LGBTQ persons, environmental sustainability, universal health care, quality public education, etc. Even sending $5 or $10 to several groups from time to time is GREAT — and with lots of us doing it, it builds up.

(5) DEFEND DEMOCRACY! Remember that our democracy is under attack both from without (Russia) and within (Trump). Don’t let yourself be distracted from this concern or lulled into thinking that the Russian connection has been overblown — or is in the past. No question the Russians will be/are trying to confound the USA in our upcoming elections.

(6) PROTEST! Join others in taking to the streets whenever the times are right, and to the offices of your legislators, locally and at state and national levels. Be inspired by the kids from FL who are 100% committed to gun sanity and safety. Be inspired by the outpouring of rage and resistance to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the borders, in which babies and children are being taken from parents. Be inspired by the courage of all who are speaking out, marching, refusing to be silenced. Be bold and outspoken in speaking truth to power.

(7) MUTE TRUMP’S LIES. Don’t give Trump’s tweets, rantings, and self-indulgence center stage. Marginalize his voice. Call his lies what they are: LIES. If you have to quote him to make a point, make clear to your readers/listeners that whatever it was Trump said is a LIE being used by him malevolently to sow confusion.

(8) BRIDGE DIFFERENCES. Do your best to speak truthfully and candidly to people who don’t agree with you about what is happening, whether they like Trump or not. Speak truthfully, and invite them to do the same. Don’t argue, much less fight, with those who disagree. But hold your own perspective — and never, ever, make peace with your own oppression — or that of others.

(9) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Don’t disregard your own needs for fun and fellowship, or for spiritual renewal, in order to keep on keeping on. Take some time everyday simply to relax. You don’t need to apologize for taking some time away. Get restored whenever you need to. Don’t run yourself into the ground. You’re too important! We need you — and you need yourself.

(10) TAKE HEART. Consider the truth and wisdom in the poetry of Renny Golden, who wrote that “struggle is a name for hope” and take heart! We are in this struggle together. You are not alone.” – Carter Heyward
 
In addition, here are some resources that are working to help those in detention, who can always use some help:

Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border

Lawyers, translators, donations, protest.

Members of a caravan of migrants from Central America wait to enter the United States border and customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico April 29, 2018.Members of a caravan of migrants from Central America wait to enter the United States border and customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 29.

This list is being updated with new information. Last updated Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.

If you’re horrified by news of families being separated at the borders, here’s a bit of news you can use.

First, the policy: It helps to be incredibly clear on what the law is, and what has and has not changed. When Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders say that the policy of separating children from their parents upon entry is a law passed by Democrats that Democrats will not fix, they are lying.

There are two different policies in play, and both are new.

First is the new policy that any migrant family entering the U.S. without a border inspection will be prosecuted for this minor misdemeanor. The parents get incarcerated and that leaves children to be warehoused. The parents then typically plead guilty to the misdemeanor and are given a sentence of the few days they served waiting for trial. But then when the parents try to reunite with their children, they are given the runaround—and possibly even deported, alone. The children are left in HHS custody, often without family.

Second is a new and apparently unwritten policy that even when the family presents themselves at a border-entry location, seeking asylum—that is, even when the family is complying in all respects with immigration law—the government is snatching the children away from their parents. Here, the government’s excuse seems to be that they want to keep the parents in jail-like immigration detention for a long time, while their asylum cases are adjudicated. The long-standing civil rights case known as Flores dictates that they aren’t allowed to keep kids in that kind of detention, so the Trump administration says they have to break up the families. They do not have to break up families — it is the government’s new choice to jail people with credible asylum claims who haven’t violated any laws that is leading to the heartbreaking separations you’ve been reading about.

So that is what is happening. Whether or not that is what the Bible demands is the subject of a different column. Good explainers on what is and is not legal detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers can also be found here and here and here.

Next: Which groups to support.

• The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.

• If you’re an immigration lawyer, the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be sending around a volunteer list for you to help represent the women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation, etc. Please sign up.

Al Otro Lado is a binational organization that works to offer legal services to deportees and migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, including deportee parents whose children remain in the U.S.

CARA—a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—provides legal services at family detention centers.

The Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.

Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers too.

Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests. Donate here.

The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based center providing unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization that provides humanitarian aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the U.S.

RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate here and sign up as a volunteer here.

• The Texas Civil Rights Project is seeking “volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience.”

Together Rising is another Virginia-based organization that’s helping provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children who were separated from their parents and are currently detained in Arizona.

• The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is working to keep families together.

Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.

• Finally, ActBlue has aggregated many of these groups under a single button.

This list isn’t comprehensive, so let us know what else is happening. And please call your elected officials, stay tuned for demonstrations, hug your children, and be grateful if you are not currently dependent on the basic humanity of U.S. policy.

Update, June 17, 2018: Thanks to readers who updated us with more organizations fighting this policy. Other good work is being done by the following:

CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations project offers case assistance to hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country that do direct services for migrant families and children.

American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP), which works to secure legal representation for immigrants.

CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They litigate, advocate, and help with representation of minors needing legal services.

Freedom for Immigrants (Formerly CIVIC), which has been a leading voice opposing immigrant detention.

• The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center represents all of the immigrant kids placed by the government in foster care in Michigan (one of the biggest foster care placement states). About two-thirds are their current clients are separation cases, and they work to find parents and figure out next steps.

• The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.

• The Women’s Refugee Commission has aggregated five actions everyone can take that go beyond donating funds.

• And finally, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)—which organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons—just filed suit challenging the cancellation of the Central American Minors program.

Update, June 18, 2018, 8:19 p.m.: Listed below are more organizations that are helping separated families at the border. Thanks again to readers who sent in information:

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative has a guide to organizations throughout Texas that provide direct legal services to separated children. Also listed within the guide are resources for local advocates, lawyers, and volunteers.

Immigrant Justice Corps is the nation’s only fellowship program dedicated to expanding access to immigration representation. Some IJC fellows work at the border, and others work in New York, providing direct representation in immigration court to parents and children resettled in New York City and surrounding counties.

• The Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border. They have a wish-list of supplies they can use to help migrants and families staying in the communities they serve.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network supports undocumented immigrants detained in Aurora, Colorado.

Several companies also match donations—if your company does this, you need to provide the tax ID of the charity you have given to, which is usually listed on these organizations’ websites.

Update, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.: The National Immigrant Justice Center represents and advocates for detained adults and children facing removal, supports efforts at the border, and represents parents in the interior who have been separated from their families as a result of aggressive enforcement.

 
 
Dahlia Lithwick, Margo Schlanger, The Slate, June 19, 2018 
How you can fight family-separation at the border

Why We Should Be Active In Our Community

You have often heard me preach about our need to go out into the world and try to restore justice. We are commanded by Jesus to correct the wrongs perpetuated against the ‘least of these’. But there are other reasons to get active in our community.

Right now our nation is not only deeply divided, but inundated with nasty rhetoric and a general mood of selfishness and greed. Probably, in no other period of history, have the people of this country-at-large been so alienated from one another and unwilling to work together for the common good. Many are depressed, feeling totally hopeless and helpless to find a way to change their attitudes or the country.

Activism is the answer! Some would say that individuals cannot make a difference; we can only change ourselves. Yet, a change in individual attitudes becomes, in time, a ”global mind change” or a change in the entire world.

Being an activist often is stressful, and is plain hard work; burnout is a real problem. But, in the end, activism makes us feel good; it is exhilarating to gather with like-minded people to work for a common goal. Moving chairs, passing out flyers, and lobbying elected representatives is not so dreary when you do it with other people.

If, people who have never been active before, see you enjoying your activism, they may be encouraged to get out also. Who could resist all those women in pink ‘pussy’ hats at Women’s March; they were making a serious statement, but were having fun doing it. . . and all who went described the march as an experience of a lifetime!

When you get out and work with others in your community, it strengthens the bonds of that community; you have a common purpose and goal. Each person encourages the other to make their own little piece of the world a little better place. People are sharing love and energy.

Today’s events have left a lot of people depressed, fearful of where the country is going. Some would like to dig a hole and come back out in four years. Each new revelation makes them become more depressed and fearful. If they will get out and become active, their lives will have a rewarding purpose; it is really hard to be depressed when you feel you are contributing to our own community.

And, believe it or not, activism can be very effective. Sometimes you feel that you will not make any difference – the issues or problems are insurmountable. But that is not true. Just remember Ohio Senate Bill 5 (Collective Bargaining Limit of 2011); that law that was overturned because thousands and thousands of people in Ohio felt it was unjust and successfully campaigned to have it overturned. Each and every one of those people and their vote at the ballot box made a difference!

True, activism is not all fun and games. Each person must believe in the cause and dedicate themselves to the work that it takes to effect a change. It is hard work, but if the belief is strongly held, it is not a burden to go out and campaign.

And remember, activism does not have to be political; it can be cooking for the homeless, reading to the blind, being a school ‘grandparent’, teaching English as a Second Language. It may be driving senior citizens to the doctor or the grocery store, or just having coffee with someone who is shut-in.

Activism makes a difference in your world and makes a difference in your life. Get out of the house and do whatever you can to make this community and world we live in a better place.

But to do something positive for your community and world, joining with your friends and neighbors can possibly change the world, and surely change you!

Don’t rage -ENGAGE!

 
 
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 20 February 2017

What Now?

The election is over – and there are many people cheering and others who mourn the results and have great fear in their hearts. I am sure that, among the people here at In The Garden, we have people on both sides of that emotional line, and those who don’t think they are affected at all. Politics has a way of emphasizing our differences while ignoring all those things we have in common.

With the election of Donald Trump, and yes, he was elected by the people no matter what anyone says, certain people who have felt unheard, neglected, marginalized and demeaned have seen this as permission to speak and act in ways that are socially unacceptable. But Trump gave his followers permission; he is quoted as saying:

“For the most part you can’t respect people,” he has said, “because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

And this is what that kind of rhetoric has spawned.

African Americans have been approached by people who ask ‘How do you like being a N* again’? Most of us cannot understand that depth of hatred in these people; we had assumed that we had come pass that. Obviously, we have not.

swastikas-in-clintonville
Swastikas have been painted on synagogues and racial slurs like ‘kike’ and ‘Jesus killer’ have been shouted to people coming out of temple. And there is a row of swastikas on the bridge here in Clintonville. . . in our own city!

Latino children in Michigan were attacked by a hooligan gang of white kids, beaten up and told they were not welcome at school or in the country while chanting ‘build the wall’. I have a friend with a six year old boy, who, having heard Trump threaten to deport all Mexicans, asked his father the day after the election if his little Mexican buddy would be at school – children do not understand that campaign promises are not instantly implemented the day after an election.

We have a huge group of this melting pot we call America who now fear for their lives. The Muslim community, who live peacefully and contribute to our nation, are afraid. One of the Muslim students who provides sack lunches for In the Garden was verbally attacked on the bus by two men saying: “I can’t wait until Trump takes office and we can kill ‘all of them.” His friend said, “I can’t wait until we can take that scarf around her neck and strangle her.”

God is NOT a supporter of hatred, bigotry, sexism, homophobia. We must remember, that these people are also God’s children. We must respect their right to express themselves, whether they act in a civil or uncivil manner. It is possible to respect the dignity of every human being while refusing to participate in our own oppression.

We, as marginalized people, and I count myself among them, must rise above the gutter and show that we will not allow ourselves to be further pushed down by society. As Michelle Obama said: ‘If they take the low road, we must take the high road’. Remember, no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. We need to stiffen our backbone and stand tall and not let ourselves buy into their definition of who and what we are

As scripture says:

I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39)

It is not going to be easy, but for most of us, life has never been easy. We must continue to persevere, wrapped in the knowledge that we are all children of God, beloved children of God. Jesus told us

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, (Matthew 5:11-12)

We can only pray that things will get better soon; that calmer and more civil heads will prevail. . . that Americans will return to the concept of being one united country. But until it does, we need to remember that we are not put on this earth to sow seeds of dissent, but to love one another and live our lives according to the teachings and example of Jesus. We are to

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

But we cannot sit passively by as injustice reigns. We can and must fight against the rhetoric and acts of injustice in peaceful ways. We need to be vigilant and stand firm and speak out against acts of verbal and physical violence. Find a group that you can join, and work to make America the inclusive melting pot we are supposed to be!

Let us pray:

Gracious Creator, we are hurting. I ask that you help us overcome the evil that enslaves us. The evil the promotes hate of all forms. Help us to see Christ in all people and accept Love over hate. Amen.
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 13 November 2016

It is over. . . But it has just begun

The campaigning and election is finally over – and there are people rejoicing and people fearing for their lives as they know them. Every election always has a winner and a loser, people who are happy and those who are depressed. But this election has splintered the fabric of America, torn it asunder in a way that no foreign enemy has ever been able to do.

The President-Elect, if he follows through with the campaign rhetoric, will further divide the country into those who have, those who want what others have, and those who could lose everything. In his acceptance speech, he said he wanted to unite us and ‘Make America Great Again’. Only time will tell whether he really intends to unite or further divide.

But one thing is sure: there were a lot of people out there hurting economically and socially and they have spoken. Now we all must deal with this. We could riot (as was suggested by some factions of the reigning party), we can cry and moan, or we can do something; something that will further the values that were established when the country was founded – an inclusive, accepting country that welcomes all, nourishes them and gives them an opportunity for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.

This election must cause us to look at these problems as “our” problems, not the “government’s” problems or “someone else’s” problems. We can no longer passively sit on our hands, read about the problems, become somewhat concerned, and then NOT DO anything about them. If we do not act, what we are part of the problem; we must be part of the solution.

We need to love more –  more radically, more intensely – and especially love everyone we currently view as our enemy. We must pray for radical changes of heart, in their hearts and in our hearts. We must be that light that darkness cannot overcome.

No matter the results of the election, remember, regardless of who wins,

there will still be poverty to meet with generosity.

there will still be hunger to meet with food.

there will still be violence to meet with peace.

there will still be hatred to meet with love.

there will still be sorrow to meet with empathy….

there will still be pain to meet with compassion.

there will still be fear to meet with understanding.

there will still be frustration to meet with patience.

there will still be hurt to meet with forgiveness.

there will still be sin to meet with reconciliation.

there will still be joy to meet with celebration.

there will still be Good News to meet with a willingness to share.

there will still be signs of God’s presence to meet with open hearts.

there will still be a world to meet with the light of Christ shining from within.

there will still be God’s Mission to meet with the grace to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus.

“Regardless of who wins, we still need a plan to be the light of Jesus. We need a plan to

love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).

We need a plan to offer hope to the hurting and peace to the suffering.”[1]

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
 
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 10 November 2016

[1]      Relevant Magazine