The current administration has worked to systematically limit access to asylum at the border. When
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) implemented metering in May 2018 at the ports of entry in
Nogales, migrants were abruptly faced with weeks and later months-long waits before being able to
formally begin their asylum process in the U.S. This dynamic was exacerbated with the subsequent
implementation of Migration Protection Protocol (MPP), otherwise known as “Remain in Mexico,” forcing
asylum seekers to wait months or years in Mexico for their U.S. asylum hearings. These policies have
obligated many of the migrants passing through Nogales to live in unsustainable uncertainty. Now the
Administration has used the global pandemic as a pretext to fully suspend asylum processing, denying
migrants fleeing persecution their right to refuge and due process in the United States.
Dozens of asylum seekers currently in Nogales, Sonora have been waiting since December to begin the
process of seeking protection in the US. The hundreds of asylum seekers returned to Nogales under
MPP have had their very first court dates rescheduled from March or April 2020 to October 2020, with no
guarantee that court will even be open by that date. Yet CBP continues to place newly arriving Cubans
and Venezuelans into MPP and returning them to prolonged limbo in Nogales, Sonora, even as they
subject asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to expulsions with no consideration
of their claims for protection.
Beyond metering, MPP, and the state of asylum during the pandemic, on June 15th the administration-
controlled Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule that would permanently dismantle the entire
asylum process with irreparable consequences extending far beyond the context of the pandemic. The
proposed rule appears to have been crafted to create insurmountable procedural obstacles, establish
high burdens of proof, and narrow the grounds for qualification for asylum. Under this new proposed rule,
the majority of migrants stranded in Nogales, Sonora would not meet the basic standards for asylum
qualification, and therefore, would never be heard in front of an immigration judge. The rule would
completely decimate a process meant to protect asylum seekers from improperly being returned to harm.
We believe that the United States government has the responsibility to fulfil the guarantees that it made to
refugees and that is why we are joining forces with other organizations, local leaders, communities of
faith, and asylum seekers in acting to save asylum.
'LAST YEAR I WAS IN TUCSON, ARIZONA WORKING AT SHELTERS AND VOLUNTEERING WITH SEVERAL HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS-THE PHOTO IS ME PROMOTING MY BOOK, CHOICES: DEATH, LIFE AND MIGRATION AT AN IMMIGRATION ISSUES FAIR IN SAHUARITA, ARIZONA. (Still available through Amazon or contact me)
NOW - I AM AT HOME LIKE MANY OTHERS DUE TO COVID 19. QUESTION: HOW CAN ONE ADVOCATE FROM HOME?
It's definitely lonelier and harder to tell if my actions are making a difference. I miss the energy of the community of activists when we gathered for the monthly vigil outside the Portland, Oregon ICE office. The last vigil was February 27, a clear, cold day with just a handful of witnesses outside ICE.
Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (Imirj); American Friends Service Committee Project Voice Oregon, the Innovation Law Lab among others organized a campaign to convince the Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walter to make permanent the ruling from last November prohibiting ICE from making arrests in county courthouses. The petitions and letters went to the Oregon Trial Rules Committee. Decision pending
OREGON WORKERS RELIEF FUND: Other advocacy this past month was to convince Oregon State legislators (not in session) to vote funding from the state's Emergency Board to assist Oregon workers who do not qualify for the federal governments COVID relief checks. The Oregon Emergency Board allocated $10 million to this special fund. Yeah! Kudos to my two State representatives: Rob Nosse and State Senator Kathleen Taylor. The process by which these funds will become available is in process. The funds will be distribute to local culturally appropriate organizations working with farm workers, day laborers and others who pay taxes but cannot/do not receive the federal checks.
As a volunteer with the AFSC Project Voice Oregon we made the difficult decision to cancel our annual concert friend/fundraiser this past weekend. Pedro Sosa is working with several Latinx community organizations to provide masks, food and COVID 19 health information in Spanish, Quiche and Mam languages. In addition, he has done programs about health care access on local Spanish speaking stations.
As for the accompaniment work that I have done for the past four years, no hay mas! It's not happening due to social distancing. Some ICE court hearings continue but ICE itself is not doing face to face check-ins. The situation in detention centers is very bad and there are several campaigns to pressure DHS to close and to free detainees using ankle bracelets to track persons. www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/may/8/first-positive-covid-result-at-northwest-immigrati/ for story about Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington
Like others who don't really need the federal government's COVID checks, I decided to donate my $1200 to various immigrant justice organizations as well as a personal friend who is not eligible. Here are some organizations to consider for a donation:
Florence Immigrant and Refugee Project (ARizona)
Kino Border Initiative (Arizona/Mexico)
American Friends Service Committee - COVID 19 Appeal
AFSC Project Voice Oregon
Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice - a portion of the funds go to Oregon Worker Relief Fund
On a personal note I am studying French long distance via Zoom with my sister Connie and our French teacher who lives in Normandy - staying at home as well. I spent three months last fall in France and was able to learn about French organization work with refugees from Africa and the Middle East. I currently serve on the International Program Executive Committee with AFSC and have been working on a strategic plan on displacement and migration. Yes, still busy but working and living at a distance. A virtual hug to all of you staying in place but acting for justice where you are!
THE LIFE OF A SUMMER IMMIGRANT ACTIVIST!
It's been two months since my last Blog post. These two months have been full of Trump- tweets and bad decisions. It's hard not to react each time a new action against immigrants and refugees is announced. First, it is cutting off development aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Then, the U.S. government announced that it's sending security aid to Guatemala to train the police and military to intercept immigrants traveling through Guatemala on their way north. Human rights violations occur daily in the three Northern Triangle countries although rarely does this news make it North. It is hard not to despair if you, like me, care about the people in these countries and elsewhere in the world who have been told by #45 that you are not welcome in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Taking Action: Two weeks ago over a thousand Portlanders gathered in a Plaza across from the Federal building as part of the national Lights for Liberty events. Two mothers who work in health care locally, organized this rally, vigil and march. There were no celebrities, just people concerned, angry and indignant about the state of our country and its horrific treatment of immigrants.
My local organization, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, was there along with many other groups and organizations. We held our battery operated candles high as we marched across a bridge with a full moon adding light to our lights. In the photo below, I am the one with white hair holding a candle.
Keeping up the struggle - finding hope in community. Last week I went to a forum on the current status of the border. The Numbers are mind-boggling. 9,000 people seeking asylum have been sent back to Mexico from San Diego and overall, 15,000 have been turned back to wait for their number to appear to have a chance to apply for asylum. Volunteers are needed to help pro bono attorneys prepare background for the asylum appeal - Spanish is necessary. Check Innovation Law Lab for details. innovationlawlab.org/about/
HOST FAMILIES FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS NEEDED: At the Lights for Liberty event a local pastor approached me about the need for a host family for asylum seeker in a Tucson shelter, the Monastery. As the weeks passed, emails were exchanged, calls were made and we are still trying. Finding the right host family for women and children who only speak Spanish as well as the financial and emotional support needed for this family or any other seeking asylum is not easy.
It's similar to refugee resettlement, but no federal dollars are there to assist asylum seekers so faith based groups and individuals of conscience are where we turn. We, meaning out network in Oregon, has supported an asylum seeker and her child this past year. We have learned a lot. What I know is that it takes a community to support the host family and the person/families seeking asylum. An overground Railroad is needed to get people from the border to safe places and families to take them in. Sometimes, their relatives are the ones but with the numbers seeking asylum it is challenging.
I don't know what will happen to the family in Tucson, but I pray that she and her children will be safe and that a way will be found. The good people in Tucson who care for the newly arrived, do an incredible job and we need to support them there and to help them send families on their way.
Steve Manning, founder of Innovation Law Lab, reminded us at the Border Update forum, that each of us can act. Don't wait around for someone else to act, when you see or hear of a need, ACT!
It's summer and the living is good for some of us, but not all of us. Listen to your heart and lift your voice when and where you can.
CHOICES: DEATH, LIFE AND MIGRATION was published in December, 2018. I wrote the book to share stories about my Guatemala experiences to provide some context for what is happening at the USA/MEXICO border. The second section of the book are stories of people in shelters and detention centers.
Since January, 2019 I have made 14 presentations - reading from the book and providing border updates from my five weeks in Tucson, Arizona this past winter and the AFSC Love Knows No Border witness at the San Diego/Tijuana border in December.
I have distributed $1,000 to four immigrant rights organizations: Tucson Samaritans, American Friends Service Committee Project Voice-Oregon, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice in Oregon and the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC).
I am calling out to all of you who read my blog and who care about people fleeing violence in Central America
I am working on an article that will highlight non-profits or NGO's, Non-Governmental Organizations that are making a difference in peoples' lives in Guatemala.
TAKE ACTION: A coalition of organizations in a campaign to Defund Hate are urging us to contact our representatives asking them to refuse to fund immigrant detention and stopping ICE from taking money from other agencies. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining over 50,000 people for the first time in its history as the administration moves money from other accounts to build or rent more jails across the country.
Please join me in urging Congress to limit ICE's unchecked ability to lock up more and more immigrants in deadly and abusive detention centers. Our dollars should be spent on things that keep our communities safe, like education, healthcare and jobs, not on things that tear them apart. www.afsc.org/action/tell-congress-stop-funding-ice%E2%80%99s-abuses?emci=62819f55-a883-e911-abc4-281878391efb&emdi=a709825e-d683-e911-abc4-281878391efb&ceid=729598&ms=2019AA0531
BIO PROMO FOR DISTRIBUTION:
Pat Rumer, author of Choices: Death, Life and Migration, is a social justice activist with fifty years’ experience focused on Guatemala and immigration issues in the United States. Her book shares intimate stories of the people and places that have affected her justice journey. One reader has said, “She lifts up the voices of people she has encountered along her way.”
Pat is available to speak to book groups and organizations interested in Central America, the current migration situation along the southern border of the United States, and the actions each of us can take to advocate for a more humane immigration policy.
Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her book can be purchased at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Rumer/e/B001KDJ2EG. And now on Kindle as well. Locally, it is available at the Beacon Bookstore, First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. The book is priced at $16, with all royalties going to local immigrant rights’ organizations in the Northwest.
Thanks for your support of immigrant rights groups working for justice!
LAST THURSDAY THE INTERFAITH MOVEMENT FOR IMMIGRANT JUSTICE HOSTED A PASSOVER SEDER OUTSIDE THE IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT OFFICE IN PORTLAND, OREGON. IMIRJ ORGANIZES A MONTHLY VIGIL ON THE LAST THURSDAY FROM 10-11AM.
THE ICE BUILDING IS AN ORDINARY OFFICE BUILDING EXCEPT FOR THE SECURITY FENCE THAT ALLOWS ONLY ICE VEHICLE IN AND AS YOU APPROACH THE FRONT DOOR THERE ARE SECURITY GUARDS INSIDE. IT'S IN A UPSCALE NEIGHBORHOOD IN SW PORTLAND NEAR THE WILLAMETTE RIVER AND HIGH RISE APARTMENTS/CONDOS.
WE GATHER AT A RAILROAD STOP - A COVERED AREA - ON A PATHWAY FOR BIKES AND PEDESTRIANS WHO WEAVE THEIR WAY AROUND US ON THIS DAY. THIS SEDER WAS ORGANIZED BY HAVURAH SHALOM, P'NAI OR AND SHIR TIKVAH COMMUNITIES. IT WAS A SEDER OF FREEDOM AND LIBERATION REMEMBERING WHEN JEWS WERE STRANGERS IN EGYPT.
WE SANG: "GO DOWN, MOSES" WITH THE REFRAIN, WHEN ISRAEL WAS IN EGYPT'S LAND, LET MY PEOPLE GO. ....GO DOWN, MOSES 'WAY DOWN IN EGYPT LAND,. TELL OL' PHAROAH: LET MY PEOPLE GO..
AT THE END OF THE SEDER SERVICE WE WALKED AND STOOD OUTSIDE THE DOORS OF ICE WHERE WE CHANTED "NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM" OUR PEOPLES' MILLENNIA- OLD HOPE FOR REDEMPTON. TODAY OUR YEARNING TAKES THE FORM OF HOPE AND ACTION FOR A MORE JUST WORLD. ASKING FOR A SAFE HARBOR FOR REFUGEES AND SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND THE PROMISE OF DIGNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL.
AS WE FACED THE ICE BUILDING, TOGETHER WE SAID: NEXT YEAR IN A JUST WORLD. THROUGH OUR ACTIONS FROM THIS PASSOVER TO THE NEXT, LET US MAKE THIS DREAM A REALITY.
UPCOMING SPEAKING EVENTS WITH PAT RUMER ON BORDER UPDATE AND READING FROM HER BOOK.