MOTHER'S DAY VIGIL AT DETENTION CENTER FOR THE EIGHTH YEAR!
Every Saturday before Mother's Day Metro Portland area people drive three hours north to vigil outside the GEO, private detention center facility in an industrial part of Tacoma, WA. The vigil is jointly sponsored by Washington and Oregon faith communities, immigrant organizations and New Sanctuary congregations.
For the past two years my daughter Deborah and I have done this trip together in order to stand with and support the women and their families as they visit their husbands. We cannot go into the facility but we bring flowers, food and music for the visiting families. Mothers and their kids line up to visit husbands and fathers and uncles and cousins who have been detained by ICE.
We stand outside the fence surrounding the facility and post signs such as No Mas Separadas Familias/ No More Separated Families. There are sad faces on many of the visitors - what do they think of us as we sing, chant, and then finally put flowers on the fence to remind those inside that they are not forgotten. Each family has a story of loss. Recently, a Guatemalan family who I supported in Tucson, Arizona last fall wrote the following note to supporters about her husband's detention.
_"I lost 2 sons in Guatemala. They were killed. One was 18 years old and the other was only 16 years old. Its very hard for me every time I remember. It hurts me greatly. This is the reason why we left Guatemala. I migrated with my entire family, 5 kids and grandkids, because we no longer had life there. Here in the United States we asked to be given an opportunity, so my children could live and so their lives wouldn’t be taken like those of their brothers who are no longer with me. I ask you please to help me because my husband has been detained in immigration detention for 8 months now in Florence, Arizona. I want to ask you from the bottom of my heart for your help in reuniting my family with my husband because family separation is something very ugly and disturbing for our children."
Her story is similar to so many families who are trying to reunite across borders that have divided them. Get involved where ever you live - Visit detention centers, write to detainees, find a local immigrant rights group to volunteer.
Stay alert as ICE has just announced that they will begin to pick up families and children who arrived during the summer of 2014 and who have "overstayed their welcome." http://news.trust.org/item/20160512175550-7ykq5
In Portland, Oregon the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice is a part of the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition that maintains a 24 hour/ seven days a week emergency hotline for any family to contact if they fear that ICE will pick them up. The number is: 1-888-622-1510 - call if you hear reports of ICE sweeps of immigrants in your neighborhood.
Alfredo Lopez, a Honduran Garifuna community leader in Portland, Oregon
Alfredo is a leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, and an activist for indigenous rights for the Garífuna people, and works to end community displacement caused by internationally financed development projects. He is in Portland with Witness for Peace, and in the US as part of the Caravan for Peace, Life, and Justice which has traveled through Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and El Salvador advocating for an end to the drug wars. www.globalexchange.org.
Alfredo spoke eloquently about the Tela Bay "mega tourist project" in his home community funded by the World Bank. "It is our beach and our livelihood - we don't want the kind of big tourist hotel development that our government and the World Bank are bringing to us. Our community will be destroyed - our way of life, our culture, our language, our spirituality. To be garifuna is to fish and to swim and to live by the sea."
For more information about this project, check out-http://www.tourism-watch.de/en/content/resistance-tela-bay-honduras and http://www.upstreamjournal.org/2009/11/oppression-or-opportunity-tourism-project-in-honduras-sparks-conflict/
Alfredo urged us to talk with our Members of Congress about how the Alliance for Prosperity aid is being used in Honduras as well as Guatemala and El Salvador. This is the aid package that the US Congress approved in December, 2015 - for further information, go to www.wola.org and www.ghrc-usa.org.
The aid is not going to local communities but to large multinationals. His words struck a chord with me as this is the same message that I heard in Guatemala in February, 2016. The grassroots groups are not receiving the funds but only large multinationals and in some cases, even the drug traffickers turned businessmen themselves, according to Alfredo.
ACTIONS: Follow WOLA's Central America Aid Monitor, http://www.wola.org/news/wola_launches_central_america_aid_monitor. Educate yourself about how the aid rewards large extractive industries seeking to destroy the environment through mining as well as mega tourism projects such as Tela Bay. Insist that international law be respected - the right of indigenous communities to be consulted on any project - both Honduras and Guatemala are signators to the UN law.
Always, ask the question: Why are people migrating? What are the causes? People are fleeing Honduras and Guatemala due to violence, poverty and corruption. We can insist that the U.S. government monitor the funds and publish transparent records of who gets these monies and how effective is their use - does it benefit the people?
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?