IS A POLITICAL DECISION POSSIBLE ON IMMIGRATION REFORM?
Last Tuesday (10/20/15) I watched a fascinating documentary about the attempt to develop a legislative strategy in the U.S. Congress. Summary: "More than 2 million undocumented immigrants have been deported since President Barack Obama took office, a number that lawmakers on both side of the aisle agree points to a broken immigration system. A wide range of solutions has been proposed, everything from increasing deportations and strengthening the border, to expanding protections for millions in the country illegally. For now, the push for comprehensive reform is stalled in Congress. But when the debate resurfaces, here are several figures that could be key to the debate." ** Excerpt from Program Introduction.
The program is excruciating to watch - especially for those us working for immigration justice. Rep. Luis Gutierrez spent several years behind the scenes and then, more openly working with Republican counterparts to find a way to jointly introduce legislation to legalize people's status. Ironically, it was the defeat of a Republican Congressman in a special election due to "his stand on immigration reform" PLUS the increase in unaccompanied minors from Central America that caused the collapse of negotiations in June, 2014.
Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best." Quote from Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck. This documentary is an excellent reminder of the importance of compromise. I think the challenge is to find some specific action that Democrats and Republicans can agree on and build the compromise from there. For example, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley suggested in the first Democratic debate to provide health care to all undocumented children. Is that a starting place? California does provide health care to all children - we can learn from them.
What do you think? Where would you begin? It is young Dreamers who have pushed the issue with the President - another excellent documentary last night (10/25/15) on PBS - http://www.papersthemovie.com/about_papers/. Watch it - for Oregon viewers there is a young woman from Beaverton, Oregon who is featured plus Rabbi Isaak and Donna Maxey, a high school teacher. It is inspiring!
Last week at a Social Justice class at the University of Portland, a local Roman Catholic college, a student asked me, "How do you deal with your anger over injustice?" I thought for a moment and said that I try to channel my anger into action - to take my passion and put it into making change.
It is Sunday morning and I am reading the Sunday New York Times. The lead article in The Week in Review is by Sonia Nazario focuses on how the United States is paying Mexico to stop the movement of Central American children and their families at the Mexican southern border with Guatemala. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/opinion/sunday/the-refugees-at-our-door.html?ref=americas&_r=0
It is an incredible story - painful to read and to realize that once again my government is denying people with legitimate claims to asylum the opportunity to be heard and to enter the United States where their legal claims can be made. I stand up, go over to the kitchen sink and yell at the top of my lungs, IT IS NOT FAIR, IT IS WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!
So you told this student last week to "channel anger into action." What is the action that you can take? Suddenly the words of Oliver Mtukudzi's song WHAT SHALL WE DO echo in my mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfdI-Nw0kkM. This famous Zimbabwean singer wrote this song about African people dying of AIDS - it is a haunting tune that keeps asking, What shall we do?
I don't know what you will do to take action and to change the illegal, immoral actions towards refugees fleeing violence. My friend Rev. Randy Mayer wrote a powerful editorial to members of the U.S. Congress about Operation Streamline. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/256415-stop-operation-streamline.
TAKE ACTION - DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR ANGER!
Today I am writing this blog to urge every person who reads my blog to take action - write an op ed piece, email or call your member of Congress to vote against Operation Streamline funding, volunteer with local immigrant justice groups. As of November 1 I will be back in Tucson, Arizona working with the various humanitarian aid groups to provide support for people caught up in the broken immigration system and writing about it. Anger can be good - especially righteous anger that lifts us out of our every day routine and gets us motivated to change unjust systems. Go for it - take action and take heart from Oliver's Song - What can we do?
"DEPORTATION DELIRIUM" A WORD TO DESCRIBE OUR CURRENT IMMIGRATION SYSTEM, byroN José sun at Los Porteños event
Los Porteños is a Portland-based group of Latino/a writers and other community members dedicated to raising our voices and to raising awareness of our diverse languages, canons, stories and cultures. October 3, 2015 we read various stories and poems to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.
I am reading from my writing piece, Bienvenida- Welcome to America, stories of Central American women that I met this winter 2015 working in a shelter for women and children who were seeking refuge in the United States and were on their way to join their families. /uploads/4/3/8/5/43853987/losportenosmigrantstoriesv9edit100315.docx. ByroN Jose sun told his story of being part of the Guatemalan diaspora in the United States and used the words, "deportation delirium" to describe his own family's deportation and what is happening now in the United States.
MIGRATION IS IN THE NEWS!
There is an excellent series on NPR this week called the "Migration Maze," I heard it Monday morning on The Takeaway - here is the link http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/obama-aims-stop-undocumented-immigration-source/ It is an excellent series that traces the people who are deported from the USA back to their countries of origin. Very worth listening to and thinking about!
Tom Jjelten, a NPR correspondent has a new book out about the new immigrants:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/books/review/a-nation-of-nations-by-tom-gjelten.html. He was interviewed this weekend on NPR about the book with an interview excerpt with the first Asian-American elected to the Virginia legislature.
And finally, for those who like their news with a sense of humor, watch John Oliver on the Migration Crisis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umqvYhb3wf4
Please send me your thoughts, ideas, interesting books, articles or action items on how to change our broken immigration system. I return to Tucson, Arizona in early November for another period of volunteer activities to work directly with newly arriving migrants.
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?