-JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS IS A PULITZER PRIZE JOURNALIST, IMMIGRATION RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND FILMMAKER - he is also undocumented! He spoke at the annual Earl Lectures sponsored by the ecumenical Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. The theme of the weekend was Border and Identity.
We are Here because you were there refers not only to the U.S. role in his land of origin, the Philippines, but could describe Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador or Iraq or Afghanistan - the list is long. Many people become refugees or immigrants fleeing their country because of the United States political and economic involvement in their countries. He asked the question: "What role does U.S. policy play politically or economically as to why people move?"
He urged us to follow Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, Do good and tell the terrible truth. Or become necessary troublemakers. Jose Antonio Vargas organization, define american, was begun to change the way we talk about immigration and immigrants - to use stories to shift the conversation. defineamerican.com/ The website has a great one pager - #FactsMatter: Immigration Explained - One fact: "Immigrants commit less crime than the native-born population." Check it out - the source is the U.S. Census and American Community Survey.
Locally in Portland, Oregon the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice sponsored a half day workshop on nonviolent strategies for social change. We role played being in a protest - first, I was a Trump supporter yelling at an anti-Trump supporter or immigrant rights activist; then I switched with my partner and was trying to educate the Trump supporter about immigrant rights. Always talking in a nonviolent manner.
Then we practiced how to be peace keepers at a rally or march. Nonviolent strategies were at the center of the civil rights movement. Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech delivered at Riverside Church in New York City in which he made the connections between the injustices of racism and capitalism,with his critique of militarism and the Vietnam war. Today many activists are making the connections - racism, anti-immigrant actions and the war on poor people with the proposed budget of the Trump administration that would cut Meals on Wheels as well as preschool programs, let alone environmental protections.
ACTIONS: Each of us need to call our elected representatives in the coming weeks to urge them not to fund the Wall, detention centers and detention force. Instead, we want to say loud and clear - "Our tax dollars should be spent alleviating poverty and investing in our future - not rounding up our community members. My community welcomes refugees and immigrants."
Call 866-961-4293* call this number three times to be connected to your two US Senators and Congressperson. (Sponsored by Interfaith Immigration Coalition)
For information on local May Day rallies, marches and protests, go to reformimmigrationforamerica.org/rise-up/ Get involved, make your voice heard, speak out and show up for our immigrant brothers and sisters! Be an angelic troublemaker!
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?