Responding to the Crisis of Immigration & Family Separation

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We held our first Samaritan Response Team meeting this last weekend on Saturday night and Sunday morning in order to try to creatively focus on what is happening at the border. Ryan led us through several exercises in which we researched the issues and the many people and organizations who are responding, brainstormed different ways to join in and make an impact, and articulate tangible practices to start right away.

One of the themes we all latched onto was wanting to be part of changing the narrative from a fabric of fear and violence to a fabric of care and welcome. We realized that we want to start working now to make it very easy to say “YES” to whatever is asked of us in the future. For example, we talked about the huge impact we could make in the future if—as a whole community—we learned Spanish and became certified foster parents.

One immediate action we’ve taken is a t-shirt campaign to raise funds to aid those detained. The campaign is called ‘Love > Lines’ and you can buy the shirts here. The shirts are $30 and the campaign will run through July 17th, so if you’re interested we encourage you to act soon and share it out on your social networks.

We will be meeting again this Friday and continuing this conversation and planning - join us!!

Dave has summarized a lot of the information we covered during our time:

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History & Context

Though we gathered to talk specifically about the crisis of family separation on the border, we quickly dove into some of the historical context around immigration. The US has a long and often tragic history around immigration, borders, detention, and the movement (forced or voluntary) of people. The current crisis is not a unique event but rather another instance of our historied difficulty in navigating a much longer crisis of the politics and economics of immigration and borders.

Current Realities & Changing Policies

In the last weeks, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents at the border. While the official policy is that only families who were found crossing between ports of entry would be detained and separated, there have been reports that families following the procedural steps for requesting asylum (turning oneself in at a port of entry, passing a credible threat test, etc.) have also experienced separation.

Family separation happened because of the so called “zero tolerance policy” enacted by the Trump Administration which heightened the ramification of crossing the border without documentation (while technically a misdemeanor, the zero tolerance policy has lumped it in with more serious felony charges). Because children can not be held in federal jails, they are separated from their parents and shuffled between federal agencies (ICE, Refugee Resettlement, Health and Human Services. 

While the most recent executive order signed by President Trump stops the separation of families at the border and a court order required these families to be reunited within 30 days, there remains a crisis of immigration, the question of how we got to the point where we were separating children from their parents, and what we can do about it.

Local Impact

 This issue hits particularly close to home for those of us in the East Bay. A plan to relocate and detain upwards of 47,000 immigrants at the Concord Naval Weapons Station has been circulating. In Pleasant Hill, a local shelter houses unaccompanied minors, including two young girls who were separated from their families because of the recent policy changes.

Even if this current crisis of separated families is resolved, it is clear there is much work to be done in order to care well for the dignity, health, and wholeness of individuals and families who have immigrated to the United States. 

If you’re wanting to jump in right now and join some organizations that are making a huge impact, we’ve added a list below!

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity - Nueva Esparanza (http://www.im4humanintegrity.org/new/northern-california/)

Working locally in the Bay Area, the Nueva Esparanza program forms accompaniment teams to walk alongside recently immigrated individuals and families as they adjust to and navigate life locally in the East Bay. 

Monument Impact (http://monumentimpact.org/en/home/)

Monument Impact provides all kinds of services - including job resources, language and computer classes, community engagement, etc. - for the low-income immigrant community in the Concord area of the East Bay. Their Day Labor Program provides clear and respectful ways for many immigrants to find work at fair prices by working with contractors and individuals who need skilled labor for a variety of jobs.

Change.org (https://www.change.org/p/president-trump-children-don-t-belong-in-cages)

To sign a petition focused on ending long-term, indefinite detention of immigrant children:

The Youth Center (https://www.theyoungcenter.org/)

The Young Center is a champion for the rights and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children, making sure that wherever they land, whether here in the U.S. or in their home country, they are safe. To learn more or donate:

RAICES (https://www.raicestexas.org/about)

Raices is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas. They need donations, volunteers for events and immigration accompaniment volunteers:  

Safe Passage Project (https://www.safepassageproject.org/)

Safe Passage Project was created to address the unmet legal needs of indigent immigrant youth living in New York by providing these indigent youth with basic advice and assistance. We work with volunteer attorneys to provide representation for unaccompanied minors in immigration court. Safe Passage provides training, resources, and mentoring to volunteer attorneys regarding Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status as well as other possible immigration alternatives for children. 

KIND: Kids In Need of Defense (https://supportkind.org/)

KIND’s vision is to create a world in which children’s rights and well-being are protected as they migrate alone in search of safety. They work to achieve this vision by ensuring that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation; advancing laws, policies, and practices that ensure children’s protection and uphold their right to due process and fundamental fairness; and promoting in countries of origin, transit, and destination durable solutions to child migration that are grounded in the best interests of the child and ensure that no child is forced to involuntarily migrate.