What’s Happening At The Border

One of the biggest news stories in the United States over the past few weeks has been immigration and the situation at the border. Thousands of children are currently living in cages, separated from their families and are often not allowed to hug the other kids around them. Countless people have made the difficult and sometimes fatal trip to the United States and over the border. For decades, deportations and changing borders have separated families.

For me, it can be overwhelming to first understand and keep up with everything, especially knowing the context of US immigration and border policies. Then, it can be overwhelming to know how to best move forward and call for a more just and humane society.

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Learning From History.

Over the past few weeks, people have been comparing current events and politics to ones from history. The collection of rosaries from immigrants crossing the US/Mexico border has reminded people of the collection of wedding rings from Jewish folks in concentration camps. People have reminded folks that both the Holocaust and slavery were legal and that legality isn’t always equal to morality, as bad policies have been in place for quite some time.

In the first episode of the NPR/WABE podcast ‘Buried Truths’, host Hank Klibanoff talks about the importance of the show by saying that “… when we understand who we were, we can better understand who we are.” Learning about history and who we were can bring new meaning and context to current issues. And by looking at history and the full context, we can also better understand how these issues work, the ways in which we can combat injustice and inequality, and find role models.

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Faith.

I spent a good chunk of my college career working on different interfaith committees – primarily focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces and the sanctuary movement. As someone who had very little experience with different faith backgrounds and had until then really rejected religion and faith, my experiences then truly opened me up to the idea that God is love and that faith communities should be the cornerstone of community and support.

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Mother’s Day.

Today is Mother’s Day, a day in which many in the US spend time, celebrate, or remember their mothers. For some, this is a happy day spent with family and gifts for mom. There are so many moms who work so hard to provide for their children and so many ways in which we as a society treat them poorly. We make it so hard for mothers to really support their children, like the widespread lies about black single mothers and that maternity leave in the US is almost a joke because of how bad it is.

For others though, today can be difficult for many reasons. Some have lost their mothers because of illness, state violence, or something else. Others have lost their children for the same reasons. There are families separated because of deportation or the prison industrial complex.

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US Imperialism and Immigration from Central and South America.

Immigration has been a hot topic over the last couple years within the US, with the Obama Administration deporting the most amount of undocumented immigrants in history, Trump consistently making ignorant remarks about immigration on his campaign trail, to Pope Francis’ immigration remarks last week in Philadelphia.

But the thing that never seems to be discussed in mainstream media about immigration and unauthorized migrants is the role that the US and our imperialist history play.  Roque Planas wrote about several different ways in which US imperialism has caused Latinx Immigration to the US to increase, talking about the numerous times the US has colonized, invaded, occupied, and overthrown governments in Central and South America. (Like how the US took over half of Mexico in 1848 after the Mexican-American War and the border literally crossed over numerous people of Mexican origin.) As Planas wrote:

…the truth is that the US government has historically made life in Latin America harder by overthrowing democratically elected governments, financing atrocities, and pushing trade policies that undermine Latin American industries, dealing blows to local economies.

Plus, the application of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early 1990s helped to devastate local economies in Central and South American countries. With NAFTA, markets in Mexico were flooded with cheap meat, vegetables, and other imports from the US, which caused many small farms in Mexico to go out of business and many farm workers to leave the countryside for big cities or even the US. David Bacon wrote about how US policies (like NAFTA) helped fuel migration from Mexico to the US and wrote in particular that:

NAFTA lifted the barriers on Smithfield’s [a US pork slaughterhouse] ability to import feed. This gave it an enormous advantage over Mexican producers, as US corn, heavily subsidized by US farm bills, was much cheaper. “After NAFTA,” says Timothy Wise, of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, US corn “was priced 19 percent below the cost of production.”

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Mexico imported 30,000 tons of pork in 1995, the year after NAFTA took effect. By 2010 pork imports, almost all from the United States, had grown more than twenty-five times, to 811,000 tons. As a result, pork prices received by Mexican producers dropped 56 percent. US pork exports are dominated by the largest companies. Wise estimates that Smithfield’s share of this export market is significantly greater than its 27 percent share of US production.

Basically, NAFTA and other policies have allowed the US to export extra farm productions to countries like Mexico. And because many farm productions (like corn) in the US are heavily subsidized by the government, the food and imports are cheaper than what’s being made in Mexico. The cheaper availability of US food has caused so many farmers in Mexico to lose their farms and sources of incomes, which has in turn caused poverty.

It’s so important in discussions about immigration within the US to remember the ways in which we as a country have participated in making things worse in other countries. And it’s also important to remember that humans are not illegal and that the terminology of “illegal immigrants/aliens” can be dehumanizing and criminalizing.

Syrian Refugees in Europe.

It’s difficult to go on any social media platform, read a newspaper, or watch the news lately and not hear something about the current refugee crisis in Europe, particularly in reference to the Syrian refugees fleeing a county burdened from a four year civil war. Thousands of people are currently streaming though European borders for various reasons and the UN Refugee Center estimates that there is close to 60 million people that are forcefully displaced world wide, up from the 2014 estimate of 50 million displaced people. Mohamed Zeineldine wrote about the refugee crisis, saying that they’re refugees not migrants and:

Today’s European refugee crisis has been described as one of the largest exodus of refugees fleeing violence in their home countries since World War 2. Civil wars and violence in Libya and Syria, in addition to worsening economic conditions and political turmoil in other countries in the Middle East and Africa, have pushed millions of people out of their homelands in search of a better life, if only until peace and stability return.

refugees-welcome1-e1440959404741Charlotte Alfred also wrote about the fact that this situation is starting to be the worst refugee crisis wince WWII and how we can learn from history about what to do. Some countries, like Germany, have been great about helping and welcoming Syrian refugees. There have been many individuals that have also been working hard to support the refugees that come through their towns.

But not everything has been positive. Nahlah Ayed wrote about how the refugee crisis has been bringing out the best and worst in Europe – some of the worst being how many places (including Hungary and one French mayor) are completely unwelcoming of refugees. Willa Frej wrote about the Europeans countries that want to refuse refugees, saying that the loudest resistance to accepting refugees has been Central Europe (although there are plenty of other places that haven’t been the most accepting either). The US hasn’t been accepting as many refugees as other places, in part because policy moves very slowly in the US but also in part because of the recent waves of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.

A big reason as to why so many Syrians are fleeing to Europe is because of the now 4 year civil war that rages on in the country. (As it turns out, one of the most Googled questions in the US and Canada at the beginning of September looked to clarify why so many Syrians were fleeing to Europe.) Violence and instability from the war and conflict have made living increasingly difficult, as one estimate holds that more than 200,000 people have died in the conflict since March 2011. Zack Beauchamp wrote a brief and simple explanation as to why people are fleeing Syria and adds some context to what started the civil war.

I’ve spent a good portion of my day reading and researching about Syrian refugees and could honestly keep writing about what’s happening.

Faith and Activism.

553One of the reasons I haven’t been back to church or joined a faith community in the last year or so is because I have personally found the lack of activism in some faith communities to be extremely disappointing. For me, there’s no better call to action, no better reason to be protesting or changing the world than faith and religion. I want to go back to the revolutionary Jesus, the one who would have been on the streets supporting the call that #BlackLivesMatter. I want to see faith communities use their faith and foundations of community to stand with the most marginalized, as God so often calls for us to do.

I do want to preface this and say that I can only come from a mostly Catholic background – my experiences with religion fairly limited to Roman Catholic and an extremely small number of different christian denominations. My own experiences are extremely whitewashed because of my own whiteness and living in two primarily white communities. Amit Singh wrote about the whitewashing of climate change solutions and how Pope Francis’ call for action regarding climate change and other call to actions are not original and often very white.

I think faith and activism can very easily go hand in hand. At the very least, I think working in the streets, walking the talk to say, should be an integral part of faith communities. The seven themes of Catholic Social Teachings highlights the Catholic teachings towards building a just society, many of which call for dignity, solidarity, and care. The Catholic Social Teachings, for me, are an important call for Catholic communities to step out of the church and into the streets.

The AFL-CIO has a section on faith and labor, which has resources about why faith communities should support labor groups. Additionally, there’s the Interfaith Worker Justice, which is an interfaith organizing group rallying around economic justice and also has a resource center for faith support of labor. Some of these resources include:

Faith groups are also rallying behind immigration reform within the US for various reasons. The Sanctuary Movement was a political and religious campaign that began in the early 1980s as a response to Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict and at its peak, there were over 500 congregation that declared themselves official sanctuaries.

There has also been a rise in a new Sanctuary Movement over the last several years. Places like Portland, OR, Boston, New York City, and many others have formed coalitions to provide sanctuary and support for immigrants, allies, and faith communities. Some resources and faith support for immigration reform and immigrants include:

There are also faith communities and interfaith groups that work towards providing food for those in need and ending hunger. Lift Urban Portland in Portland, OR is one of those interfaith groups, working to help fill in the gaps in the pantries of low income individuals and families in part of Portland. There’s also the Faiths Against Hunger group, which had evolved initially from Muslims Against Hunger Project. And some resources for why faith groups should support ending hunger include:

Jennicet Gutiérrez – the undocumented trans women who challenged the President.

abp1zielkgprjsbjo3rbztbmhvjenzk4o4c0hnncca1zqowj8kpnozf1tp7zsbjvYesterday, President Obama was interrupted during his speech for a White House event for LGBTQ+ Pride Month by a trans undocumented woman named Jennicet Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez interrupted the president’s speech to challenge the increase in deportations under President’s term and was unfortunately escorted out by Secret Service. She later made a statement saying:

“I am outraged at the lack of leadership that Obama demonstrated… He had no concern for the way that LGBTQ detainees are suffering. As a transwoman, the misgendering and the physical and sexual abuse — these are serious crimes that we face in detention centers. How can that be ignored?”

Gutiérrez later spoke with Democracy Now about the event and why she challenged the president about deportations and the abuse faced by LGBTQ+ detainees in deportation centers. And the crowd at the event was the unfortunate definition of the mainstream gay movement and of Gay, Inc, who responded by booing and jeering Gutiérrez as she was escorted out by Secret Service.

I just want to say a big old fuck you to all that booed and jeered Gutiérrez as she left and to the fact that she was escorted out in the first place! Deportations and detention centers SHOULD be a priority within the LGBTQ+ movement – remembering intersectionality and fighting for all our brothers, sisters, and siblings in the struggle is vital. We should be centering the voices of trans women of color and other marginalized voices because the LGBTQ+ community is far from the homogeneous thing currently represented by white cis gay men. Instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money and time on fights like marriage equality (which is usually far from equal), we should be focusing on issues like youth homelessness, deportations and immigration, living wages, proper and accessible health care.

Ultimately, we need to support all trans women of color and not drown them out if they don’t fit into the Gay, Inc agenda of marriage equality and whiteness. All of the love and respect to Gutiérrez for her actions standing up to President Obama yesterday and for all of her hard work and activism surrounding LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights.

Immigration

—”Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity… They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.”

Pope Francis

I was initially introduced to the complicated stories of US immigration when I took a intercultural feminist theology class a few years ago and a friend spoke of the conditions that women go through trying to get into the US from Central and South America. My friend spoke of the horrors that women endured by trying to escape poverty and they were stories that broke down my assumptions and ignorance of immigration. Before that, I had almost no grasp on what was happening with immigration – being an ignorant white US citizen, it was a topic that never impacted my life until that class.

immigration-political-cartoon-2A year after that class, I took another class that was specifically about immigration and the same friend was in that class as well. Through that class, my friend, and interning with an immigration organization, I had all of my assumptions and foundations broken down about immigrants and immigration.

With President Obama’s actions with the southern US border, there is a lot of news happening in regards to US immigration. President Obama has pressed Central American countries to slow the wave of child migrants and has deported and detained an increasingly large number of immigrants during his term. You’ve probably heard by now the number of protests and issues happening with trying to deport children back to Central America. Todd Miller, the author of Border Patrol Nation, spoke about what has been missing with the discussions on child refugees at the border.

There is so much happening with this topic but one important thing that I’ve been keeping in mind with everything is the root causes of current immigration to the US. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been around for 20 years at this point and has had an unbelievable impact on the Mexican economy and immigration into the US. The Honduran Foreign Minister spoke with NPR about how the US should address the root causes of immigration.

Immigration should absolutely be a feminist issue and concern not only for the root causes but also for the way in which the US has been treating undocumented immigrants within the country. Patricia Valoy wrote about why exactly immigration should be a feminist concern, highlighting the gender bias within the immigration system and labor force (for employment visas).

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