The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

Need some English study?

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Check this out: Pat Buchanan and white supremacist Peter Brimelow advocate English-only initiatives at a “Conferenece.”
clipped from thinkprogress.org

Under Misspelled Banner, Buchanan And White Nationalist Brimelow Argue For English-Only Initiatives

Pat Buchanan and Peter Brimelow
On Saturday, Pat Buchanan hosted a conference to discuss how Republicans can regain a majority in America. During one discussion, panelists suggested supporting English-only initiatives as a prime way of attracting “working class white Democrats.” The discussion ridiculed Judge Sotomayor for the fact that she studied children’s classics to improve her grammar while attending college. The panelists also suggested that, without English as the official language, President Obama would force Americans to speak Spanish.
One salient feature of the event was the banner hanging over the English-only advocates. The word conference was spelled “Conferenece.”
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Bishop of Chicago: Immigration Raids ‘Immoral’

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Jim Wallis tells of a nationwide tour urging immigration reform that stopped in Chicago:
clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

La Conscience (d'après Victor Hugo)

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Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops … used the occasion to call on the Obama administration to stop immigration raids and urged passage of comprehensive immigration reform […]
[T]he cardinal

“… sought to cast the issue in moral terms, calling it “a matter of conscience” and an important step to creating a more peaceful society. ‘We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day,’ […]

The continuing raids around the country [are] indeed a matter of conscience. We are taking parents from their children; we are separating families. This is not what in our tradition we should do. Protecting and supporting families and those relationships is crucial. The immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but it must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to “welcome the stranger.”

While I applaud President Obama for repeating his commitment to immigration reform last week, I join Cardinal George in also urging an immediate end to raids.

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It’s an excellent thought. Wrenching families apart is not only cruel, but unwise, even in practical terms. Hurt people hurt people. Strengthening families is, indeed, “an important step to creating a more peaceful society.”

If we’re kind – or even just smart – minimizing trauma will be part of immigration reform.


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5 former slaves who are changing the world

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Five astonishing stories.  Click the link for the details.
clipped from razoo.com

Iqbal Masih was sold into bonded labor at a carpet factory in his native Pakistan at the age of four[…] At ten, he ran away […] refused to return to the factory, and began to travel the world, visiting rallies, meetings, and even elementary school classrooms, to tell the story of the abuses he had suffered as a child slave, imploring others to help fight for an end to human trafficking […]

Hadijatou Mani was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for $500 […] [At 24] Mani brought a lawsuit against the Niger government, claiming that they hadn’t enforced their anti-slavery laws to protect her […] Mani won the case—a landmark ruling in the human trafficking world. A regional tribunal forced the government to pay Mani $19,000 in damages […]

in southern Sudan, Simon Deng was abducted at the age of nine […] Deng, now 47, is a United States citizen who works as a lifeguard on Coney Island. But his primary mission is raising awareness of human trafficking in Sudan, both through speeches and as the leader of the Sudan Freedom Walk, a 300-mile trek from the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City to Capitol Hill […]

Somaly Mam, a Cambodian orphan, never knew her parents. She doesn’t even know how old she is […] Around the age of 16, she was sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh […] When she finally escaped the brothel at age 21 after a friend’s murder, Mam vowed to devote the rest of her life to helping other sex slaves go free […] Since escaping the brothel, Mam has helped more than 4,000 former sex slaves to go free […]
Given Kachepa from Zambia, was a member of a children’s choir […] a charity organization asked the child singers to move to Texas and perform there […] he would receive an education and a salary […] [Once in Texas] they were forced to perform up to seven concerts a day, and were forced to go without food when they misbehaved. […] the boys never saw a penny for their work. […]the INS removed the boys […] Today, Kachepa is committed to speaking out against slavery […]
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Catholic bishops denounce immigration raids as “anti-family”

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From God’s Politics:

“The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society” […] “many families never recover, others never reunite.”

clipped from blog.beliefnet.com

Catholic Bishops Denounce Immigration Raids as Anti-Family (by Jennifer Svetlik)

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration ReformLast year I lived in a Catholic Worker house that offers hospitality to immigrants without first inquiring about their legal status. One day, a woman called the house on behalf of two young boys who had come home to an empty apartment; their parents had been taken in a raid, and the boys had no other relatives or friends in the country. They had been born in the U.S., but their parents were undocumented workers; the raid had traumatized and temporarily orphaned them. They were afraid to leave their home and had no idea how to locate their parents. […]
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement urging Homeland Security to discontinue worksite enforcement raids until […]
“humanitarian safeguards” are put into place. The statement says, “The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society” and reminds us that “many families never recover, others never reunite.”
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Written by Monte

October 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

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And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

“I’LL KICK THE S**T OUT OF YOU!”

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I spent a memorable afternoon Thursday, beneath a tree on a corner in the little town of Conesville, Iowa, learning about a world that I hadn’t known before.

Melissa Regennitter/ Muscatine Journal

From left: Migrant worker Hector Manuel Cardona-Ramirez sits next to Monte Asbury, a Washington, Iowa, pastor. To Asbury’s right are two other migrant workers who bunk with Cardona-Ramirez and more than 600 others from Mexico in a migrant worker camp in Conesville. On Thursday, Asbury listened to a group of migrant workers who said they’d been unjustly fired and complained of illness. Asbury, an online blogger who writes about immigration and human rights was there to give moral support. Photo: Melissa Regennitter/ Muscatine Journal

My friend Carlos Rich (he’s a community organizer who works on immigrant health issues for the Center for New Community) had phoned, that morning, to tell me of some fellows who’d been fired from their jobs detasseling corn and picking melons.  Some had talked to a reporter the previous day, and Carlos wondered if that was connected to the firing.  Off we went.

We met eight men in a very hard spot.  They’d come to Iowa from their homes in Colima and Durango, Mexico.  Up at 3:30 A.M. each morning, they jockeyed for position on the buses taking workers to the fields. After a day in the blistering heat, they’d be back  – at 9:30 P.M. – for a quick meal and shower, then to the bunkhouse for 10:30 lights-out. Seven days a week.

Carlos invited reporters to join us (see Melissa Regenitter’s article in the Muscatine Journal).  While they made their way to Conesville, the boss drove past several times, sometimes stopping to pleasantly ask who we (Carlos and I) were, and to ask the men if they were going to work this afternoon.  It was a puzzle, given their certainty that they’d been fired. Carlos was cell-phoning what seemed like a dozen people – the Governor’s Office in Colima, some legal advisors – and the general drift I got was that it was a good idea for none of us to say much if we were questioned.

In the distance, the massive bunkhouse

In the distance, the massive bunkhouse

Which proved to be a handy thing to know.   For in a bit, an office worker drove up, eye-poppingly irate.  To the men, soothing mother-hen reproaches:  “How could you boys do this to [the bosses] after all they’ve done for you?  You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

In my mind, a window opened up and history blew in.  How many times had that siren-song seduced workers through the years?  Hadn’t it been sung in the dangerous factories of the north – the stifling cotton fields of the south – the brutal vegetable harvests of California?  It seemed like the timeless, place-less essence of the struggle of workers:  You  “boys” should be ashamed of yourselves. (Some were close to her in age.)  How could you be so ungrateful? What’s gotten into you?  We’re friends, you know we are!  What have they been telling you?

Endless line of portable toilets

A vast collection of portable toilets

The men were politely, firmly quiet.

To me, she gave a mildly derogatory “some kind of pastor” talk:  “What are you telling these boys?  They’re good boys!”

But to Carlos, venom:  “Shut up! … I’ll kick the s**t out of you!

It’s hard to imagine how trapped foreign workers are. If they want to quit, how will they get home, thousands of miles away?  Without English, to whom can they turn for help?  They’ll need to go to a city to get a bus.  But what city? And without transport, how will they get there?

One row of the bunkhouse. This room had about 160 beds, and was one of four.

About 160 men sleep in this huge bunkroom. Three more rooms, of 150-200 beds each, adjoin.

Intelligent, thoughtful men, all with perfect H2A visas (see the bottom of Melissa’s article), all with families at home needing income badly enough for them to risk this journey into a foreign country.  But it wasn’t going to work.  After telling of heat and work-related ailments, confusions about firings, conditions different than the Mexican recruiter had led them to expect, and less work than they’d hoped, they decided they just wanted to go home.  Since they’d borrowed to pay for their passports and visas, and after the $100 a week they paid the company for food, they figured they’d just about break even after the next morning’s paycheck.

Worried about staying in the camp after attracting media attention, they traveled back to Washington in my pickup.  They spent the night in the church, so grateful to be secure, so delighted to have found a way out.  Carlos gave a lift over to get paychecks on Friday (and the boss was more generous in the final settlement than they’d expected), and then up to Iowa City’s bus station to start the long ride home.

Most of us, after showers, at the church

Most of us, after showers, at the church - Carlos Rich is at the top left. I'm the one with the baby-bottom-pink face!

Perhaps most unexpected was the tenderness of the friendships developed in those hours.  After trading stories down at my place, glimmers of hope remained in my mind, suggesting that God had done something wonderful among us all.  I was honored to enjoy it.

What a memorable privilege it was, sharing that moment with these good men.


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Written by Monte

August 4, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Immigration raid in Postville: Justice denied

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Raid in Postville

Raid in Postville

For most of those three hours, this man was just weeping, and he was weeping for his family, worried about his children. He had children back in Guatemala, his mother, his wife and his sister all depending on him. He was the sole earner for the entire family.

So describes Erik Camayd, a professor of modern languages at Florida International University in Miami, who was one of the court-appointed interpreters flown in for the trial of immigrants arrested here in Iowa.  Here’s Amy Goodman’s set-up:

We turn now to Postville, Iowa, a small town of just over 2,000 people. On May 12th, the town became the site of the largest immigration raid in US history. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, arrested 389 workers at Agriprocessors, the largest kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in the country. Nearly 300 of the workers were charged with aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud. Many were sent to prison.

Camayd, who’s been participating in trials for twenty-five years, describes what he saw:

Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see, because cameras were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound. Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment.

Since these people are so very poor, and since they are often the only source of income for an extended family, a jail sentence may mean their children go hungry.  Even if utterly innocent, the decision forced upon them is justice or hungry kids:

I saw immediately that this man had no choice but to plead guilty, if he wanted to return to his family as soon as possible … what made this case unique was that, for the first time, at least in this scale, they were not being deported but actually criminally prosecuted and sent to jail for five months or more. And the fact that they did not have a right to bail and that if they wanted to plead “not guilty” they would have had to wait possibly longer, up to six or eight months in jail without bail waiting for a trial, made this situation very, very difficult to really say that there was justice done in many of these cases. […]

[T]o place them in that position, basically holding their families’ well-being ransom over their heads in order to induce them to accept a plea agreement and plead guilty as the fastest way to get back home and then placing them in jail for that time under that kind of duress, I think that it’s very disturbing. It’s very disturbing. […]

Indeed, it is.

It may be legal, but it isn’t justice.


Read Erik Camayd’s personal account of the raid [Download pdf]


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Written by Monte

July 14, 2008 at 3:37 pm