Sun 12/2: Day of Tears – Not in our name. Rally and Actions.

Today, we take to the public square to remind our neighbors, that amongst the crush of holiday pre-sales to celebrate the birth of a refugee child some 2000 years ago,  grave injustices are happening to refugees at our own border right now.

And today we say…Not in our name.

Action #1 – Come to the rally!

2 pm – 4 pm, today, Sunday at the Ventura County Government Center, at the corner of Victoria Ave.and Telephone Rd. More information here.

Action #2 – Call your legislators to protect refugees

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Email today, call tomorrow. Double your effect!

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask Rep./Sen. [___] to pass legislation to immediately stop the use of excessive force at our border against refugees exercising their legal right to apply for asylum.

Contact your Legislators
Rep. Julia Brownley: email, (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email. (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Rep./Senator Contacts: www.phoneyourrep.com

Action #3 – Stop the creation of an imprisonment economy.

The Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year without Congressional oversight, many of the transfers coming from key national security programs. Watch this great video for a quick primer .

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code]and when the current budget resolution expires on December 7, I would like Rep./Sen. [___] to support a clean, short-term continuing resolution without extra enforcement funds so the next Congress may debate the appropriate budget and oversight for DHS.

Here’s who’s making bank on the backs of the poorest… (CNBC)

Contact your Legislators (See Action #2 for links)

Action #4 – Actions you can take to help the caravan and the children.

Yes, beyond Actions #1-3, there are positive things each of us can do to help, be it money, goods, skills, time or physical presence. We’ve accumulated multiple types of relief efforts and have put them together here. In honor of this season, the celebration of the survival of one refugee family and the birth of their child, pick a project and give what you can.

Background

Today, people ask, “Was the tear-gassing even legal”?

  • Is it legal to use tear gas in war? (No)
  • Is it legal to use tear gas against our own civilians? (Surprisingly, yes. And it’s dangerous for children, the elderly, women who are pregnant, or anyone with an underlying respiratory illness or heart condition. An Iranian study (warning – bloody pics) during protests in 2008 and 2009 found that the exploding canisters themselves caused 18 cases of severe bleeding and fractures, leading to at least three amputations.)
  • Is it legal to lob tear gas canisters into another country? Against refugees from other countries? (No, but it was Mexico, a country disrespected by our racist president, and not Canada, or Germany).

Today, all the questions as to what is legal are moot.

  • The Holocaust was legal.
  • Slavery and Jim Crow laws were legal.
  • Apartheid was legal.
  • Colonialism was legal.
  • The genocide and mistreatment of Native Americans were legal.

“Legal” is a very small word with which to shield mankind’s most immense cruelties.

Today, the only questions left are what is morally right.

Today we say…Not in our name.

Reading:

  • 7 portraits of Young People Traveling in the Migrant Caravan. (TeenVogue)
  • Tear-Gassing Migrant Children at Protests Is Not ‘Un-American’ (NYMag)
  • John Kelly Authorizing Troops to Use Lethal Force at the Border Is Unlawful and Alarming (NYMag)
  • Track Death and abuse by Border Patrol (southernborder.org)
  • This amazing Facebook post:

A Facebook letter from an immigration attorney regarding facts about refugees and the refugee caravan. Counter misinformation with facts. Share and keep the truth loud.

“I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Tijuana working with refugees in the caravan in the largest makeshift camp located at the Benito Juárez Sports Unit. As an immigration attorney, my role was to meet with people individually in the camp to explain U.S. asylum law and the asylum application process-which for arriving refugees will involve detention in harsh conditions, possible family separation, and a court case in which they will likely have to represent themselves because only about 20% of detained immigrants are able to find representation.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the experience here and also, more importantly, provide some clarification about the caravan, the asylum process, and correct some of the misinformation presented in the news and on social media. I’m also sharing some photos so that everyone can get a sense of the conditions in the camps. Photos that show individuals’ faces taken and shared with permission.

1) The caravan is made up of refugees who are seeking asylum because they are afraid to return to their home countries. The people I met were fleeing several forms of persecution. There were political activists who took a stand against their own government and were harmed or threatened as a result of their activism, indigenous environmental activists threatened for their work, people fleeing the civil war in Nicaragua, people who experienced severe violence and death threats from gangs, domestic violence victims from countries that do not offer any protections to women who want to leave an abusive partner, LGBTQ youth who faced persecution and acts of violence in their home country, and parents who are trying to save their young children from violence. Though the reasons people in the caravan are seeking refuge in the U.S. are diverse, they are united by their desire to live in freedom and safety. They have made a journey that is tremendously difficult because it was necessary for their survival. No one would go through an experience like this unless they had no other choice.

2) The refugees ARE following the legal procedures for seeking asylum in the U.S. To seek asylum in the U.S. you must be present either inside the country or at a port of entry. The caravan is in Tijuana to go to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to ask to apply for asylum. The Port of Entry is processing arriving asylum seekers at a dangerously slow pace so many will be forced to live in camps in Tijuana with limited to no access to drinking water, food, or sanitary facilities for several weeks until they can turn in. From there, they will be processed by CBP and left in a “cold room” (literally a very cold room full of people, with no windows or clocks, where they will have to sleep on the floor with Mylar blankets, no access to showers for at least a week, in the same clothes they arrived in, given very little food…it’s a terrible experience that should never occur in the U.S.). Then, they will be transferred to ICE custody where they will be detained in a detention center that is like a jail. Men and women are not detained together so many people will be separated from their spouses. Children are sometimes removed from parents (especially fathers). The refugees will likely do their entire asylum case while detained. And also ICE takes all their personal belongings, which means if they brought evidence for their asylum case that evidence may end up “lost” or inaccesible. This is currently the legal way for arriving refugees to seek asylum. It is truly a human rights violation and we all should fight to change it. But, returning to my original point, the caravan members are following our (inhumane) system for seeking asylum.

There is no “line” for people to wait in and that is true for other forms of immigration relief as well. Any time I hear someone talking about the “line” and how people need to wait in this “line”, I am just astonished by how misinformed most people are about immigration law. There is no magic line to come to the U.S. There are visas and forms of relief based on a variety of complex criteria, each of which has its own wait time and processing time. There’s never been a line.

3) Granting asylum to people who qualify for it will not create an “invasion” or “flood” of people. Refugees are involuntary immigrants, meaning that they are forced to migrate for their own safety, not because they want to. I keep hearing people say things like “but everyone wants to come here so we can’t just let in these refugees”. As a refugee attorney, I can promise you “everyone” does not want to come here. Everyone does want to live in safety and ensure that their children can survive. Just like you probably don’t want to leave your community to move to another country, most people also like where they’re from as long as they can live there safely. You probably like living where you live because you feel connected to your loved ones, your community, your work, etc. Think about what it would take for you to decide to travel thousands of miles to a new country you’ve never been to before with your young children and only the clothes on your back. You’re probably thinking it would take severe, life threatening danger for you to get to that point. It is the same for refugees coming here. So many people I have met including caravan members and refugee clients in the U.S. say their dream is that one day their country of origin will be safe enough for them to return. We need to get over this mentality of American exceptionalism that makes us believe that “everyone” wishes they could live in the US and that we will be “overrun” if we simply welcome the people who are asking us for refuge so that they won’t be killed. And while we’re at it, let’s stop using dehumanizing terms (“invasion”, “flood”, etc.) and be more respectful of everyone’s humanity.

4) There is no need to be afraid of people in the caravan or other asylum seekers. Obviously this should go without saying but given the current political narrative that we hear in the news in the every day, I think it is worth stating that there is no need to fear someone just because they come from a different country and speak a different language than you do. Asylum seekers are human beings and they want the same things for their life that you want for yours-things like the knowledge that their children are safe and the ability to express their political opinions without fear of government torture. This idea that we somehow should be frightened or intimidated by people who are seeking asylum is really bizarre and only intended to manipulate public perception so that certain groups can maintain political power.

5) On the topic of safety, only time I ever felt unsafe in the camp was when I saw military and CBP helicopters circling the camp repeatedly. When the helicopters got closer to the ground we could see armed soldiers sitting in the open doorways holding weapons. I realize that more than anything this is just a political stunt put on by the current administration (and one that costs millions of dollars) but it was still frightening to see. The only real result of the military presence was that refugees and aid workers in the camp felt intimidated but we had nowhere else to go so we simply had to try to ignore it. It’s deeply disturbing that our federal government is able to find millions for a political stunt that intimidates vulnerable people and yet somehow we lack funding for services like healthcare and education that actually would improve this country.

6) Several asylum seekers that I met in the camp expressed to me the idea that the U.S. was going to help them once people here (including trump) became aware of their situation. In one of the pictures I’m posting, people are painting American flags. They said that they were painting these flags as a gesture of kindness towards the U.S. I can tell they came here looking for the mythical land of the free and home of the brave but given the way our country has been responding, I fear that they are going to realize the place they are looking for does not exist. I hope that our country will find the strength to have compassion and that the faith these people have in us won’t be misplaced. I think this is a moment in history when we have the opportunity to ask ourselves who we are as a country and what our values are; I think we should be grateful for that opportunity and I hope we find the courage to do the right thing.

7) What to do if you would like to help: (See Action #4 above for links) if you are a bilingual attorney or doctor in the California area, please consider volunteering in Tijuana. I can connect you with some of the coordinators if you DM me. It is important to coordinate with local orgs on the ground in Tijuana because they can bring you up to speed on the work that has already been done & because the Mexican government will likely deny you access to the camps unless you are with an org that has permission to be there.

If you would like to give supplies (non-perishable food, sanitary items, warm clothing), please donate to an organization like Border Angels that has the infrastructure in place to ensure that the supplies safely reach the people who need them. Please do not try to take supplies to the camps on your own as it is essential to ensure that supplies are given out in a way that is fair and safe.

If you would like to donate to orgs are working with the caravan some include: Al Otro Lado, Border Angels, Pueblos Sin Fronteras, CARECEN, and Immigrant Defenders.

Raising money for a bond fund would also be extremely helpful and greatly appreciated. At CARECEN, where I work, we don’t have a bond fund and every time a client gets a bond to leave detention it is a struggle to fundraise. Helping refugees bond out of detention means they can reunite with their families while their cases move forward on the non-detained docket. It also means that we have more access to evidence and more time to develop their case. These are life and death cases and on the detained docket they are completed in months if not weeks. That is simply not reasonable for a case with such high stakes in an area of law that is so complex. It is not an exaggeration to say that bond funds save lives so please donate if you can!

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