Wednesday, 01 August 2018 02:49

Advocacy for Immigrants

Written by Kathy Ress
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Kathy Ress – NE Ohio Chapter

“They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”—Dinos Christianopoulos

From April 20-23, I was privileged to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days, “A World Uprooted:  Responding to Migrants, Refugees and Displaced People,” in Washington, DC. At this event, over 700 persons from various faith communities across the US gathered to learn about and bear witness to the urgent
immigration crisis. 

For three days, faith leaders passionately called on us as believers to join an URGENT call for safety and prophetic witness to the migration of more than 65 million displaced persons around the globe, a number that is rising. They passionately reminded us of the age-old narrative and command of scripture to respond to those in exile, welcome the stranger, and meet the angel among us. On the last day, we met for a vigil and made visits to our legislators on the Hill. 

Overall, panelists at this conference urged us to dig deeper into the root causes of immigration, the “Three C’s”—conflict, corruption, and  climate change. This was exemplified in the desperate stories of persons from the Philippines, the island of Tuvaluv, and the Sudan—places caught in dire conditions.

An intriguing new concept mentioned several times at the conference was “intersectionality,” where different cultures or groups of people meeting creates a wonderful space ripe for rich conversation and creative change.   It is in these spaces that sacred work can be done to reduce the fears underlying xenophobia. For example, we learned of Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier’s “Biblio drama” healing approach. Small groups of both parishoners and immigrants read migration specific biblical passages, then talk and share their experiences, often leading to healing and forgiveness.   She uses biblical quotes to fire up spirit, as when she talks of her people surrounding an ICE raid, “like Joshua surrounded Jericho.”

We reflected on how the works of Dr. Martin Luther King need to be part of this work, that what is happening now with immigration needs to be connected to the civil rights movement. As Dr. King stated,

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.

Workshops focused on advocating for change in Congress by directing money away from detention centers and border security and toward measures that provide safety.   

More specific recommendations made are:

  • Direct money away from detention centers and border security and create community resources and shelters. 
  • Protect the Department of Justice’s MRA account, which provides community resources for immigrants. https://justiceforimmigrants.org/2016site/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/FY2018-Justice-for-Immigrants-Appropriations-Toolkit-FINAL.pdf
  • Ask for more transparency/accountability in private detention centers. Check with banks that provide loans to these centers.
  • Stop the defunding of the Department of Justice’s Legal Orientation program for immigrants, their only recourse to legal advice in detention.
  • Learn more about effects of NAFTA/trade on countries.
  • Have town hall meetings on immigration, even if legislators refuse to come!
  • Learn of resources for immigrants who are deported back to their countries, an often perilous journey, where resources are slim.
  • Continue to engage a broad coalition around immigration as a civil rights issue, drawing on resources and learning from our African American brothers and sisters.
  • Advocate for keeping TPS and Dreamer Status.
Kathy Ress

We also learned that when asking for “immigration reform,” legislators need concrete specifics and “Asks.” Give them facts, and let them know what is going on. We were asked to keep up a presence on the Hill.

Note: For more information and resources, see Ecumenical Advocacy 
Day: https://advocacydays.org/2018-a-world-uprooted/, or search 
for “Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2018” on YouTube.
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