Pilgrimage to the Pope for Immigrant Rights Arrives in D.C.

Cross-posted from the DC Independent Media Center
Written by Luke

Lead_Banners_McPherson_approach_9-22-2015On the 22nd of September, the 100 women 100 miles pilgrimage to the Pope for Immigrant Rights arrived at McPherson Square. One hundred women had marched all the way from an ICE detention center in Pennsylvania and were joined by many more supporters on the last leg of the march inside DC. The march ended at McPherson Square, where the Catholic hunger fasters for climate action already have tents set up. The evening program featured an appearance by Sweet Honey in the Rock after the speakers finished.

One of the lead banners quoted Pope Francis’s statement that “Pope Francis has said that the globalization of migration requires a globalization of charity and cooperation.”

Stirring video of the end of the march, followed by clip from Sweet Honey in the Rock’s performance

Breakdown of America’s Recent Immigration Crisis

Central Americans on Train
Central American immigrants traveling on the tops of trains through Mexico in order to reach their final destination. John Moore/ Getty Images

These past seven months have seen a noticeable spike in the number of underage children crossing the border. So far this year, the number of unaccompanied children entering the United States that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrant and Customs Enforcement arrested surpassed 47,000. This alone is a 92% increase from last year’s numbers.

But why the drastic increase?

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are going through a turbulent time. According to Eric Olson, Associate Director of the Latin America Program at the Wilson Center, these three countries have some of the highest murder rates in the world.

Although, murder rates have decreased in comparison to last year, this does not mitigate the rampant violence that occurs throughout this region. Gang activity is as high as ever. Nevertheless, the lack of stability in this region is pushing parents to send their children to the United States.

Whatever doubts people had on the lengths these gang members are willing in order to continue their regional dominance is long gone now. People throughout this region live in consistent fear. Not only that, but there is no sense of continuity—the belief that life will get better by the time one’s children become adults—and widespread poverty does nothing to alleviate their living conditions.

Human traffickers, known as coyotes, are taking full advantage of this situation. They promote the idea that if there is any time to leave for the United States, that time is now.  And parents in Central America buy it. They are willing to pay traffickers thousands of dollars despite being warned of the trip’s dangers and the numerous obstacles the children must face throughout their journey.

The problem becomes what to do with these minors.

Protesters in Murrieta
Police cautiously monitoring the two opposing protesting groups in Murrieta, California as tensions mount while they all wait for immigrant detainees set to arrive by bus to the U.S. Border Patrol facility.  Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Should the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement deport all of these children or provide them with temporary housing until each minor’s situation is determined? This question has created a rigid dichotomy amongst much of the population. Human rights advocates argue that these children should not be treated as immigrants but rather as refugees.

On the other hand, others, such as members of the Tea Party, blame President Obama’s approval of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), created to allow those who entered the country illegally while they were minors to receive a grant of deferred removal action. In other words, eligible immigrants remain legally in the United States for up to 2 years with a possible extension. This is not a path to citizenship, nor is it a guaranteed permanent residence but it allows immigrants who came here illegally to avoid deportation.

Some suggest that the U.S. government deport these minors immediately. However, some international organizations, including the United Nations, argue that many of these children have legitimate claims to stay as they are fleeing desperate situations.

Underaged Immigrants in Detention Centers
Children detained at a center in Nogales, Arizona.   Ross D. Franklin / AP

According to the New York Times, President Obama requested $3.7 billion from Congress in order to respond to this influx of child migrants. Previously, significant amounts of money were spent in trying to secure the border. Given this large influx of immigrants, it is evident that pouring more money into the border is not the solution.

Even if the Obama administration pushed to deport all unaccompanied minors with full force, it could not. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 passed by the U.S. Senate during the Bush administration is intended to help human trafficking victims, however a portion of this act relating to unaccompanied illegal immigrants under the age of 18 makes immediate deportation for them difficult. As stated in a news article from The Oklahoman, “The legislation said they must ‘be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.’ The U.S. Health and Human Services Department is to provide for their custody and care while deportation hearings are under way. The department is to attempt to find a parent or sponsor in the United States while providing free legal representation and a child advocate.

This past Friday, the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras met with president Obama to discuss this immigration crisis. NPR’s Eyder Peralta writes, “…with Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative, the U.S. has helped combat violence in Colombia and Mexico”, yet by doing so, pushed organized crime into Central America.

Central American Presidents with Obama
L-R: Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Cerén, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, President Barack Obama and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez   Reuters

Regardless of history in the past, all four countries must focus on the present. The United States must decide how it will improve the manner in which it deals with incoming unaccompanied immigrants. Meanwhile, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras must determine what they need to do in order to curb gang violence and thus emigration figures.

Two Million Too Many: March and Rally Against Deportation

You can also read this post at Storify.

#not1more deportation after #2million2many

Immigrant rights groups and supporters gathered for a march and rally in Washington, DC on April 5, 2014. They joined activists in over 40 cities across the country to tell President Obama to stop separating families before he reaches a total of 2 million people deported during his presidency.

The rally began in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of DC.

Photo by Lamont Street Collective

Photo by the Lamont Street Collective

Immigration activists and allies appropriate imagery of monarch butterflies to symbolize the right to migrate freely, despite geopolitical borders.

Photo by CultureStrike

A crowd of hundreds marched down 16th Street to the White House.

Employers threaten deportation of undocumented workers to stop them from speaking out about poor working conditions, wage theft and abuse.

For LGBT immigrants, deportation to their home country can mean a death sentence.

At the White House, the crowd raised their voices through story and song. Son Cosita Seria uses the art-form of Son Jarocho music for political commentary.

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Join the campaign by visiting notonemoredeportation.com.

NotOneMoreDeportation.com is a project of NDLON to foster collaboration between individuals, organizations, and artists to support individuals in deportation proceedings to stay in the place they call home and to build a movement to push back against criminalization and toward inclusion through organizing, art, legislation, and action.

#Timeisnow for Immigration Reform rally & live music, Tuesday October 8th

Time is Now Immigration rally 10/8/2013

Communities United for Immigrant Rights

On August 17, a coalition of organizations held a unity rally for immigrant rights in front of the White House, calling for Congress to act on immigration reform and put an end to deportations. Organizers of the rally included WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend), DMV LOLA (Latinas Organized for Leadership and Advocacy), and NAPAWF-DC (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum), joined by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Speakers at the event discussed the misrepresentation of immigrant rights as an exclusively “Latino issue,” instead demonstrating that the movement for immigrant rights is part of the movements for women’s rights, workers’ rights, and human rights. A running theme of the rally was that whether we like it or not, the hijacking of immigration reform at the national level has devastating consequences for all our families, economies, and communities

20130817_133357 The mainstream media often falsely represents immigration as a Latino issue, leaving out large portions immigrant populations and not accurately reflecting migration patterns.  A more complicated picture emerged at Saturday’s rally, which was led by a diverse coalition of immigrants and their allies.

Standing in front of the White House, Linda Khoy shared her sister Lundy’s story with the audience. Lundy was born in a refugee camp, and eventually, their parents were able to leave Cambodia because of the war. Linda, however, was born in the United States. They wouldn’t realize until many years later the effect that different sorts of papers would have on their lives. Lundy went to college and at the age of 19, found herself arrested for a misdemeanor level offense. In immigration terms, however, that meant deportation proceedings. Now they work with One Love Movement, organizing Southeast Asian refugees and others to put a stop to deportations. Listen to Linda tell Lundy’s story and her message for President Obama:

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Diana, another speaker at the event, shared her experience of being undocumented in DC. “I was a career criminal before I could even talk, and since then, every breath I took was labelled an unlawful one.” A DREAM Activist member and UDC honor student, Diana was born in Lagos, Nigeria and arrived in Washington, DC when she was only 2 months old. She attended Bancroft Elementary, Shaw Junior High School, and Roosevelt High School.

I was a career criminal before I could even talk, and since then, every breath I took was labelled an unlawful one.”

Diana said she felt like any other Washingtonian until her senior year, when she found out she was undocumented. Listen to Diana tell her story and come out as undocumented, joining 11 million others in the US:

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Catalina Nieto with the Detention Watch Network, who is originally from Colombia, posed a provocative question to the crowd: “What does it really Catalina Speaksmean to be in unity, to be in solidarity, and have each others’ backs, for real?” — also bringing up the important point that “there is a group of people right now who are benefiting from having us divided.” If you want to listen to more of what she had to say about moving from slogans to meaningful change, listen below:

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These stories illustrate the very real impacts of a broken immigration system upon families, and particularly women, facing the threat of deportation. Their call to action is clear: they want President Obama and Congress to stop deportations. Cases like Lundy’s show that judges need to use discretion in the sentencing process for undocumented people, rather than deporting immigrants for minor offenses. More broadly, the organizers demonstrated that they are part of much larger struggles, including the struggle to end mass incarceration of US citizens and to stop prison labor profits via the prison industrial complex. Nieto urged the crowd to consider what it means to be unified with people going through solitary confinement, trapped in an immigration system with no access to family and friends.

At this point, seeing each other as humans and having each others’ backs is a revolutionary act,” said Nieto.

Visit the websites of the organizations linked in the post above to get involved in the unified struggle for immigrant rights. Join Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD) at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington Rally beginning @ 8 am at the Lincoln Memorial, then marching to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Immigrant Rights Organizers