Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Short Video on the History of the Sanctuary Movement

While at the Border, we met with John Fife, one of the seminal pastors in the Sanctuary movement. He's features in this New York Times video on the history of the Sanctuary movement (13 minutes), which compares the movement to the Underground Railroad that shepherded slaves to freedom in the nineteenth century.

Today's Sanctuary movement, which started in the 1980s, has been revived--and the San Jose (California) Presbytery recently declared itself a sanctuary.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Conversation with the Rev. John Fife on Civil Initiative and the Sanctuary Movement by Geoff Browning

The Rev. John Fife says it was all the fault of Jim Corbett, a Quaker and rancher in the Tucson area. In fact, he says, almost all the good trouble he has gotten into in his life is because of those Quakers. It all started one day when Corbett confronted John about two times when the church was challenged to live out the biblical call to welcome the stranger. The first was the abolitionist movement of the 19th century which was empowered by the church. The second was in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s when the church utterly failed to defend the poor and powerless Jews that led to the Holocaust.
Then Corbett said that the Salvadoran refugees fleeing the Salvadoran civil war in the 1980s are the next challenge to the church. John explained that Corbett asked if he was ready to get involved for the purpose of saving lives. John confesses that he tried to dodge the question saying, “I’ll pray about it.” Well, as we all know, the Rev. John Fife did get involved, deeply involved in the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s. John, Corbett and many others began an “underground railroad” throughout the country to more than 500 sanctuary congregations. This eventually led to many of them, including John, being indicted and convicted of harboring and transporting “illegal aliens.”
John explained that they realized that they should not call their work “civil disobedience” because they didn’t believe they were breaking the law; it was the federal government that was breaking the law by refusing to provide asylum to refugees from the Salvadoran war. The reason the government was unwilling to provide asylum was because the Reagan administration was supporting the dictatorship of El Salvador and providing asylum would force the administration to admit that the Salvadoran government was responsible for gross violations of human rights. Consequently, all requests for asylum from Salvadorans were denied and many were repatriated to the country only to be executed or disappeared.
The alternative description that John and Corbett came up with was “civil initiative” which they define as “the legal right and responsibility of every citizen to protect the victims of human rights violations when the government violates human rights.” The Sanctuary Movement ultimately sued the Attorney General of the United States for failure to uphold US asylum law. With the threat of depositions being exposed to the public, the US Attorney General promised to begin upholding US asylum law and withdraw sentencing for those who had been convicted.
But the question which the church must answer is this, are we ready to welcome the stranger? Are we willing to commit ourselves to “civil initiative” again in order to protect the victims of human rights violations when the government violates human rights?

What Can We Do?

What can we do? First, it's important to educate ourselves and each other.

Then, it depends on where you live.

One way to figure out what's possible in your community is to connect with those in your local community who are working on immigration issues. A good place to start is by plugging in your zip code into the Immigration Advocates Network website.

And we highly recommend a trip to Borderlinks. There's nothing like seeing it for youself.

Migrant Deaths in the Desert - Interactive Map

Because of the violence in Central America and the chaotic immigration system in place in the US,  migrants are crossing the Arizona desert in search of safety and/or asylum.

In partnership with the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office, Humane Borders has created an updated migrant death map, formally known as the Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants. The map is searchable. Viewers may see the exact location where each migrant body has been found, along other information, such as the name and gender of the deceased (if known and if the family has been notified), date of discovery, and cause of death.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Derik's Go-Fund-Me Page

Last night we heard the harrowing story of Derik, a Honduran who got crosswise with the gangs in his country. While he was in the military, he picked up a gang leader and helped to put him in jail, whereupon that gang threatened his life.

Derik took off on a difficult 2-month trek through Mexico--sometimes via La Bestia, sometimes walking, all the while dodging Mexican immigration.  At the US border, he decided to cross through the desert. He ended up on the doorstep of a woman in Arivaca, where he burst into tears. She fed him and put him in touch with No More Deaths. They gave him support and allowed him to rest, and then sent him toward Tucson. But on the walk there, he was apprehended by Border Patrol and thrown into detention to await his asylum hearing After 4 months, he was given a bond hearing, where bond was set at $12,000. With the help of Tucson friends, he posted bond but was shackled with an ankle monitor. He's currently being charged $425 plus interest/month to cover the monitor.

While he now has a construction job, he wants to raise enough money to have the ankle monitor (and its fee) removed while he waits for his asylum case to be heard.

Friends have set up a Go Fund Me page for him. If you'd like to add your support, go here.

An Intro to Homeland Security, the Florence Project

Our busy day continued with a meeting with Chad Plantz, the Deputy Special Agent in Tucson for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI is one of three directorates within US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and they are separate from the directorate that we are most familiar with, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). HSI is the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security; their role is to investigate cross-border criminal activity. In Arizona, their main areas of focus are human trafficking and smuggling, narcotics and weapons trafficking, and money laundering and financial crimes. Many of us were surprised to learn that weapons are trafficked from the US to Mexico, mainly for use by the cartels, because Mexico possesses strict gun laws.

We returned to Borderlinks for a presentation from Leah Bishop, the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Florence Project. The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal and social services to detained men, women, and children under threat of deportation. On any given day, over 5,000 immigrant men, women, and unaccompanied minors are detained in Arizona. Detainees include asylum seekers, children who have been abused or abandoned, adults facing threats or persecution, victims of domestic or gang violence, and LGBTQ individuals. Detained immigrants do not have the right to representation. 90-95% of detainees represent themselves in Arizona, and only 6% of detainees are successful in their asylum requests. The Florence Project provides education so that adults can better represent themselves and pro bono representation for some.

Operation Streamline Proceedings

We spent the first half of our afternoon in the court of the Hon. Jacqueline Bateau on the 2nd floor of the Tucson Federal Courthouse. All of the immigrants had been picked up crossing the border within the last week. They shuffled in in groups of 7, shackled and chained. Most of them were young men, but there were a few older men and three women. All were charged with the misdemeanor, 'improper entry or attempted improper entry by an alien,' and most were also charged with a felony of 'illegal reentry after removal.' For each group, the judge asked them if they understood the charges, and if they had agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor in exchange for dropping the felony charge and waiving their right to appeal. Those who were charged with reentry were sentenced to between 30 days and 180 days in federal prison. Each group of 7 individuals took less than 10 minutes to process. As described in an ACLU Fact Sheet, "In Streamline proceedings, judges typically combine the initial appearance, arraignment, plea, and sentencing into a single hearing, sometimes taking as little as 25 seconds per defendant."

Most of the defendants said nothing other than 'yes' or 'guilty,' but one case showed briefly that many individual stories were not being told. The attorney for one of the immigrants stated that he had requested asylum, but had chosen to withdraw his request to be considered for asylum. The attorney said that the migrant's family's safety in his home country was threatened, and he needed to pay an extortion fee every month in order to protect them. (We have learned that requesting asylum would mean months to years of detention, would take years to resolve, and would likely not succeed.)

Mother Jones article on Operation Streamline