Posts Tagged ‘India’
At a time when immigrants are being scapegoated by some as a partial reason for the economic crisis, this Thursday, immigrants are being given a voice in Rochester, Minnesota. VOICES (Valuing Our Immigrants Contributions to Economic Success) is a community-wide initiative to open dialogue in the community. Started by the Diversity Council through a Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation grant, VOICES began by posing questions to focus groups through 10 of the most common languages here: Khmer, Spanish, Bosnian, Vietnamese, the languages of India, Somalia, Arabic, Lao, Hmong and English.(Valdez, Christina. The Post-Bulletin)
This Thursday from 6-8:30 at the Heintz Center the community will come together to discuss the contributions immigrants have on the local economy and community. Often talked about in a passive voice, this VOICES town hall meeting is a unique opportunity for immigrants to tell their side of the story. I hope all of Rochester is listening Thursday evening. ((Valdez, Christina. The Post-Bulletin)
Another intriguing initiative to give publicity to a seldom-explored area of the country is the International League of Conservation Photographers’ Borderlands RAVE Blog. This project’s purpose is to compile photos of the precious yet fragile border environment which is being profoundly impacted by our lack of comprehensive immigration reform and our construction of a devastating border wall. One look at a close-up of an ocelot or a panoramic of the desert sands instantly brings the inefficacy of a border wall into painful focus.
However, while a border wall continues solidifying a divide through El Paso and Juarez and other similar sister cities along our 2,000 mile southern border, some faith-based organizations are seeking to bridge the divide and speak to the real underlying issues. The Kino Initiative is a collaboration of six Roman Catholic organizations from Mexico and the United States providing aid and other services to deported immigrants. In Nogales, Mexico, the Kino Initiative has made a start by providing deported people with food, clothing, shelter, and health care. Having seen firsthand the bottleneck effect of immigrants in border towns such as Nogales, the Kino Initiative is speaking to a deep need. As Mexican nationals are often merely dropped across the border, regardless of where their home state may be, towns along la frontera become Casablanca to so many, places where they are extremely vulnerable, without community, and largely without hope. The Diocese of Tucson and Archdiocese of Hermosillo in the Mexican state of Sonora; Jesuit organizations from California and Mexico; Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, a religious congregation in Colima, Mexico, and the Jesuit Refugee Service U.S.A. are all seeking to affect these immediate needs, while bearing daily witness to the necessity for comprehensive immigration reform and across-the-aisle, across-the-river negotiations that engage both sending and receiving countries in real migration solutions that stress human dignity.(Associated Press)
While the border wall continues marring our southern border for want of real change, programs like the Kino Initiative and VOICES are engaging Americans in the pressing civil rights issue of this century. May this only be the beginning.
Gaining momentum from the Supreme Court’s refusal to examine their waiving of more than thirty laws in the construction of a border wall, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is continuing to up its efforts in an attempt to build the hotly contested border wall in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas within the month.
On Monday evening, the Brownsville City Commission met for more than three hours to discuss the DHS Secure Border Initiative, a plan to build 10 acres of “removable wall” until the city reinforces 2.4 miles of levees to DHS satisfaction. This comes two years after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was initially passed and more than a decade after the first wall was constructed in California.
The plan proposed by DHS would have the poorest city in the United States hand over 10 acres of taxpayers’ land, at an estimated $95,800, for free. While the City Commissioners were seriously weighing the decision of whether or not to surrender this land, the public made its voice known for more than three hours in the public comment session. Police officers made protesters leave “No Border Wall” signs outside the City Hall, signs which were carried 126 miles from Roma to Brownsville in this past March’s No Border Wall Walk. Still, the sentiments of Brownsville residents were made abundantly clear – No Deal. Texas Border Coalition (TBC) chair Monica Weisberg-Stewart advised caution and encouraged the public with the hopes of a successful suit recently filed by TBC. (http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/city_88091___article.html/fence_border.html)
John Moore, representing the Border Ambassadors, showed 123 signed testimonies from landowners opposing the border fence. Having personally accompanied him through many of these small, tight-knit communities, I can attest to the fact that this number is only a glimpse of the real opposition to this wall and the DHS strongarm tactics which have terrified so many border residents into acquiescence. John Moore and Kiel Harell and I have personally talked with border residents who were asked to sign blank documents, or were given waivers in English when they are pure Spanish-speakers. We have sat and spoken with women who were intimidated by the federal agents asking permission to survey and then buy their land. We have talked with several border residents who sold their homes and multi-generational lands for a measly couple thousand dollars.
Commissioner Troiani ended the meeting by trying to get Brownsville residents to focus on their immediate interests. He said, “It comes to this…either you’re going to try to solve the problems of the city or the problems of the world.” Troiani’s comment belies the underlying reason a border wall is being discussed and supported at all. The very idea that the issues of a city are not hopelessly caught up in the problems of the world belies one of life’s basic tenets, that in the words of Dr. King we are all “caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” A wall, removable or otherwise, in Brownsville, Texas, sends a signal not just to Matamoros on the other side of the Rio Grande. No, any wall sends a signal to the entire world, to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants waiting to legally migrate to our nation. Any wall whatsoever sends a signal to the 4 million displaced Iraqis that we do not want their problems to set foot in our nation. A wall or fence broadcasts to the European Union, China, India, Japan, and England our “Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them.” Any wall, fence, or border barrier which neglects to realistically solve the issues of globalization and movement of peoples inherently affects Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania just as much as it does the Rio Grande Valley or Tamaulipas Mexico. If you are reading this, you are affected by the decisions being made right now in this city of 140,000. Please write your senators, legislators, or add your name to the growing list compiled by No Texas Border Wall. If a wall is built in Texas, it will be to the shame of our entire country and, in fact, our globalized world.
After 68 years of leading the Tibetan people from his place of exile, the Dalai Lama is the “most seasoned ruler on the planet.” A recent article in Time magazine entitled “A Monk’s Struggle” details the Dalai Lama’s life and his current struggles to free his government from Chinese rule. Though he he has campaigned the world over and is a popular dignitary at universities, capitols, conferences, and celebrations, he hasn’t managed to make significant progress in the past 50 years – “98% of Tibetans have no access to their leader and are denied the most basic of freedoms.”
To analyze the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and strategy is to explore the fundamental difference between pacifism and nonviolence. Both pacifism and nonviolence are based on the same idea of interconnectedness. “China and Tibet will long be geographic neighbors,” the Dalai Lama intimates, “so for Tibetans to think of the Chinese as their enemies – or vice versa – is to say they will long be surrounded by enemies. Better by far to expunge the notion of “enmities” that the mind has created” (Iyer, Pico. “A Monk’s Struggle, p. 48). A Hindu leader in the country which now protects the Dalai Lama once phrased this same idea by saying, “In the dictionary of the non-violent there is no such word as an external enemy. But even for the supposed enemy he will have nothing but compassion in his heart” [Gandhi, Mohandas. Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha)]. An ocean away from both these men, a young pastor was preaching much the same idea around 1959, the year the Dalai Lama was first exiled. He said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” (King, Martin Luther. Why We Can’t Wait).
Although based on the same idea of life’s interconnectedness, there is a world of difference between a Satyagrahi and a pacifist. A pacifist looks at the idea of human interconnectedness and concludes that nothing he/she can do could better the situation. The choice of a pacifist is to withdraw support from such a system, hoping that their single vote will eventually cause the aggressor or oppressor to yield to reason. However, the pacifists’ viewpoint does not take life’s “network of mutuality” to its natural conclusion. If all life is connected, then “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere;” the oppressor is living in an unjust world every bit as much as the oppressed. Gandhi maintains that a victory for Justice is a victory for everyone involved, though at first the oppressor might not view it as such. A pacifist, then, sees the interconnectedness of life and asserts that he/she must remove themselves from the circle of action; the nonviolent Satyagrahi sees the interconnectedness and realizes that he/she must impact Justice for the good of the world.
Pacifism has long been attacked as “passivism,” and too often nonviolence has been lumped in as well because of its similar aversion to violence. Nonviolence, however, is a pro-active response rather than an acquiescence. Nonviolence is diametrically difference than “not violence” – it chooses pro-active methods such as boycotts, sit-ins, marches, freedom rides, etc, to prick the conscience of its oppressor and anyone watching. There is nothing passive about nonviolence.
As Dr. King wrote in Why We Can’t Wait, “Fortunately, history does not pose problems without eventually producing solutions….Nonviolent action, the Negro saw, was the way to supplement – not replace – the process of change through legal recourse. It was the way to divest himself of passivity without arraying himself in vindictive force…” (36) The beauty of nonviolence is that it offers a a third way; instead of self-defeating violence or an acquiescence condoning evil and injustice, nonviolence offers a way to save the oppressed from cynicism or inaction and provides a means for redemption for the oppressor. I pray, indeed the whole world prays, that Tibetans and other oppressed peoples throughout the world will be able to bring about Justice through positive, nonviolent means; the Justice of us all depends on their choice today.
In a week that witnessed Hillary Clinton stating, “We need smart borders…I will listen to the people of the Valley and make sure that we secure the border but don’t divide people from their families …” while simultaneously making the international hand gesture for wall, immigration and border security is most definitely back in the nation’s political eye. For some, including myself, it has become the issue of this Presidential race. When Obama and Clinton’s policies look all too similar, if one of them moved to retract the vote they made in support of the wall, a huge shift in support could result, especially in the nation’s minority votes.
With all this at the forefront of the nation’s thinking, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) begins its annual meeting. This time, however, it is not meeting in the wintry climes of Philadelphia, but rather in the beautiful San Juan Cathedral here in the Rio Grande Valley where Clinton and Obama are making stops themselves. The AFSC is meeting here en la frontera to be able to actively engage immigration reform at its vanguard. Immigration is a focus of this service-oriented organization.
The AFSC has long been integrally involved in issues of civil rights. Their involvement, encouragement, and enabling of Martin Luther King helped him and his significant movement. The AFSC paid for his pilgrimage to India. They first published his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” And when the time came, the AFSC nominated Dr. King for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, which he won.
And so it is with great welcome that all social activists, and in particular those citizens concerned with issues of citizenship and immigration, welcome the AFSC to our Rio Grande Valley. We urge you to remain mindful of the, “Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the United States,” an excellent document published in May 2006 which affirms the humanity of immigration laws.
Undocumented immigrants pay taxes, and contribute to the economic, social, and cultural development of their communities in countless ways. A legalization program would recognize the equity undocumented people have built through their participation in U.S. society and acknowledge the inherent injustice of the secrecy, vulnerability, and exploitation imposed on undocumented women, men and children.
— AFSC Board of Directors, June 23, 2001
The work of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in immigrant communities is based on our belief in the worth and inherent dignity of every person. As an expression of this commitment, we have consistently expressed support for undocumented immigrants. AFSC has repeatedly called on the U.S. government to grant permanent residency to all undocumented men, women and children. We thus believe that actions leading to comprehensive immigration reform should reflect the following components:
Respect for the civil rights and all human rights of immigrants;
Inclusive and coordinated measures that support immigration status adjustment for undocumented workers;
Support for the distinctly important and valuable role of family ties by supporting the reunification of immigrant families in a way that equally respects heterosexual and same-sex relationships;
Humane policies that protect workers and their labor and employment rights;
Measures that reduce backlogs that delay the ability of immigrants to become U.S. permanent residents and full participants in the life of the nation and of their communities;
The removal of quotas and other barriers that impede or prolong the process for the adjustment of immigration status;
Guarantees that no federal programs, means-tested or otherwise, will be permitted to single out immigrants for exclusion;
Demilitarization of the U.S. border and respect and protection of the region’s quality of life.
- “Free trade” agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA have had a detrimental impact on sending countries from the global South, provoking significant increases in migration. Such international economic policies should be consistent with human rights, fair trade, and sustainable approaches to the environment and economic development.
Immigration Realities: An AFSC Perspective
The growth of undocumented migration is a worldwide phenomenon. Although many people are propelled into migration for political and other reasons, labor migration clearly accounts for the greatest part of the migrant stream. In this sense, the growth of a transnational labor force is a structural feature of increasing global economic integration. U.S. policies that are intended to deter undocumented migration have failed entirely to achieve this objective, while increasing the violation of human rights, as well as aggravating anti-immigrant prejudice and hate violence.
In addition, punitive measures such as increased surveillance and patrols at the border, raids on homes and workplaces, and detaining and deporting undocumented people do not address the underlying reasons that people migrate. Those measures create fear and polarization during a time when we should be creating hope and peace in our communities.
One stark indication of this failure is that hundreds of migrants die each year trying to cross the Mexican-U.S. border in increasingly dangerous circumstances. U.S. communities that lie along the border with Mexico live a reality that is essentially different from the rest of the country. U.S. immigration policy has transformed the region into a militarized zone where the U.S.
Constitution and international law are applied only selectively. Efforts to secure the southern border have had dire human consequences, from the ever-increasing tally of migrant deaths to the systemic violation of the civil and human rights of border crosser’s and border communities.
Because border enforcement is a reality that these communities will continue to face, it is essential that any debate that focuses on increasing the security of the U.S.-Mexico border be based on a strong commitment to accountability and human rights, including civil rights. It is essential that the perspectives of those who live in border communities be included in such a debate.
AFSC calls upon the U.S. Congress to consider that its policies, laws, and regulations on immigration will affect the rest of the world negatively or positively, especially our neighbors to the South. Remittances from migrant workers in the United States and other rich countries contribute more to the economies of their countries of origin than all forms of development assistance, by approximately 50 percent yearly. For many of the world’s poor, economic integration through remittances is the only form of economic globalization with a positive impact on their living standards. Sooner or later, comprehensive immigration reform will need to be carried out not just unilaterally, but multilaterally, in concert with the needs and interests of other countries that send migrants or refugees to the United States and whose cultures, peoples, and economic prospects are thereby bound up with the citizens and residents of this country. <http://www.afsc.org/immigrants-rights/PrinciplesforImmigrationReform_en.htm>
Once again, the AFSC highlights the human aspect of a topic which all too many people debate coldly, stiffly, politically. Their advocation of smart borders makes sense both for the world and for the person. In reading this excellent document, I am reminded of a late-night coffee-table talk with longtime activist and Friend Domingo Gonzalez. He pointed out that, “In taking the train from New Jersey to Philadelphia, you cross more ethnic and racial boundaries than at any border crossing. If only we could make our borders like those of our cities’.” Hopefully this weekend, the AFSC can discuss more ways in which our nation can be made to take real steps towards making this world a collection of city-states where migrants need not fear imaginary lines. And hopefully, they will add both their prayers and their endorsement to the No Border Wall Walk as it attempts to re-open the issue of immigration via the border wall. If everyone in the Valley says the same thing at the same time, how powerful a message we could send! Maybe all the way to Washington, maybe all the way to India…