JEWISH ACTIVISTS FOR IMMIGRATION JUSTICE
of Western Mass
In this newsletter:
Statement of solidarity:
our commitment to stand together against the violent, systemic and racist destruction of Black lives
Stop continued family separation
and deportation of"unaccompanied"children
Protest proposed new asylum rules
which will exclude almost everyone: Public Comment period open until July 15
Statement of Solidarity
As an immigration justice affinity group, we are committed to advocating and fighting for a just and humane society for all people. As members of the Jewish community, a historically marginalized people including many with white skin as well as many people of color, our values call us to actively resist oppression and injustice.
We understand that systemic racism underlies and pervades all the systems of control in this country, whether it’s militarized policing in Black communities, mass incarceration, criminalizing and imprisonment of Black and brown teenagers, or the dehumanizing treatment and exclusion of immigrants, asylum seekers and migrants, all of whom are overwhelmingly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color).
We also understand that in the wake of unconscionable murders of Black people by police across the country, Black people are currently standing up and demanding redress of specific harms directed against them. We need to support, foreground and amplify those voices in our immigration justice efforts. We need to work hard to recognize and transform our own racism and actions.
We also need to recognize the often ignored voices of Jews of color. As Enzi Tanner, a Black Jewish social worker in Minneapolis, states in an article,
Believe Us: Black Jews respond to the George Floyd Protests
: “As the Jewish community reaches out… to support the Black community, it’s really important that people reach in to Black Jews and other Jews of color and realize that we’re here. And we need our community.”
We are learning about the
disparate negative outcomes
faced by Black immigrants. Consistent with the criminalization of African Americans and all Black people, Black immigrants are more likely to be detained for criminal convictions than the immigrant population overall; Black immigrants are often apprehended and placed in deportation proceedings long after the triggering criminal conviction occurred; and Black immigrants are much more likely than nationals from other regions to be deported due to a criminal conviction.
In what follows, we echo a letter of solidarity endorsed by more than 400 immigrant justice and ally organizations,
posted on the Tahirih Justice Center
website June 4, 2020. We join in:
- Standing in solidarity with Black communities to demand justice by advocating for their recommendations and solutions.
- Working to dismantle white supremacy, white nationalism, and the anti-Blackness that permeates our society, including within the immigrant justice movement.
- Joining the calls to dismantle the police state by defunding and decreasing police budgets.
- Demanding governments invest in communities by increasing funding for housing, education, healthcare, and other supports.
- Demanding a COVID 19 recovery and reconstruction that benefits communities, not corporations.
- Denouncing the use of criminalization and militarization as a response to people’s pain and people demanding more change.
- Rejecting the “national security” frame and redefining "public safety" so that it truly means communities -- including Black communities -- are free to live without fear of being killed.
Human rights abuses continue for those detained at
Bristol County House of Correction
; investigations and official complaints have yielded no results yet.
There was a protest in front of the jail on June 18
sponsored by Bristol County for Correctional Justice and joined by Black Lives Matter protesters, calling on Sherriff Hodgson to resign and also calling out his known affiliation with White Supremacist organizations.
In the meantime, those inside continue to suffer horrible abuse, continue to live in danger of COVID-19 and of violence by BCHC officers, as well as in danger of deportation back
to the countries they fled to save their own lives and those of their families.
For more details of our work on this issue, please click
: Asylum seekers in the tent camp in Matamoros, where we visited in February, are still stuck behind the border, prevented from entering the US even to register an asylum claim, increasingly afraid of being deported. The immigration courts are shut down. As hurricane season starts, there have been several devastating floods, which destroyed many people’s meager shelter. Our friends of
continue to support the camp; they purchased 120 tents and got them across the border for people to rebuild, and their staff within the camp are constantly working to create better drainage with loads and loads of gravel and to support the tents on wooden platforms. Just recently we got word of the
first cases of COVID 19 in the camp
brought by new families entering the camp in spite of fences and attempts to prevent this.
Global Response Management
continues to care for people’s medical needs in the camp and is prepared for treating and quarantining people with identified COVID cases. All three of these organizations continue to depend on generous donations from the advocacy and support communities here in the US:
thank you very much for any further help you can offer! (use links above)
: Driver’s Licenses for All
The Work and Family Mobility Act encompasses both immigrant and racial justice. In our state, there is a growing African and Haitian undocumented immigrant population that is continually exploited for labor. The Act will allow licenses for all Massachusetts residents regardless of immigration status. Our undocumented friends and neighbors are essential workers on the frontline of the Covid 19 pandemic.
THE LAST PUSH!! We are quickly approaching the July 31st ending of the current legislative session.
This bill must be passed NOW!
Driving Families Forward
, a coalition of many groups in our area who are passionate supporters of this bill, including our group, urge everyone to contact the MA State President, Karen Spilka, and State House leaders for their votes. It is unlikely Governor Baker will sign this bill, so we need strong legislative support to counteract his veto. Please see web site to
sign up for two more days of phone banking!
In trying to move this bill forward, the coalition has held car rallies, a ZOOM assembly
on the Intersection of Race, Labor and Immigrant Rights on June 24 with many speakers from local workers organizations and state government,
and relentless virtual phone banking
STOP CHILD DETENTION AND FAMILY SEPARATION
Taking children from their parents has been a strategy for terrorizing people for centuries. Children were taken from Native American Tribes, from African American enslaved people, and from European Jews during WWII. Now, the Trump administration is taking children from Central American asylum seekers. These practices, which prevent parents from passing on culture and language to their children and often result in life-long
trauma for parents and children
, have been driven by a white nationalist ideology that continues to dehumanize people of color and anyone else perceived as “other.”
In April 2018, Trump announced a
Zero Tolerance Policy
, which separated families who had illegally crossed the southern border. The practice had been going on for nearly a year before that, and even though, due to public outcry, it was deemed unconstitutional in June 2018, it continued unofficially until October. Under this policy parents and guardians seeking asylum who crossed the border without documents were arrested and put in federal jails while their children were placed in detention centers under supervision of the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) until they could be released to sponsors. HHS did not keep track of where the children were placed and
there were no protocols created to help reunite the families
In April 2020 a federal judge, Dolly Gee, again determined that I
CE was violating the Flores agreement
, (which states that children cannot be held longer than 20 days), as well as putting children in detention at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID. In response, ICE tried to skirt the Flores agreement by giving arrested families an unthinkable “
:” stay with your children in detention for an undetermined amount of time, with no limit on how long you will be detained, or release your children to the Department of Health and Human Services, (where they would either be held in a child detention facility or released to an unknown sponsor). So far, not a single family has signed a waiver releasing their children, and many families are now being held together in detention centers, which are hotbeds for Covid-19 because of cramped and unsanitary conditions with no way to maintain social distancing, and where there is a lack of the most basic necessities.
Just this past week Judge Gee, in light of a significant COVID infestation at two family detention centers,
ruled again that the children in these detention centers must be released by July 17
, but the order
allows ICE to decline to release a child if there is not a suitable sponsor, or if the child’s parent waives rights under the Flores agreement.”
We need to keep advocating for these children and insist that they be released together with their families during the COVID crisis.
asking for families to be released together, and call your members of Congress and ask them to do what they can to get these children AND their families released!
STOP CHILD DEPORTATION
In recent weeks, under the excuse of COVID-19, many children and parents have been pulled from detention and deported in secret operations. According to Thomas Cartwright of Witness at the Border, from March through May there were a total of 41,557 expulsions of asylum seekers from Central America and Haiti with no due process. Among them were 2100 unaccompanied children.
Since the onset of COVID-19
the U.S. is choosing not to extend protections to unaccompanied minors, a change from their long-standing policies
. These crossings are often a last resort effort by desperate parents living in unsafe, terrible conditions in tent camps and on the streets in cities along the Mexican side of the border under MPP (Remain in Mexico). Families live in these camps as their only choice after a hard and frightening journey north, from a country where they were threatened with gang violence, murder and poverty. Sometimes when the hope of asylum seems diminishingly small, parents see no other option but to make the excruciatingly difficult choice to send their child across the border alone, hoping the child will find safety in the US. At other times, young teens are making that choice themselves, despite the concerns of their parents.
As COVID has also been used as an excuse to close all ports of entry and put a hard stop on what remains of the asylum-seeking process, these children come across the river, alone on a raft, or with a paid coyote, or with a parent who then leaves them on the US side of the river. Before the pandemic, they were placed in detention or other holding sites and sometimes transferred to sponsors in this country to await court proceedings, where they would be given no legal representation and usually be slated for deportation. If they had family members in the US already, those family members, often undocumented, would frequently not come forward to claim the child, out of fear they themselves would be deported, which happened often.
When most of us hear these stories, we react with incredulity and outrage. How is it possible that anyone, let alone the US government, which is supposed to stand for the humanitarian values of “liberty and justice for all,” would intentionally create these conditions and this suffering? Of course the answer must be, as it was when children were sold away from enslaved people from Africa, torn from their mothers’ arms at the auction block, or when Native American children were incarcerated in “boarding schools” where they suffered physical and sexual abuse, that the people who suffer are not seen as people in the same way that white people are. The interests of the state to secure a free labor supply, or to steal people’s land, or to prevent migration in order to safeguard white interests, take precedence. Indeed, this is just another example of how racism works in this country, the same system that allows a white policeman to kneel on the neck of an African American young man until he is dead.
We need to continue our public outcry for these children and their families. In this time when so many are suffering, and so much change is needed, there are a lot of places to put activist energy and advocacy efforts. Please consider talking about this crisis with anyone you are connected to and consider making donations to the following organizations:
which is bringing numerous suits to stop the detention and deportation of children at our southern border.
Speak out against new, worse asylum restrictions
In order to further restrict asylum claims from people from Central America and Haiti, the Trump administration has recently proposed
, which would deny asylum to anyone who made an honest mistake in filing their taxes, worked off the books, or had been living in the US for a year before applying. Individuals persecuted for their opposition or refusal to join a gang or cartel, for example, would not qualify for asylum; and individuals tortured by a government official would not qualify for Convention Against Torture relief if the officer was acting in a “rogue” capacity.
The rules also eliminate gender-based asylum
, which would make it impossible for women fleeing rape and domestic violence, and LGBTQ+ individuals facing deadly hate attacks in their countries to qualify. And judges would have leeway to deny asylum applications without even a hearing.
Activist Josh Rubin, who inspired much of our work with his calls for witnessing at the detention centers in Tornillo, Texas and Homestead, Florida, as well as at the border in Brownsville/Matamoros, had the following to say in response to the proposed rules:
Asylum is a policy, a principle in international law that arose from the shame felt when people fleeing Nazi persecution were turned away by other countries. So rules were set up to evaluate persecution. Even this feint at good intentions has since been perverted by the xenophobic impulses of our and other countries. These contortions have created painful and cruel displacement of people seeking refuge, and impoverished encampments like the ones
with which we are familiar in Matamoros, Mexico, and other places.
The proposed rules have been published in the federal register and are
open for public comments
until July 15, so there is time to push back.
In making your comment, please consider any of the above talking points. If you have personal experience with asylum-seekers, or have heard from second-hand sources about their plight, telling their story may be effective. You could also talk about how these rules are the antithesis of American and Jewish values. Your comment does not need to be long, or super-articulate. Quantity matters more than quality, and generating a lot of feedback has occasionally been known to be effective.
Also talk to your elected officials and ask them to pass legislation that returns us to the
long-held American value of granting asylum
to those in need of it. We need to keep urging our leaders to rethink and resist the current administration's racist dismissal of human needs.
Also, ask your elected officials to pass legislation guaranteeing the rights of DACA recipients to stay in this country, in case Trump pushes back against the
recent Supreme Court decision
. DACA recipients again want a "CLEAN" DACA Bill where they are not granted safety at the expense of their parents and other undocumented immigrants.