Immigration

Image via Creative Commons/Dragan Tatic

As the only female Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament, Dakhil fought tirelessly for international assistance to stop the violence, including sexual slavery, targeting her beleaguered people.

Now she has been awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize in Washington, D.C. But she is unlikely to make the ceremony on Feb. 8, since President Donald Trump banned all travelers from Iraq.

Jim Wallis 01-31-2017

Supreme Court rally calling for the reversal of President Trump’s travel ban on refugees and immigrants. by Lorie Shaull / Flickr.com

For Christians, in the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus makes clear that how we treat “the stranger” is how we treat him. That’s what the Gospel text says. And the “stranger” literally means immigrants and refugees — the citizens of other nations living and traveling among us. Therefore, this is a faith issue for us as Christians. Donald Trump’s executive order on “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” is in conflict with our Christian faith, and we will oppose it as a matter of faith.

Keith D. Ray II 01-31-2017

"REMEMBER YOU are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Each year the community of Jesus stands at the beginning of the season of Lent and recalls death, mortality, corporeality. We are dust. We are dying. And, as the pastor smears the mark of the cross on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday, she says, “Remember you are dust.”

Such an awareness is where resurrection hope begins. It must. How can one celebrate resurrection hope without first understanding that we are dust and to dust we shall return? The act of marking ourselves with ashes is not morbid. Such rituals of death and resurrection give witness to God’s grace for both the dead and those who love them.

But what happens when there is no body over which to mourn?

In circumstances where a loved one’s body is lost, the pain and grief are magnified. A plane disappears over the depths of the waters, and bodies are never found. A person goes missing, and remains are never recovered. Whatever the circumstance, a funeral without a body is almost always a source of extra pain. Not only is a loved one dead, but the ritual act of tending to their body is taken away.

There are people in the United States, Mexico, and Central America who experience such trauma largely because of U.S. border policy. As people die migrating through the desert lands of the southern border of the United States, their bodies are literally returning to dust, and their suffering is largely invisible. Rather than receiving ritual care from family and community at the time of death, these immigrants die alone. Their remains are left in the desert, discovered only by chance.

A humanitarian crisis at the border

LAST SUMMER, THE FUTURE of for-profit prisons seemed bleak. The U.S. Department of Justice announced it would begin phasing out its use of privately run prisons and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security quickly followed suit, declaring that it would reconsider its use of privately run detention centers. Stocks for companies that ran for-profit prisons plunged.

But then Donald Trump was elected president, and private prison stocks immediately soared. The nation’s largest prison company, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), reported a boost of more than 40 percent in the value of its shares. Given Trump’s promises to “create a new special deportation task force,” investors bet that privately run detention centers will play a key role.

And the investors may be right. Every year, DHS detains about 400,000 undocumented immigrants in 250 centers nationwide, and 62 percent of the beds in these centers are operated by for-profit corporations.

According to Maria-José Soerens, a licensed mental-health counselor serving undocumented immigrants in Seattle, there are two major problems with for-profit detention centers. First, for-profit centers are not held accountable to the standards that govern federally run centers. In her work in these centers, Soerens has heard complaints ranging from a lack of medical attention to inadequate opportunities for parent-child visitation; one young woman who was having suicidal thoughts was kept in solitary confinement until she told guards she was “better.”

But the deepest problem, explains Soerens, is that most detention centers only exist because corporations saw a “business opportunity.” Beginning in the early 2000s, for-profit prison companies successfully lobbied Congress to expand drastically the number of beds in the immigration detention system—a move that doubled the revenue of the two largest for-profit prison companies. In 1998, there were 14,000 beds available for immigrant detention; today, there are 34,000.

the Web Editors 01-27-2017

1. What Will You Do if Donald Trump Deports Me?
“If you are an ally, a friend, or a decent human being who understands that immigrants and refugees work hard, play by the rules and are proud aspiring Americans, then read this guide.”

2. Here’s How Franklin Graham Justifies Trump’s Expected Refugee Ban
“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue.” :thinking:

Stephen Mattson 01-25-2017

For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.

The Clifton Mosque in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

A Cincinnati area mosque announced it would join the burgeoning church sanctuary movement in the U.S., possibly becoming the first Islamic house of worship to do so.

The announcement came on the eve of the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, who took a hard-line stance on immigration and proposed a national Muslim registry during his campaign.

Image via RNS/Creative Commons

Religion is increasingly viewed as highly politicized, not least due to the way that it is frequently covered in the newsNumerous studies have shown that news stories with emotional cues tend to both gain audience attention and prolong audience engagement.

It may therefore come as no surprise that online debates about religion are packed with emotional cues that evoke strong reactions from those who participate in them. This sets the stage for passionate online debates.

Patricia Byrne 12-21-2016

I see you but you do not see me
I am made invisible by your special powers
Not mine. I have no power.
Your shiny car passes me
It does not have a speck of dirt
But I am filthy
Only my sweat shines at the bus stop
As it did today in the fields
I smell like dirt
I know you are not hungry
Because I see you in your red car
Driving to a fancy restaurant
You do not know I am hungry
Because you cannot see me
I had no lunch today
My belly hurts
But you cannot hear my emptiness
You only hear the music in your car
I see you but you do not see me
Perhaps all of me was left
In the woods where I slept last night
Or maybe the mosquitoes sucked my life away
One by one as they found me on the ground
Because I had no blanket to cover me So I itch. They saw me though you do not.
I dream of home. My mother and my sisters
Hungry, waiting for the money I will send for food.
“America ... you will make lots of money
Our stomachs will be full
And your sisters will have shoes”
I hope my boss pays me this week
I look at my boots
These boots took me 15 days through the desert
Now they will bring me through the fields
And I wonder ...
Is it the car that makes me invisible
Because I see you but
You do not see me

the Web Editors 12-02-2016

Currently there are an estimated 300 sanctuary states, counties, and cities across the U.S., but no model for sanctuary campuses. Calls for sanctuary campuses began in the wake of Donald Trump’s campaign pledges to repeal DACA and escalate deportations.

David Beltrán 11-23-2016

Image via JP Keenan/Sojourners

This idyllic immigrant story, that has become cliché in conversations of the “good” immigrant, shattered two weeks ago. I woke up to the fact that white America does not care about the well-being of my community. I woke up to the stench of white supremacy, which tells me that I will never be good enough to be fully American. I woke up in tears, because my dear friends who are undocumented immigrants, by no fault of their own, will suffer immensely under a Trump administration. I woke up longing to speak Spanish, to eat a whole Bandeja Paisa, and to feel what home feels like. I finally awoke to the reality that my brown body is a roadblock in white people’s project of making America great again.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Mike Segar

Americans voted largely along the lines of race, education, and party identification. Nonwhites strongly preferred Clinton, while whites decisively chose Trump. Compared with past Republicans, the businessman received a stunning surge of votes from non-college-educated white voters.

None of this is surprising.

And yet the result upends so much conventional wisdom. 

The Editors 11-02-2016
Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Gimme Shelter

I was glad to see “Convicted of the Gospel” by Darlene Nicgorski included in the September/October issue. The “ministry of sanctuary” that she mentioned is an important and timely way to show the world we are Christians through our love. I have been lobbying my members of Congress and letting them know why my faith motivates my advocacy. The faith voice is crucial to immigration reform’s success and is necessary if we want any reforms to reflect our beliefs in human dignity, equality, and justice. I hope that the church around the country will join in the sanctuary movement, whether it is through advocacy, charity, or sheltering those who face the immediate threat of deportation.

Thomas Cassidy
Norman, Oklahoma

Base Values

You cannot reform the police state or our culture of incarceration (“Black and Blue,” by Ryan Hammill, September/October 2016) without a critique of our country’s values that proliferate fear and aggression. It’s how we were built and how we’ve sustained our way of life. Until then, taxpayers need to demand transparency from law enforcement, stop the flow of tax dollars to militarize them, and advocate for laws to protect citizens—especially citizens of color.

Tamara Cedre
via Facebook

Prophets On the Loose

I read about the Tennessee weapons plant protest (“An 82-Year-Old Nun Did What?” by Rosalie Riegle, September/October 2016) in the news when it happened. I appreciate the update. I did not know that the “prophets of Oak Ridge” were released. Few realize the danger we all face; nuclear war cannot be allowed to happen. Pray for peace and the destruction of these weapons.

Jim Halliday
Lafayette, Georgia

Image via RNS/Reuters/Osservatore Romano

Even by this pope’s standards it was a bold move.

Francis, the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics across the globe, this week traveled to Sweden, one of the most secularized countries in Europe, to take part in events marking 500 years since Martin Luther kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.

Sabia Rigby 10-26-2016

Demolition begins in 'the Jungle.' Image via Alexandra Vuillard.

I am nervous for everyone. There is so much misinformation; the refugees of the Jungle and other camps like Isberg hear differing reports, which they then share among themselves. Tensions are growing because we, too, are given limited information, and can’t guarantee anything.

Would you trust someone who cannot give you any guarantees?

Stephen Mattson 10-13-2016

How can salvation be believed when we refuse to save refugees, or hope grasped when we deny it to immigrants, or justice pursued when we refuse it to the oppressed, or faith accepted when we don’t have faith in those different from us, or love known when we deny it to our neighbors, strangers, and even our enemies?

Karen Gonzalez 09-22-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

As an immigrant woman and a Christian, I’ve loved the book of Ruth ever since I realized Ruth was an immigrant, welcomed into the family of God. And I’ve often been surprised by the interpretations of the Biblical story, in which Boaz is the hero and no one else has any agency. I find this odd because, as I read Ruth, what I see is that Boaz did nothing more heroic than exactly what was required by God’s law: He welcomed an immigrant from a neighboring community.

Avery Davis, Lucy Hadley 09-21-2016

Image via Steve Pavey/Hope in Focus.

It has been a year since immigrant mothers made the impressive pilgrimage on foot from an immigrant detention center in Pennsylvania to the political seat of power in Washington, D.C. On Sept. 16, the women of last year’s 100 Women 100 Miles pilgrimage returned to the steps of the Supreme Court — singing, chanting, and praying for justice and mercy in the immigration system. Then, as part of an event organized by We Belong Together and The National Domestic Workers Alliance, they retraced a portion of their steps — a scaled-down anniversary pilgrimage, from the Supreme Court to the White House.

Maria-Jose Soerens 09-16-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Four weeks ago many of us celebrated the news that the Department of Justice plans to end its use of for-profit prisons. But we then had to wrestle with the fact that this means nothing for migrant detention, which is the largest supplier of prison contracts for GEO and CCA — the top two corporations behind for-profit detention of immigrants of all ages: from babies to the elderly.

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