ON MAY 1, 1986, a federal jury found nine church activists guilty of conspiracy to violate U.S. immigration laws for assisting Central American refugees. At our sentencing, I faced a possible 25-year prison sentence.
The “sanctuary trial” drew national attention; millions of Americans learned about the plight of Central American refugees and the church-led sanctuary movement to aid them. After a seven-month trial and our conviction, the judge suspended our sentence and gave us five years of probation.
In the 1980s, our case hinged on the fact that we knew that those arriving over the southern border were refugees from brutal wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. I had worked in Guatemala and in Guatemalan camps in southern Mexican. We placed refugees in communities of faith where people met them as real people and learned why they had fled. We defied U.S. immigration laws in order to protect life. We also challenged the Reagan administration’s support of brutal regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador.
Today, most of the non-Mexican undocumented immigrants coming over the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Many are unaccompanied minors or single adults with children. Many have legitimate asylum cases, but don’t have adequate legal representation.
The new sanctuary movement is addressing four key areas: First, assisting migrants when they arrive with basic needs and legal help. Diocesan Migrant Refugee Services in El Paso, Texas, is the largest provider of “Know Your Rights” information to refugees, particularly those staying in community-run hospitality houses along the border. Without the assistance of volunteers, usually church-affiliated, migrants would be on their own—or worse, detained in for-profit prisons.
Donald Trump takes pride in rattling the GOP establishment, but he faces a major roadblock on the way to the White House.
Catholic voters, who have been key to picking the winning ticket in almost every modern election, reject Trump decisively. In 2012, President Obama won the overall Catholic vote 50 percent to 48 percent. Hillary Clinton now leads 56 percent to 39 percent, a sizable gap unlikely to close much by November.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING is one of the least morally controversial social justice issues of our time. Agreement that human trafficking is wrong and must end is widespread, if not completely unanimous. Yet when most people hear the term “human trafficking,” they envision sex trafficking: vivid images of young women forced to work in “massage parlors” and brothels, selling sex on the streets of major cities.
But human trafficking is broader than sex trafficking. U.S. law defines human trafficking through the legal categories of fraud, force, or coercion. In simple terms, human trafficking occurs when individuals lose control over their lives and are forced to work for nothing or next to nothing. Someone who has been trafficked does not have control over the terms and conditions of their employment; they can’t leave for fear that they or someone they care about will be harmed as a result.
So while trafficking certainly can take the form of sexual exploitation, it can also look like nannies or janitors, workers in slaughterhouses or meat-packing plants, people forced to work on factory assembly lines and rural farms. It takes place in both the formal and informal economies; it may involve adults and children.
When sex trafficking isn’t
Human trafficking hasn’t always been so tightly linked to sex trafficking. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were a number of nonprofits dedicated to combatting labor exploitation in all its forms. But when one of the first pieces of anti-trafficking legislation was proposed in 1999, its congressional sponsors wished to differentiate between sex-trafficking and other forms of labor exploitation. They “did not want ‘low-wage sweatshop issues’ to cloud the issue of human trafficking, which, they argued, was essentially about the sexual exploitation of women and girls and not about exploited labor more generally,” as Letitia Campbell and I wrote in 2014. Significantly revised anti-trafficking legislation was signed into law in late 2000.
Beginning in 2001, the George W. Bush administration implemented the new anti-trafficking law, making prostitution and sex-trafficking centerpieces of its gender policy. A 2002 National Security Presidential Directive on human trafficking called prostitution “inherently harmful and dehumanizing,” and the administration insisted that prostitution and sex-trafficking are linked phenomena.
I am a stranger in two strange lands. Born in the U.K. and an immigrant to the U.S., my understanding of self changed yesterday. As the U.K. voted to leave the EU and the U.S. Supreme Court’s tied decision left an appeals court block on President Obama’s executive order on immigration in place — my identity as an immigrant and a Briton changed.
"The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, “Take control,” resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond."
While many Republicans — even those who support Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee — are going on the record condemning Trump's recent attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, saying the federal judge cannot be impartial in the Trump University civil fraud lawsuits because of his "Mexican heritage." House Speaker Paul Ryan, who just last week announced his support, said Trump's comments were "out of left field," and that he "completely disagree[s] with the thinking behind that."
"Here in America, we don’t give in to our fears. We don’t build up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere."
It’s not the first time I’ve shared about the fear of being separated from my parents. In each of those cases, I have had the opportunity to allow people to look me in the eyes and share with me the burden of being undocumented in this country. “Please look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t feel my brokenness and my powerlessness.” I have a powerful voice, but writing — now that truly shakes me up.
“… We’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.”
Should the country do whatever it takes to protect the environment? The number of Republicans who say “yes” has decreased in the past 12 years.
Contact: Michael Mershon, Director of Advocacy and Communications
April 19, 2016
Today, Sojourners sent the following letter to Congress as part of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's "Letter a Day" campaign:
Listening to faces is hard work and has to be developed slowly over time. We live in a world that teaches us to speak twice as much as we listen, or to speak without listening at all. Yet, over time, listening to faces will grow the most important thing we can have in our hearts — deep empathy for each person we encounter every day.
Three protestors — two white, one Latina — were arrested March 19 for chaining themselves to cars and blocking traffic headed to a Donald Trump rally, reports .Mic.
Of the three, only one was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to investigate her legal status. And guess which one it was.
When you turn on the faucet in Flint, Mich. you don’t just get water — you also get the potent neurotoxin lead. And without a driver’s license, Flint residents are being refused bottled water from the city, so undocumented people have to search elsewhere for clean water, reports America magazine. Deacon Omar Odette of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Flint says that members of his parish have been arrested by immigration authorities for not having documentation.
How well would you do representing yourself in court? Unless you’re a lawyer, probably not very well, but according to Jack H. Weil, young children can learn enough immigration law so as not to require a lawyer in immigration court.
FOR CHRISTIANS who live near the U.S.-Mexico border, Jesus’ command to “love our neighbors as ourselves” takes on a particular urgency when we see our neighbors fleeing violence from their home countries and then being deported back at an alarming rate.
At Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, where I am pastor, we have a history of loving our neighbors by offering them protective sanctuary to shield them from deportation.
Sanctuary is an ancient biblical tradition. In Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and 1 Kings, scriptures describe the right of asylum in cities of refuge set aside for those accused of manslaughter until the truth of the matter could be resolved. There is also the tradition of those who seek the safety of the temple by clinging to the “horns of the altar” (1 Kings 1:50).
In the U.S., churches involved in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad provided sanctuary to escaping slaves. In the Vietnam War era, churches protected conscientious objectors. During the brutal wars in Central America in the 1980s, hundreds of U.S. churches declared a national sanctuary movement, protecting tens of thousands of refugees from being deported to almost certain death. Southside Presbyterian was one of the founding churches of the 1980s sanctuary movement.
In May 2014, after another wave of deportations, our congregation made a public declaration to once again become a sanctuary church. We welcomed Daniel Ruiz, a local undocumented father, into protection. After 28 days living in the church, he received a stay of deportation.
There’s a name for xenophobic-motivated politics: nativism. Oxford Dictionaries defines nativism as: 1)The policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants, and 2) A return to or emphasis on traditional or local customs, in opposition to outside influences.
You probably saw the media frenzy around Pope Francis’s comments aboard the papal plane on his trip back to Rome from Mexico last week. When asked about presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border, the pope said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
However, I was struck most by the pope’s following remarks, which were omitted from several mainstream media accounts — when he said of Trump’s plans, “This is not in the Gospel.”
Francis is right. The spirit of religion is about healing and nurturing and bringing together. And he puts the question into the politically charged air once again: Walls or bridges? What’s it going to be?
Do we open ourselves to the spirit that wants to give us new hearts? Or do we choose to have hearts as cold as a stone wall?
As "America's foremost Catholic," Stephen Colbert feels uniquely positioned to "broker a peace" between the two. He laid out his rationale on his late show.
“Mr. Trump, Mr. Pope (I believe that’s his formal name) is it possible that you’re fighting because you have so much in common?" said Colbert.