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May This County Experience Equal Protection for All

150 years ago today the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed all people born on this soil or naturalized as citizens “equal protection”. May we see a day when this is actually true, when we have a just and compassionate governance system with human rights laws that are enacted in ways that create equal protection for all. And 150 years ago, in 1868 folks were courageous in the pursuit of justice. We must continue bringing their dreams to life. For real. Not just fooling ourselves by stories told to keep us complacent.

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Looking at Radical Municipalism

I found inspiration in this article: How radical municipalism can go beyond the local. I recommend reading the whole piece, some clips below.

“In Seattle, the city council passed a law that would tax big companies like Amazon—money which would then go into subsidies for affordable housing. In Barcelona, the city is turning AirBnB apartments into social housing. Only local, democratic, and people-based movements can force politicians to bring transnational corporations to task. What we need to do now is learn from each other’s victories and work together to scale them up.

….we can grow our movement through struggle for important expansions of the public sphere (social spending, halting carbon emissions, public transit) and drawdowns on the most socially and ecologically destructive features of the state (the police, the military, prisons, border security, surveillance).

… Non-reformist reforms like nationalized healthcare, job guarantee programs, and public childcare can enable more working-class people to participate in neighborhood organizing and movement work. Putting public funds into cooperative development, social housing, public banking, and participatory budgeting can speed along our transition to a democratic economy.

… The mass organization of community councils, assemblies, tenant unions, labor unions, and cooperatives is what can (through its own growth) force governing elites to make the reforms we need right now, while creating the conditions for a more revolutionary restructuring of society.”

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What Is Happening to Children at the Border and in the Hands of ICE Agents

This morning, the first spacious morning in awhile, I wake with the urgent feeling. I must invest time and energy in understanding what is happening to migrant children and families right now. My feeling is that this moment is like that of early Nazi Germany. Being Jewish, I was taught about the Holocaust at an early age. I’ve often wondered about the days and years leading up to concentration camps. How did it happen? How did so many people sit by and let such horror happen. So today… I will learn more about what I am sitting by and allowing to happen.

My 12-year old friend asked me this morning what I was doing. I said, researching awful things. He couldn’t understand why I would choose to do that. If my heart becomes aware, I feel a responsibility to humanity to face the truth of what is happening and listen deeply for guidance about how I am to respond. I will keep sharing what I’m learning.

Research

May 25, 2018 — There is a new policy being enacted this year to separate children from their families at the border. Some may be arriving to seek legal asylum, some trying to cross the border, but these are young children arriving with family members. MSNBC Chris Hayes reports on this with expert guests. VIDEO HERE. This process includes babies and very young children. In the past, there were children who crossed the border on their own. However, the current policy is for the U.S. government to separate the children from their families, causing significant trauma for these young children who are already in a state of trauma as many are fleeing violence seeking safety (asylum) in the U.S.

August 2017 -ACLU Report https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/ice-plans-start-destroying-records-immigrant

“ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs, regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities, and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.”

“Keeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year.”

“Recent reports by advocacy groups document sexual assaults in detention without adequate investigation or remedy, sub-standard medical care, the overuse of solitary confinement as well as threats and physical assault by custody staff. Since October 2016, there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention. Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information.”

An April 26, 2018 report from Children and Families U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs United States Senate

UAC = unaccompanied alien children
ORR = Office of Refugee Resettlement

2017 – 40,810 children were referred to ORR from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

2018 (through March) – 21,574 children referrals.

March 2017, ORR had 755 referrals; while in March 2018, ORR had 4,204 referrals.

Facilities

  • At this time, we have no temporary facilities open at Department of Defense locations. The last one closed in February 2017.
  • As of March 2018, we are operating one temporary influx facility at a Department of Labor site.
  • ORR now has its largest permanent shelter capacity at over 9,800 beds, and we continue to maintain the majority of our shelter capacity along the southern border.
  • In FY 2017, children typically stayed in ORR custody for 51 days and so far in FY 2018 (through March) average length of stay has been 56 days.

Teenagers

  • 83 percent of referrals in FY 2017
  • 87 percent in FY 2018.

“Children who migrate to the U.S. are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by human traffickers en route and at their destination.”

From Custody to Sponsors

2017 – ORR released 93 percent of children to a sponsor.

  • 49 percent to parents
  • 41 percent to close relatives
  • 10 percent to other-than-close relatives or non-relatives.

2018 – ORR have released 90 percent of children to individual sponsors

  • 41 percent were parents
  • 47 percent were close relatives
  • 11 percent were other-than-close relatives or non-relatives

“The report outlines ways that ORR has decreased the ability of potential sponsors to use fraudulent documents during the sponsor assessment process. Which must mean that there was a high degree of fraudulent documents being used by sponsors to acquire children.”

Losing track of at least 1,475 children

“From October to December 2017, ORR attempted to reach 7,635 UAC and their sponsors. Of this number, ORR reached and received agreement to participate in the safety and well-being call from approximately 86 percent of sponsors. From these calls, ORR learned that 6,075 UAC remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight UAC had run away, five had been removed from the United States, and 52 had relocated to live with a non-sponsor. ORR was unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 UAC.”

Department of Health and Human Services & Office of Refugee Resettlement currently not responsible for children taken into custody and then released to sponsors.  

“It has been HHS’s long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care. However, considering the importance of the post-release period, we are taking a fresh look at that question as a matter of both legal interpretation and appropriate policy.  Specifically, we are exploring the question of ORR’s responsibilities in relation to children who are released to sponsors, and whether the level of responsibility would differ depending on the child’s relationship to his or her sponsor. Based on what we have learned so far, if ORR were to remain legally obligated for the welfare of UAC after their release to a sponsor, or took on additional protective measures even if not legally obligated, those procedures would require a significant expansion of the current program structure and an increase in resources, and possibly additional legal authorities to further clarify ORR’s role.”

May 15, 2018 Hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

“Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testifying May 15 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where she said evades what the policies are for causing the least amount of trauma for children and admits that more must be done to protect children taken at the border.”

“I couldn’t agree with your concerns more,” Nielsen said. “We owe it to these children to protect them.”

According to the article, HHS operates more than 100 shelters across the nation for children seized at the border.

  • Video of the hearing: http://launch.newsinc.com/share.html?trackingGroup=93075&siteSection=inform_oembed&videoId=33812458
  • Article: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/16/homeland-security-chief-defends-policy-separates-families-entering-u-s/614505002/

May 23, 2018 – Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez,  a 20 year-old woman from Guatemala was shot & killed by US Border Patrol. NYTimes and CNN report on this. Evidently the story from officials has changed sinced the incident.

“Guatemala condemns violent acts and any other use of excessive force by the Border Patrol. We urge authorities to respect the rights of our citizens, especially their right to live, regardless of their immigration status,” theGuatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

May 25, 2018 – excerpts from the article: What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like

“The Trump administration is now going even further than the Obama administration in its attempts to deter asylum seekers, as it seeks to terrify mothers from coming here with their children. The prosecutions have already started flooding border courts, and this “zero-tolerance” policy has only just begun. Meanwhile the refugee crisis of Central America’s Northern Triangle countries continues apace—16 times the number of people from the region were displaced in 2017 as were in 2011, the the UN refugee agency noted in a recent report. The families have a legal right to seek asylum here—and as devastating as the consequences may be, they will not stop coming. The terror they leave behind is much worse.”

“In early May, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said he will take a stricture stance on illegal crossings of the Southern U.S. border, prosecuting 100% of people crossing, and making it an official policy to separate children from their parents. Already, 658 kids in the first 13 days of the programhave been ripped from their families, Customs and Border Protection disclosed in a Senate subcommittee hearing on May 23. (Video of the hearing below)”

“This policy is intended to punish the adults by criminally prosecuting them for entering the country, thereby deterring others from making the journey north. But it does incalculable damage to the children at an already traumatic moment in their lives, often stripping them from their mothers when their mothers are all they have.”

“There’s a real trend towards trying to put all asylum seekers in the same category as gang members even when all this young mother was seeking was to protect these young boys by bringing them to the US.” ~ director of University of Texas’s Immigration Law Clinic

“Time and time again, the women say they only brought their children here to save their lives.”

“Mothers convicted of illegal entry can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and be dealt up to $10,000 in fines, while the youths are shipped off to Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters around the country—and ORR and the US Marshals Service, which prosecutes the mothers, do not communicate, Jennifer Podkul, policy director for Kids in Need of Defense, told me.”

“Even once the parents are out of jail and transferred to immigrant detention centers, they remain divided from their kids—meaning some parents are deported before their children even know it, said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights Project.”

“Already the ORR shelters equipped to house unaccompanied minors—which until now have been children traveling without a parent—are 91 percent full. To quickly make more room, the Trump administration now plans to put kids on military bases—which the Obama administration did in the past with unaccompanied teens. But this setup is only meant for kids 13 and older for temporary emergency stays. And while the vast majority—83 percent last year—of unaccompanied minors entering the country have been older than 13, children traveling with parents tend to be far younger, often babies.”

“These children may have to wait for their parents to get out of detention, or they may seek another adult sponsor already in the US to claim them. But those adults are now more fearful to come forward, since the Trump administration just two weeks ago announced a proposal to collect information on potential sponsors’ immigration status, information that could be used for enforcement purposes. As Carey told me, “It appears we’re setting up a long-term incarceration system for children.”

“While each family makes up a single asylum case when that family is kept together, when parents and children are in different locations different courts handle them.”

“This spells trouble for a legal system already overwhelmed by a backlog of nearly 700,000 cases—and since immigrants don’t have the right to free legal help, we’re likely to see more young children representing themselves in immigration court.”

Video of the  Senate hearing to the Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration. NOTE- the presiding Senator is Senator Tillis from North Carolina:
https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/tvpra-and-exploited-loopholes-affecting-unaccompanied-alien-children

May 2018 ACLU Report
Looking at 2009-2014

“Children crossing the United States’ southern border are primarily from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Many migrant children from these countries are fleeing gang violence, social unrest, and endemic poverty.”

“Despite binding federal laws and agency policies to protect children at our borders, inadequate enforcement and oversight mechanisms have left this vulnerable group unprotected and without access to justice. A new report by the University of Chicago International Human Rights Clinic reviews one subset of the records—and documents shocking child abuse.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to detain migrant children for a limited period of time to determine whether the child should be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or qualifies for immediate removal from the United States.”

“By law, unaccompanied migrant children may only be held in CBP custody for 72 hours and are entitled to various basic protections, including: dignified and respectful treatment; safe, secure and clean facilities; adequate food and drinking water; and proper medical care. Federal law further requires personnel working in federal facilities to report possible child abuse to law enforcement, child protective services, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

“CBP officials have often ignored these legal obligations.”

“The records obtained reflect rampant abuse. Children describe excessive force: being stomped on, punched, kicked, run over with vehicles, tased, and forced to maintain stress positions by CBP officials. Minors also report verbal abuse: being called a “dog,” “piece of crap,” “son of a bitch,” and “prostitute,” and being told they “contaminate this country.” In complaints, children describe being deprived of edible food and potable water and held in freezing and unsanitary cells with inadequate bedding and no access to personal hygiene items. Children report being threatened with rape and death, being told to remove their clothing before they are subjected to questioning, and being touched inappropriately by CBP officials.”

“Children’s complaints of abuse have been ignored and mishandled, allowing CBP officials to act with impunity. DHS does not appear to have reported alleged child abuse out to the FBI. The records provide no indication that DHS has taken any remedial or disciplinary measures to hold any individual accountable for these abuses.”

One Pager: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kx3zey3b6s5hmbu/CBP_1-Pager_final.pdf?dl=0

Full Report:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/lplnnufjbwci0xn/CBP%20Report%20ACLU_IHRC%205.23%20FINAL.pdf?dl=0

Appendix:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/vsf7io4tb1tawsp/2018%2005%2022%20APPENDIX_MERGED%20Final.pdf?dl=0

Social Terror, Social Manipulation

Before enslavement Africans were called

  • “Every time Trump says “MS-13,” he wants you to think “Latino.” He wants you to think “immigrant.”Then he wants you to think back to “criminal.” Then he SAYS the word “animal,” until, in your mind, criminal-immigrant-animal become like one word. One idea.Folks, this is obvious.” ~Drew Dellinger

What to do?

  • Do your own research, be an informed consumer of media — Look at the dates of articles that you read and share. Read the whole article before sharing it. Click on the links to the sources that the article references. If there aren’t any sources, question it. If the links are broken, question it. If it’s an old article, investigate more to see if it is current. Realize that this issue is not new. The new aspect is the current administration’s policy to separate families at the border, causing more trauma and terror. However, misconduct, high numbers of deportations, and such was a problem during the Obama administration also. We as a country face many humanitarian crises that are getting worse with the current administration, but are not new. Catch up if you are not aware of this.
  • Take action (contact legislature) and raise awareness about the separation of children from their families at the border. (Do NOT focus on the missing children. While best beauroctratic practices are to keep track of people, we do not want the current enforcement agencies to be tracking down these missing children as many are likely intentionally hiding from the authorities. And the methods being used to track them down are perpetuating terror and discriminatory deportation.) Focus on the fact that children, very young children, are being separated from their parents when there is no reason that threatens the well-being of the child. This causes extreme trauma to these young children. Tell the representatives to intervene to insure that these people have legal rights, that they are allowed bond while they move through the court system, that they are not locked up in detention centers for indefinite amounts of time.
    • Comments from 2 lawyers about what to and NOT to focus on
    • How to contact your elected officials
    • Asheville, Buncombe County, and North Carolina
      • Contact U.S Congressman Mark Meadows and Senator Thom Tillis — express your concern about the national policies for separating children from their families. You can also make a local ask that they pressure ICE to allow the people from Buncombe and Henderson County to be allowed out of the detention centers on bond. Don’t make them stay locked up as they wait for trial, allow them be released on bond.
      • If you are a business owner or work for a business, sign this petition. These legislatures consider themselves pro-business and thus are more likely to listen to the demands of business owners. Petition (source CIMA and Ami Worthen)
  • Ruby Sales is organizing caravans across America that will start out in different cities of America and will end up at a designated space. If you are moved to stand, please email me at info@ spirithouseproject.org or call 718 601 0235 — “We can no longer remain silent or we become collaborators in a new system of captivity, sexual violations, psychological terror and deliberate acts by ICE to separate them from their parents. These White travesties echo acts by White Americans during enslavement when they captured Black children and sold them from their families. Now once again the evil that bred these actions during enslavement never died and lives today in the pathology of White supremacy.I woke up this morning knowing that we cannot remain silent as this government presides over and engineers a predatory system that separates Black and Brown immigrant children at the border from their families even selling them into the hands of White sex traffickers!”
  • More suggestions from Liz Gumbinner  (I have not vetted all of this)
    • Gain a better understanding of the law at  the Informed Immigrant website and see a list of legal support services who could use your help.
    • Support the ActBlue Charities initiative to Support Kids at the Border. Funds raised will be split among multiple charities.
    • Support charities and organizations dedicated to helping children –  The Young Center for Immigrant and Children’s Rights focuses on the rights, safety, and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children. United We Dream is the first and largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country. KIND: Kids in Need of Defense is effective in supporting children’s protection and upholding their right to due process and fundamental fairness. The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project supports detailed adults and unaccompanied children who have been detained in Arizona, often illegally. Asylum Advocacy works to prevent the deportation of refugees fleeing violence and war, who have come here seeking legal asylum, provides emergency legal services, and a lot more. Lutheran Immigration Services has been helping resettle refugees and reunite families since 1939. The UN Refugees Agency isn’t specific to US refugee and immigrant issues, but they support victims fleeing from conflict in myriad ways. (h/t Amanda Litman on Twitter who continues to share a crowdsourced list of organizations that are helping.) The National Immigrant Justice Association of the Heartland Alliance ensures human rights protections and access to justice, including legal services, for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
    • Donate to the ACLU which is actively fighting these injustices in court. You can also sign their petition to Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner of Customs and US Border Protection to demand a stop to the physical, sexual, and verbal abuse of immigrant children.
    • Vote. Vote vote vote vote vote. Vote for candidates in November who will take a stand for human decency in every possible way, and especially around this issue.
    • Write about it. Use your social platforms. Use your website (that’s what I’m doing, right here). Every voice amplifying this makes a difference.
    • Attend or host a rally on June 14Wherearethechildren.org is starting to coordinate local marches for stolen children — if you don’t feel comfortable leaving an address on the form, which is light with details, just keep your eye out for developments on hashtags  and 
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If Change is Why You March…

womensmarch2017Some people marched yesterday.
Marching at a Womens March illustrated numbers and allows people to feel the presence of other bodies standing up at this tim. It’s a chance to sing, chant and learn from each other, be in conversation about what is important. As my brother said, yesterday’s march was the “easy public place” to vocalize resistance or vocalize what you believe in. It was also a day for many people to be recharged and revitalized in a time when it is essential that as many of us as possible have the energy and motivation to keep acting so things will change for those who are most vulnerable at this time. If you marched, I hope it nourished and motivated you in some way that helps you stay engaged.

Some people did not march yesterday.
Some are not able to march. Some did not feel included in the purpose of the march. Some did not feel a clear purpose behind the march. Some are standing and resisting in other ways all the time and did not feel the need to march. Some saw this as an opportunity to hold people in positions of power accountable and educate about the ways officials are using their power. Some did not feel safe at the march.

I believe that the majority of Americans are unpracticed in how to stand up to the state, corporate, and institutional powers that control and govern our society. More of us continue to wake up every day, feeling the churning in our gut, the fire in our heart that says, “Things aren’t right. You have to be a part of changing things. You have a role to play in creating a future that you dream of. You are part of the solution to stop the horrors that many are facing right now.” Fortunately, elder organizers remind us that civic engagement is a skill that gets better with practice.

I am beyond grateful that we are hearing the calls. I pray that we will take risks, be bold, and turn towards one another to learn from each other about how to move forward in response to this call. I emphatically believe that the answers emerge from:

  • listening deeply to the inner voices of divine guidance
  • listening intently and responding to the guidance from those who are most impacted by the injustice, discrimination and inequity
  • working together

Nothing-changes-if-nothing-changes-252x300If you are feeling uncomfortable with the diverse perspectives around the march and how to make change, if you’re feeling uncertain about what is the “right” thing to do — GOOD. If we are not practiced in standing up for what is right, it is valuable for us to feel unsettled as we step into this territory. The habits and patterns and behaviors that have allowed us to get to this point require undoing. We need to be disoriented and unsettled so that we can connect to the solid ground of our values, be vulnerable in unfamiliar territory, and allow the fire-to-act to grow stronger within us. The more we unsettle our old ways of being, the clearer we will get. That means unsettling feelings of righteousness as well. Then we can genuinely recognize when we take steps forward that influence growing the world we dream of. A better future requires our participation now in order for it to come to life.

Thank you Chris Corrigan, for inviting me into the power of the word/practice of unsettling.

More reading:

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Translating Sentiment to Action… or Not

I’ve been thinking a lot about tomorrow’s women’s march, particularly the one in Asheville. I imagine a sea of people with smiles, excitement and signs — feeling inspired that others are “showing up”. Feeling proud of marching in the name of things they believe in or things they are against. And yet… I also have a hollow pit in my stomach when I think about it– what good is it? What have the people marching done in the year since they last marched to actively change the discrimination and violence that is happening in our own community? How are people changing their own lives, making sacrifices that make lives better for those who are most targeted — which are NOT white, cisgendered women?

Then I read the below statement from Tranzmission, a local group that I really respect. So much of Asheville’s institutional leadership is not bold, is not willing to take risks to stand up for what is morally and ethically right. And so many of Asheville’s people have not been willing to stand up to this leadership, to demand better, to push for what is morally and ethically right. We have to do better. And to do better, we have to actually DO THINGS — not just voice our outrage and find others to complain with.

If you’re going to tomorrow’s march, I’d love to hear what you are invested in doing this next month to be a part of change here in Asheville. I do not judge your choice to recharge and remotivate in a public way, I just plead that you don’t stop there and that the rush of energy you get from being engaged gets translated to a city council room, attending a board of commissions, putting pressure on the people you know who hold positions of influence in local government, at Mission, at the universities, in the school system, police or sheriff’s department, etc. Consider putting your AirBnb up for rent instead and accept section 8. Do something radical, take a chance in service to actually being a part of real change. I continue to believe that Asheville is capable of remarkable shifts… but it will take all of us being active much more than the majority of us currently are.

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Electing Judges in North Carolina

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 12.34.30 PMIn 2018 here in North Carolina, we get to be a part of electing our judges and sheriffs. These people hold a lot of power and influence. Do you care about what “the law” determines is fair or not fair, just or not, reasonable punishment or not? Do you care about how law enforcement enact their jobs?

The people that are elected into these roles will hold power that allows them to influence large numbers of people’s lives. So — We’ve got 9 months to learn about the people that are wanting to be elected and to influence the outcome of who is elected.

Learn more from the flyer that Democracy North Carolina has created and stay engaged! Links in the comments.

Continued confessions: It is new for me to be engaged in the governing/politicing process, all year long, not just around elections. Thank you to those that have been and those that paved the way for me to be. I still don’t see the system working effectively — but I see potential and I’m joining the experiment more actively.

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Facing the Challenges of This Time

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“In the face of daunting challenges, we must summon the courage to believe we are the ones we have been waiting for, take risks, and experiment towards solutions. We’re being asked to believe in our inherent capacity, step into the unknown, and challenge deeply held assumptions. For most of us, that’s radically disruptive and contrary to how we’ve organized ourselves to succeed in life… Together we will become the leaders we collectively need. And in the process we will continuously grow and shift and change to meet each new challenge.”

Jodie Tonita from Social Transformation Project, published in Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown.

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