Tag Archives: Immigration

A Moral Imperative, By Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

America has a moral imperative to offer asylum

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea DorayUnited States from Egypt, where she would have been murdered by her own family as an honor killing because she refused an arranged marriage to her cousin.

A mother and young children travel north from Guatemala to the U.S., fleeing the gang violence, drug wars, and political corruption of their everyday existence.

A Syrian refugee family is finally reunited during the reprieve granted by judicial injunctions against the White House travel ban.

These are real cases, real people who have come to the United States to seek asylum. Their plights, and those of others like them, are the result of religious extremism, brutal repression, and despotism around the world. These people are forced to flee persecution, war, and intolerable conditions at home to seek safety in America.

Immigration – and the age-old debate that consumes it – continues to take center stage not only for politicians around the world, but also for those with strong convictions on this issue, one way or the other.

As an American, I am horrified at current policies and proposals from our very highest levels of government not only to deny admission to refugees, but also to hunt down law-abiding people who have made their lives here and to send them back to the desperate circumstances they once fled.

Fortunately, American immigration lawyers, expert witnesses, and researchers come together to detail country conditions for asylum officials, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attorneys, and immigration judges. They help to explain situations that immigration officials themselves often cannot even imagine happening, using details, reliable reports about human rights violations, and expert testimony to support the truths of violence, poverty, and brutal repression that asylum-seekers face day to day in their home countries.

Of course, under the current U.S. administration, the lives of those who are at risk if they are deported to their homelands have become lives of fear in America. The government has ramped up its efforts to send asylum-seekers back, at a staggering multi-billion-dollar cost and a waste of precious time and resources in the already overworked court system.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. government spends an average of $12,500 to arrest, detain, and deport just one person who has arrived in the country illegally, or who has overstayed his or her visa. A study released by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC, found that, in the post 9/11 era, nearly $18 billion federal tax dollars were spent on immigration enforcement in 2012 alone – an amount greater than that spent on every other federal law enforcement agency combined.

Surely there are better uses for this money than chasing people who have sought or are seeking asylum in the U.S., and sending them back to certain imprisonment, torture, persecution, and, in many cases, death. Persecution, as defined by U.S. law, includes serious harm because of an applicant’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group.

Refusing asylum to people who have come the country for their safety does not represent, as I understand them, either the values of our society or the ideals of the United States of America.

My own grandparents, Timor and Lucretia, immigrated from Romania, entering the U.S. through Canada at the turn of the 20th century to escape the unrest and volatility of Eastern Europe. Timothy John, as my grandfather was known, worked as a janitor, ultimately headed a group of janitors, and helped other Romanian immigrants come to America.

Certainly much has changed since then: America had been seen as a beacon of hope and stability for people who have fled their home countries in fear for their lives. But because of its regressive policies and often-convoluted regulations, our government now endeavors to send them back.

Those helping immigrants through the U.S. court system say they encounter two basic reactions from ICE officials, DHS attorneys, and immigration judges to asylum cases: those who believe this country should welcome asylum applicants, and those who believe their responsibility is to serve as gatekeepers. These two worldviews reflect our larger society as a whole, with some of us believing that we are better because of immigration, and others who regard immigrants and asylum-seekers with both fear and anger. After September 11, and with the creation of the DHS, whose aim was originally to protect us from terrorist threats, there exists in many circles a deep-seated fear and mistrust of immigrants.

It would be hard to overstate the trauma, terror, and shame of women fleeing rape or female genital mutilation, or the fears of dissidents who are beaten or tortured for their political views, or the profound losses of families wrenched apart by civil strife, religious extremism, and outright war.

As Americans, I believe we have a moral imperative to uphold the ideals of life and liberty, and offer these same protections for those who seek safety in new lives here.

That’s how I see it, from my little corner of the world …

###

P.S. Our 2017 edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts focuses on “Refugees and the Displaced.” Order your copy here for insightful writing on this issue, and to support the efforts of Writing for Peace.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Border Crisis, by Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

Border Crisis, or Juárez City is Inside Our Closets

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, Writing for Peace Adviserby Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

(To read this post in Spanish, scroll down.)

Everyday I read, listen to, and witness the decomposition of our “human” societies, and everyday I become more convinced there will never be a real change if we do not work on the very base of it all: our own self, our family, our neighborhood and our local community. It is there where we find such barbarities that I really don’t understand why we are amazed these happen, of course amplified, at a global level: abuse of all types, beatings, rape, humiliation, war. What happens inside our homes and among our neighbors is the very reflection/root of our sickness, the microcosms of what happens in the immensity of this beautiful planet, our great home, which we systematically keep murdering. We know it, and yet…

I once was at a conference with all kinds of academic “experts” on violence; while the speaker was offering a summary of his latest research or book, a friend who knew this man told me he had beaten his girlfriend; and in that same conference there were at least two other cases of lecturers who abused women or, similarly, his coworkers. I believe Peace starts within, but not a fantasy/imagined/unrealistic peace, where we all act as if separate from the rest… Peace is something we seek, a conscious act, it requires will and a lot of “work”, because, when you have grown in a home where violence is the norm, then of course we will accept and even crave for it outside: radio and TV announcers who can’t seem to talk normally but always screaming; news about ugliness, war and devastation; commercials which are full of lies and immorality; entertainment which is all blood-kill-explode, full of “bad” people, which are always from some “alien” place, colored people who come from “the other side” of our “border”. Borders…another one of those cruel human inventions. A patriarch will never allow anyone from “outside” to meddle with whatever is happening inside his home, and almost everyone else seems to accept this, still. So, my neighbour beats his kids or his wife, and I say nothing. Remember that “Silence = Death”? Well, we still haven’t gone beyond the tiniest of peeps…

Some think that’s a job for our politicians…yet, everyone seems to loath them! And not only Americans, but Mexicans, Cubans, Chileans, Spaniards, Argentinians… Are there any exceptions? Maybe Uruguayans at this point, maybe Icelanders. So, we complain, we denounce, and nothing happens. These so called “representatives” choose their “causes” according to popularity or economic gain, so, of course, it is not surprise when one of them says that femicides is not a pressing problem, even though there’s a constant increase in all forms of violence against women. A lot is being said and written right now about the thousands of Central American children who are waiting to be deported back to their no-future land… But who is talking about those we know nothing about, the “disappeared” ones, killed for their organs, subjected to prostitution and slavery? This year alone, and only in Mexico, there have been 45 thousand children reported disappeared. Who is talking about them?

The US has never truly been “the promised land”, and yet, the media keeps selling this concept of “America the brave and perfect democracy”, hypocrisy at its height! But even if the “American Dream” is just a lie, if you compares one single fact, like minimum wage, it is so easy to understand, I mean, if I make 8 dollars a day, of course making 8 dollars an hour will seem much more attractive. And if at home the alternative is getting killed or becoming a victim, the choice is even easier. In the documentary “Which Way Home”, a kid says he wants to go to the USA because he wants a different life. The interviewer asks him, what kind of life? and he responds, any other.

We know about US intervention in all of Latin America, about corporate rulings, puppet governments, coups d’état, rigged elections, and so on, and yet nothing has changed. I sometimes try to explain to my Mexican friends that my US friends feel the same as we do, and they are powerless to change the direction of their own government, just as we seem powerless to do the same with ours. But, are we really that powerless, or is this just another illusion?

To be honest, I understand nothing. I look around and no one seems to care. People go about their daily life, working, shopping, entertaining themselves; more people will gather to celebrate a soccer game than to protest about anything! I don’t understand humanity’s fascination with death and the end of the world. Someone once told me it had to do with the prophecy of the apocalypses. So, following this logic, if according to the bible, sooner or later the world is coming to an end, why should we care? We are all going to die anyway, why not hurry the fact? Is that how it goes? I also don’t understand a religion which accepts money to aggrandize their churches and protects their own criminals but has no empathy for those who are (still, somewhat) innocent, and suffer; I don’t understand those can’t open their hearts to an eight year old child who has crossed all of the terrain called Mexico on foot, surviving all kinds of atrocities, and wish to send him back… Him and thousands more like him. And I don’t understand why everyone acts surprised, when for many years this situation has been built by their own government and their own indifference.

Once, while showing films on the violence happening in Juárez City in one of the many “sub-cities” that are part of the immense urban mess called Mexico City, an elementary teacher said, “Juárez is in our closets”. She was thinking about the raped, battered, abused little kids who she sees everyday in school, forced to act as if everything is alright, as if their home is a happy place, and life is a piece of cake. And of course, how can she even suggest this kid’s soul, mind and body is being systematically killed? Her parents will deny it, her siblings and even her grandparents or aunts will deny it. Not a peep. What happens within our walls is our business…

Well, guess what? Not anymore. What happens in the US is as much my business as what happens in Nicaragua or in China or in Portugal, and whatever happens in a child’s home should be as much my business as what happens in mine. A lot is being said (and supposedly done, but who believes in politicians?) about the present crisis in the US border. I have no answers, I don’t even pretend to offer a true analysis, such is the task of “experts”. All I can say about these children is, at least they are alive! There is still hope, except, sending them back means denying them that, once again. Where is the love, the compassion, the braveness in this? Our closets are about to burst.

***

La crisis en la frontera, ó Ciudad Juárez vive en nuestros clósets

por Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

Todos los días leo, escucho y soy testigo de la descomposición de nuestras sociedades “humanas”, y todos los días me convenzo más de que nunca habrá un cambio verdadero si no trabajamos en la base de todo: nuestro propio ser, nuestra familia, nuestro barrio y nuestra comunidad local. Es ahí donde encontramos tales barbaridades que realmente no entiendo por qué nos sorprendemos de que éstas sucedan, claro, amplificadas, a nivel global: abuso de todos tipos, golpizas, violación, humillación, guerra. Lo que sucede dentro de nuestros hogares y entre nuestros vecinos es el reflejo/raíz misma de nuestra enfermedad, el microcosmos de lo que sucede en la inmensidad de este bello planeta, nuestro gran hogar, el cual seguimos asesinando sistemáticamente. Lo sabemos, y sin embargo…

Estuve alguna vez en una conferencia con toda clase de académicos “expertos” en el tema de la violencia; mientras un conferencista ofrecía un resumen de su última investigación o libro, una amiga que conocía a este hombre me contaba que él golpeaba a la novia; en esa misma conferencia había al menos dos casos más de presentadores que habían abusado a mujeres o, de manera similar, a sus compañeros de trabajo. Yo creo que la Paz comienza dentro, pero no una paz fantasía/imaginada/irreal, donde todos actúan como si estuvieran separados de los demás… La paz es algo que buscamos, un acto consciente, requiere de voluntad y mucho “trabajo”, porque cuando uno ha crecido en un hogar donde la violencia es la norma, entonces, claro que vamos a aceptar, e incluso ansiarla, en el exterior: locutores de radio y televisión que parece no pueden hablar normalmente sino siempre gritando; noticias sobre la fealdad, la guerra y la devastación; comerciales llenos de mentiras e inmoralidad; entretenimiento que es todo sangre-mata-explota, lleno de gente “mala”, que vienen de un lugar “ajeno”, gente de color que vienen “del otro lado” de nuestra “frontera”. Fronteras…otro de esos crueles inventos humanos. Un patriarca nunca permitirá que alguien de “fuera” se meta en lo que sucede dentro de su casa, y casi todos parecen aceptar esto, todavía. Así que, si mi vecino golpea a sus niños o a su esposa, yo no debo decir nada. ¿Recuerdan aquél, “Silencio = Muerte”? Bueno, pues todavía no hemos pasado de emitir el más leve de los píos…

Algunos piensan que ese es un trabajo para nuestros políticos…y sin embargo ¡todos parecen despreciarlos! Y no solo los norteamericanos, sino los mexicanos, los cubanos, los chilenos, españoles, argentinos…¿Hay alguna excepción? Quizá los uruguayos en este momento, o los islandeses. Así que, nos quejamos, denunciamos, y nada sucede. Estos llamados “representantes” eligen sus “causas” de acuerdo a la popularidad o a la ganancia económica, así que, por supuesto no es de sorprenderse cuando uno de ellos dice que los feminicidios no son un problema apremiante, aún cuando hay un aumento constante de todas las formas de violencia en contra de la mujer. Mucho se está diciendo y escribiendo en este momento sobre los niños centroamericanos que esperan a ser deportados de vuelta a su tierra sin futuro… Pero, ¿quién está hablando de los que no sabemos nada, los “desaparecidos”, que han sido asesinados por sus órganos, sujetos a la prostitución y esclavitud? Solo este año, y solo en México, han habido 45 mil reportes de niños desaparecidos. ¿Quién está hablando de ellos?

Los Estados Unidos nunca han sido en verdad “la tierra prometida”, y sin embargo, los medios continúan vendiendo el concepto de “América, la valiente, la democracia perfecta”, ¡la hipocresía al máximo! Pero, aún si el “Sueño Americano” es solo una mentira, si uno compara un solo dato, como el salario mínimo, es entonces fácil de entender, digo, si yo gano 8 dólares al día, es obvio que ganar 8 dólares la hora me parecerá mucho más atractivo. Y si en casa, la alternativa es que te maten o te conviertas en víctima, la elección se hace todavía más fácil. En el documental “Which Way Home”, un niño dice que quiere ir a los EEUU porque desea una vida distinta. El entrevistador le pregunta, ¿qué clase de vida?, y él responde, cualquier otra.

Sabemos sobre la intervención de los EEUU en toda Latinoamérica, sobre el dominio de las corporaciones, los gobiernos títere, los golpes de estado, las elecciones amañadas, y así sucesivamente, y sin embargo, nada cambia. En ocasiones trato de explicarle a mis amigos mexicanos que mis amigos norteamericanos se sienten igual que nosotros, y que son igual de impotentes para cambiar la dirección de su gobierno, como nosotros somos impotentes de hacer lo mismo con el propio. Pero, ¿es verdad que somos así de impotentes, o es solo otra ilusión?

Para ser honesta, no entiendo nada. Miro alrededor mío, y a nadie parece importarle. La gente continúa con su vida cotidiana, va al trabajo, de compras, se entretienen; ¡se reúne más gente para celebrar un partido de fútbol que para protestar por cualquier cosa! Yo no entiendo la fascinación de los humanos por la muerte y el fin del mundo. Alguien me dijo alguna vez que tiene que ver con la profecía del Apocalipsis. Así que, en esa lógica, si de acuerdo con la Biblia, tarde o temprano el mundo se va a acabar, ¿para qué importarnos? Todos vamos a morir así que, ¿por qué no apresurarnos? ¿Así es como va la cosa? Tampoco entiendo una religión que acepta dinero para agrandar sus iglesias y protege a sus criminales pero no tiene empatía por aquellos que son (todavía, de algún modo) inocentes, y sufren; yo no entiendo a aquellos que no tienen su corazón abierto ante un niño de ocho años que ha cruzado todo ese terreno llamado México, a pie, sobreviviendo toda clase de atrocidades, y desean enviarlo de vuelta… A él y miles como él. Y no entiendo por qué todos actúan sorprendidos, cuando por años esta situación ha sido creada por su propio gobierno y su propia indiferencia.

Una vez en que mostrábamos películas sobre la violencia en Ciudad Juárez, en una de las muchas “sub-ciudades” que conforman el inmenso caos urbano llamado Ciudad de México, una maestra de primaria dijo, “Juárez está en nuestros clósets”. Ella pensaba en los pequeñitos que ve todos los días en la escuela, violados, golpeados, maltratados, forzados a actuar como si todo estuviera bien, como si su casa fuera un lugar feliz y la vida una rebanada de pastel. Y claro, ¿cómo va ella a sugerir que el alma, la mente y el cuerpo de este niño están siendo sistemáticamente asesinados? Sus padres lo negarán, sus hermanos, e incluso sus abuelos y tías lo negarán. Ni pío dirán. Lo que sucede detrás de nuestros muros, es nuestro asunto…

Pero, ¿saben qué? Ya no más. Lo que sucede dentro de los EEUU es tan mi asunto como lo que sucede en Nicaragua, en China o en Portugal, y lo que suceda en la casa de cualquier niño, debe de ser tan mi asunto como lo que sucede en la mía. Mucho se está diciendo (y supuestamente haciendo, pero, ¿quién le cree a los políticos?) sobre la actual crisis en la frontera de los EEUU. Yo no tengo respuestas, ni siquiera pretendo ofrecer un análisis de verdad, tal es la tarea de los “expertos”. Lo único que puedo decir sobre estos niños es que, ¡al menos están vivos! Todavía hay esperanza, excepto que, enviarlos de vuelta significa negárselas, una vez más. ¿Dónde está el amor, la compasión, la valentía en todo eso? Nuestros clósets están a punto de reventar.

Pilar Rodríguez Aranda @100TPC 2012Writing for Peace Adviser, Pilar Rodriguez Aranda is a poet, video artist, translator by trade and border-crosser by vocation. She was born in Mexico City, but lived in California, Texas, and New Mexico, for a total of 13 years; she presently lives in Malinalco, Estado de México and tries to commute to the capital city only when necessary.

Click here to learn more about Pilar.

Writing for Peace News

Writing for Peace Young Writers' Contest2014 Young Writers Contest

Bios are up for our 2014 Young Writers Contest Winners. Learn more about these talented young writers, and leave them a kind word! Submission Guidelines for our 2015 Young Writers Contest will go live on September 1st, 2014.

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts

Our beautiful “Contrast” 2014 Issue of DoveTales has been delayed due to printing issues. We should have a release date very shortly! We apologize for the delay, and thank you for your patience.

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.