Tag Archives: Refugees and the Displaced

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 …

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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.

 

Poetry fuels the fire; powerful play… by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

Poetry fuels the fire; and the powerful play goes on…

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray

Not surprisingly, I am in love with the written word. I love the power of the pen on the page to move, amuse, anger, or delight. The power to take us places we’ve never been before. The power to take us back to times and places we have come from.

Fiction, nonfiction such as biographies and creative nonfiction, memoirs, and essays have always had their devoted followers. Poetry is now also finding its way further into the mainstream … and even into the commercial realm as well. In an ad last year for the Apple iPad Air, we heard Robin William’s voice in his portrayal of John Keating, the beloved English teacher in the U.S. film Dead Poets Society.

From the sound track, replicated in the iPad ad, Williams/Keating quotes the poet Walt Whitman … but it’s far more than a quote, more than just a reading of words on the page. When Williams recites from “O, Me! O, Life!”, it is a performance that is as much a celebration of Whitman’s poetry as of the life about which Whitman writes. And for those of us who need a reminder of the profound power of Walt Whitman’s words, Williams gives it to us with a tantalizing invitation: “…the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Our just-released fifth edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, published by Writing for Peace, features both new and established poets (as well as talented artists, photographers, essayists, and fiction writers), writing on the theme of “Refugees and the Displaced.” As Carmel Mawle, founder of Writing for Peace and editor-in-chief for the issue, says: “Their suffering is in the front of our collective consciousness.” Carmel reminds us that their situation has descended to new levels of hostility and danger:

What can we do to change this trend? We march. We show up at airports. We boycott. We call and write and demand accountability from our legislators. We write to shine a light … and we are making a difference. Don’t let the drumbeat of dystopia dampen your passion for justice.

As Carmel tells us, this book is fuel for the fire in our bellies.

* * *

Sam Hamill, revolutionary poet and scholar, co-founder of Poets again the War to protest the conflict in Iraq, is our featured advisor in “Refugees and the Displaced,” and we are fortunate to include three poems from his book, Habitation.

When celebrated poet Martín Espada was asked to comment on the release of Habitation, he said: “When future generations want to know the truth of these times, they will turn to the words of Sam Hamill.”

As is evident in his poetry and his activism, Sam Hamill is a man who intensely feels the suffering of others, much like the character of John Keating from Dead Poets Society, who said, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

John Keating wanted his students to experience poetry with a different perspective of authentic knowledge and feelings. In our “Refugees and the Displaced” issue of DoveTales, the winners of our Young Writers Contest share this authenticity and power in their poetry.

Poetry judge E. Ethelbert Miller says of Lisa Zou’s first-place entry, “She Serves in Ben Hai”: “This is a beautiful poem – haunting in its tenderness … about family, aging, and the shadows of displacement created by [the Vietnam] war.”

Zou writes:

“… Each summer, my grandmother knits guilt / into my waitress dress and hot privilege lacquers my tongue. / I swallow each gated community, each “made in Vietnam” sticker, / one bleached spoonful after the other.”

Second-place winner Lydia Chew’s speaker issues an apology to a young woman harassed in school because she is Muslim. Says Miller: “Chew’s work attempts to understand what is at the root of our fears.”

In “Dear M,” Chew writes:

I don’t know if you remember me, / but this is my apology. / … I remember that I never saw you, / I only saw your hijab.

As Miller commented, “There is hope (in this poem) that perhaps we all have the capacity to change – no matter how long it may take.”

* * *

To quote from Walt Whitman:

“That you are here – that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

In poets such as Sam Hamill, Lisa Zou, and Lydia Chew – and, indeed, in writers of all stripes – we find the compassionate, empathetic members of the human race John Keating describes in Dead Poets Society. We find knowledge, and authenticity, and power. We find fuel for the fire in our bellies.

And the powerful play goes on.

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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.

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2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now available. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. Purchase your copy here, or find all our books at the Denver Lighthouse Writers Litfest!

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

2017 DoveTales Now Available for Preorder

2017 Front CoverDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts

“Refugees and the Displaced”

Our 2017 Edition of DoveTales is now available for Pre-order. Refugees and the Displaced includes work from artists and writers, established and emerging, from every continent of the globe (except Antarctica). You’ll also find there the winning entries from our 2016 Young Writers Contest.

Featured Adviser is Sam Hamill:

Sam Hamill was born in 1943 and grew up on a Utah farm. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and served as Editor there for thirty-two years. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons and worked with Domestic Violence programs. He was the founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, directed the Port Townsend Writers Conference for nine years, and in 2003, founded Poets Against the War. He is the author of more than forty books, including celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin.

Contributors include:

Susanne Aspley, Ross Baxter, Rana Bitar, Mark Blickley, Irene Bloom, Elena Botts, Craig Brandis, Miki Byrne, Lauren Camp, Mark Canfield, Lorraine Caputo, Mary Carroll-Hackett, Maryah Converse, Joe Cottonwood, Edward D. Currelley, Lorraine Currelley, Andrea W. Doray, Suzanne Edison, Martín Espada, Bernadette Gallagher, Rachel Gallagher, Adele Gardner, Nancy Gerber, Anuja Ghimire, Juleus Ghunta, Alexandra Grabbe, Sam Hamill, Max Harris, Cheryl R. Hopson, PhD, Emanuel Kane, James Kincaid, Phyllis Klein, Antonia Alexandra Klimenko, Chris ‘Irish Goat’ Knodel, Robert Kostuck, Adam Kotlarczyk, George Kraus, Bruce Lader, Brett LaFave, Joan Leotta, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Randel McCraw Helms, Carmel Mawle, Djelloul Marbrook, Joshua McGarry, Sandra McGarry, Silva Zanoyan Merjanian, Michael Meteyer, Dean K. Miller, E. Ethelbert Miller, Shirley Muir, Barry W. North, Carl “Papa” Palmer, Sophia Panieczko, Frances Park, Jenni Parker Gribble, Olga Pavlinova Olenich, Simon Perchik, Shirani Rajapakse, Pilar Rodríguez-Aranda, Althea Romeo-Mark, Ruth Sabath Rosenthal, Wilderness Sarchild, Deirdre Smith, Marydale Stewart, Sugar Tobey, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Lindsey Weishar, Noah Weisz, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Cassondra Windwalker, Barry Zabell

Learn more about our contributors here.

2016 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Vivian Zhao, 1st; Julianna Lee, 2nd; Jake Pritchett, 3rd

Nonfiction: Jared Anwar, 1st; Grace Choi, 2nd; Jaeeun Kim, 3rd

Poetry: Lisa Zou, 1st; Lydia Chew, 2nd; Ritika Bharati, 3rd

Art and Photography by:
Amy Bassin, Mark Blickley, Lorraine Currelley, Allen Forrest, SK Lockhart, Mohammad Ali Mirzaei, Farima Qolami

Front Cover: Allen Forrest, Face In The Crowd, Ink, Previously Published in Tidal Basin Review, Issue Winter 2015

Order your copies of DoveTales now here.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.