Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another Crazy Making Irony- by Crissy Brooks

We say it's a "Win-Win"- those situations where each party involved benefits. As cheesy as the term sounds sometimes, it is nice when things work out well for everyone. I heard of a potential "win-win" a couple of weeks ago when one of my neighbors asked me to look over some paperwork.

My neighbor has been working as a Nurses Assistant at a convelascent home for 21 years. He makes $10.63 an hour and works full time. He has been in the process of getting his permanent residence status. He has paid a few thousand dollars in legal fees and gone through all the steps. He is in the homestretch.

What he needs to seal the deal is a paper signed by a "potential' employer stating that they will hire him once he has his papers. It seems fairly simple considering that he has been working under the radar at this company for two decades. I imagined that his boss would gladly sign the paper and congratulate my neighbor on becoming legal and thank him for his years of service doing the dirtiest jobs in the hospital.

Here it comes- the crazy making part: The supervisor won't sign the paper! But it's a "win-win"- you get a legal employee, he gets to walk proud, free of fear. Yeah, no.

In my naivete I am always sure there is a way to make things happen. I offered to go with my neighbor to plead with his supervisor. I offered to threaten him with phone calls to the immigration authorities. I coached my neighbor to have his lawyer call on his behalf. We racked our brains.

Now the deadline has come and gone with no signature. My neighbor will have to begin the process again- spending years and resources on one more try.

What is the fear that keeps us from helping? What is the pride that let's us play with others' futures? What did the employer have to gain by not signing the paper?

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter Meditation

…from M. Daniel Carrol R., on his Easter and the Immigration Question at Immigration and Other Matters Blog:
How might looking at immigration through the eyes of the cross and resurrection, and therefore the Lord’s Supper, affect our attitudes and perspectives… especially when millions of those who have come—both documented and undocumented—claim the Christian faith? What of the acceptance of the “other” and hospitality to the outsider? What of the sharing with brothers and sisters and of the testimony of unconditional love toward those who do not know Jesus, whether native-born or immigrant?
Read the whole article here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Matthew Soerens on Christian Radio

Family Life put our friend Matt Soerens on the radio this week. You can listen to his great interview at this link. Once you listen to it, leave a message below.
"How can Christians balance law and grace in the debate over undocumented immigration? Join Martha as she talks with Matthew Soerens, the US Training Specialist for World Relief and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate." 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Undocumented and Unafraid…

…is the theme of many of young people who will benefit when the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is passed. Students and young people are organizing across Southern California and the country to improve their own lives and the lives of all of us as the contribute to a better world.

I met David at Which Way America?: Reframing, Regrouping and Realigning for Immigrant Integration in Los Angeles, an event of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) earlier this month. David Cho is a recent UCLA graduate and leader. His compelling story demonstrates the diversity of the undocumented community. He is the son and grandson of pastors.

Watch for future posts from David Cho and others like him.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crazy Making Ironies

Sometimes things can get so nutty! A couple of years ago our city council passed an ordinance that placed a Federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent in our city jail. So now anyone who is picked up by the police is screened by an ICE agent. You don't have to be convicted or guilty of anything, just brought in for whatever reason and you are screened for documentation.

A couple months back a friend of mine refused to sleep with her abusive ex-husband when he brought the rent over. He got angry. She got scared and threw a plate at him. When the police got there he was bleeding and she wasn't so they took her away as the aggressor. It didn't seem to matter that he had a history of domestic violence. So my friend spent the night in jail. There were no charges brought against her and the case was dropped.

Except then she was on an immigration hold after having been processed through our city jail. So now she is in the process of being deported, in which case her three American citizen children will be left in the custody of their abusive father or child protective services.

That all seems pretty straight forward and some would even say it is fair. Technically, the law played out (whether or not it is a just law is another question). Here's where it gets nutty...

While our team is trying to get an immigration lawyer on the case I get a phone call from one of our city council members who was a strong proponent of placing the ICE agent in the jail. She is calling to say that she would like to recognize our organization at the next city council meeting with a Proclamation of our valuable community work.

The thing is that the woman in the process of being deported is the main force behind our "valuable community work." She rallied the neighbors to open the community center. She is the one who pulls people together to support a neighbor in need. She is the main idea woman behind our community seminars and programs.

So I went to the city council meeting to receive an award for my friend's work in the community that she is simultaneously being removed from by the same council's policy.

I don't know whether to laugh or scream my head off. Isn't it confusing to celebrate one's work on one hand and then condemn them on the other? It's too nutty. It's too real.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Intensive 2 Day Faith-Rooted Advocacy Training: Friday, May 13-14

From CLUE--OC:
We are excited to invite you to CLUE Orange County's Intensive 2 Day Faith-Rooted Advocacy Training: Friday, May 13 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and Saturday, May 14 from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Location is TBD. Will be in Central/South Orange County. Please RSVP by filling out the form below no later than Monday, May 9, 2011. Registration fee of $30 per person can be mailed to 309 N Rampart, Ste. A, Orange, CA 92868 Attn: CLUE OC. Please note: FRO training on the memo line or make your payment at the door via cash/check. Thank you.

Register online here.

Refugees, Immigrants and the Gospel

When I talk to groups about immigrants that I know and the need for immigration reform, I mention how positively I have been affected by people from and in other countries--their generosity, hospitality, friendship, faith.

Today, at Undocumented.tv, Sharon Moore writes about her experience as a volunteer at World Relief's Durham, North Carolina office as a volunteer. Check out here blog:
How Refugees and Other Immigrants Preach the Gospel to Me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Save My Wings

Last September, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC with several hundred other community and faith leaders to talk to our congressional representatives about immigration reform, Ag Jobs, the DREAM Act, and other immigration issues. I took this letter from my friend who would benefit if the DREAM Act was passed. I gave this letter to my own congressperson, Linda Sanchez, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and the two California Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.

What do I breathe that others don’t? What does my heart pump that doesn’t run in the veins of others? What is my flesh made of that makes it illegal and almost inferior to the “citizens” of this country? Until this day, I have not discovered any biological explanations that justify the social displacement that I encounter in every day society. At the age of four years I left the country that gave me a nationality, a language and a home. Not knowing what our positions in life would look like, my parents had no option but to make their American dream, a car garage, which came to be our new home. As if risking their lives was not enough to provide me with a better future, my parents’ long days of intense labor acted as second catalyst in emphasizing the importance of pursuing a higher education. In spring of 2006, I was accepted to one of the most competitive institutions in the west, the University of California, Los Angeles.

Pursuing an educational career as an undocumented student in higher education was like jumping from a diving board into a pool without knowing if water was present. Coming in as a freshman I did not know whether I was going to be able accomplish the dream that I had been working towards since I first stepped into this country. Tuition was expensive. I did not have access to any type of job; the scholarships that I was eligible for I was not able to apply for because I did not have a 9 digit number that would allow me to take advantage of such opportunity. Moreover, the 36 thousand dollars a year that my parents make cumulatively would not meet the means of supporting a family of six and paying the education of their first college graduate. Since the resources where few, I had to look for private scholarships that did not required a social security and people who were willing to provide a listening ear and sometimes food and shelter. Though sleeping on the floor, not having enough food for the week and working extensively to pay for tuition was emotionally painful, having to leave the college campus without a Bachelors degree would have destroyed the only part of my identity that has not been defined by laws and societal standards. Therefore, the pain that I have endured has served as a self-realization factor that has made me aware of the need for educational policy that would (1) eradicate laws which create a glass ceiling to the achievement level of children in schools and (2) provide a pathway for postsecondary educational success for marginalized communities.

As a double major Political Science and Chicana/o Studies student with an emphasis on Education Studies Minor, I was able to link both my circumstance and my educational background as a resource to reframe policy and curriculum in education. During my 3 years of undergraduate schooling at UCLA, I directed two mentoring/ tutoring programs, one of which I helped establish at a local middle school. As a director, tutor and research analyst, I was able to contrive a curriculum that supplemented the students learning abilities as oppose to imposing one that did not have any association to the student’s character, social circumstance, or academic potentials. Moreover, by tutoring and mentoring students from grades K-9 twice a week for a period of 3 years, I was able to critically synthesize the disadvantages that are imposed by our educational system. One of these disadvantages is the poor budgeting crisis that not only affects our students, but also our educators. Hence, to get a better understanding of the impact that is created when an educator’s basic resources are taken away, during the 2008-09 academic year, I conducted a two quarter research through Educators for Tomorrow, a UCLA undergraduate research program. The many hours that I spent interviewing school administrators and teachers, as well as attending a series of United Teachers of Los Angeles campaign conferences, and measuring the academic performance of the 40 elementary students in Projecting Minds (Nora Sterry’s Elementary tutoring program) helped me discover my passion for educational policy making and the need to reconstruct societal frameworks that obstruct people from learning and achieving at their highest potential.

In spring of this current year, I was accepted to Columbia University’s masters program in Education Policy. Yet, because of my immigration status it is almost impossible to pursue this dream since I don’t have the resources to finance my education. Despite my vision for a better America and more than seventeen (17) years of living in this country, I have not been given the opportunity to become fully integrated as a citizen of this country. As a result, I cannot fully take use of the resources that would enable me to strengthen the educational systems that are hindering the potential of America’s respective leaders. Hence, it is of great significance that you vocalize the voice that many of us don’t have to advocate for Immigration Reform and the Federal DREAM ACT. The more time that we wait for this change to occur, the more damaged that is being done to the future of this country. Meanwhile, I will continue to hope and pray for a better tomorrow….a tomorrow that does not obstruct my liberties as a human or imprisons me like a criminal.


Tony Pardo*

*I have used a pseudonym here. My friend usually identifies himself openly to groups when he speaks about this issue.