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June 23, 2010

Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends, The Center for Peace and Justice at George Fox University and Mennonite Central Committee present:

Christians and Immigration in a Land of Contradictions

A Call to Biblical Action

Join with other concerned Christians as we educate ourselves about immigration in the United States.  Together we will examine details of immigration law and history, hear first-hand stories about the immigrant experience and be inspired by fellow Christians working to share the love of Christ with our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Scroll down to read the most recent blog or use the tools on the right to find posts that most interest you.

We want this site to be a forum for conversation.  So don’t be shy: post a response!


Action Opportunity: DREAM Act

December 2, 2010

We write you today with an important opportunity to stand for welcome. The Senate could consider the first of several votes on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the DREAM Act, as early as Saturday. Members of Congress will be considering how they will vote this week and they need to hear from constituents like you, Roberta.

In a recent letter, Linda Hartke, President and CEO of LIRS, urged members of Congress to support the DREAM Act:

“America’s greatness has been built on the hard work of generations of newcomers who have cherished education, committed themselves to hard work and excellence, and have returned many fold great benefits to our society and local communities.”

The DREAM Act would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth of good moral character who complete two years of higher education or military service. We urge you to raise your voice with Linda’s in support of this longstanding bipartisan bill. Many of you called your legislators in support of the DREAM Act in September, resulting in a record number of calls to Congress in support of fair and humane immigration – please keep up this momentum!

Contact your Representatives by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Tell your three members of Congress, “I am a constituent and I urge you to vote for the DREAM Act. I support comprehensive immigration reform and treating all migrants fairly and humanely.” Please write us and tell us about your act of welcome!

You can also visit the LIRS Action Center to send letters to your members of Congress in support of the DREAM Act. Let Washington know you Stand for Welcome and support the DREAMs of our immigrant youth.

Service Opportunity!

December 1, 2010

We will be meeting at 1pm to stuff envelopes for a campaign to raise funds to start an Immigration Counseling and Advocacy Program here in Yamhill County. You may remember a brief presentation about this project during the Christians and Immigration conference last month.

December 3, 2010, 1:00 pm
Newberg Friends Church
Barclay A (office building)
307 South College Street

National Day of Fasting and Prayer for Immigration Reform

November 12, 2010

“As people of God who are called to care for the widow, the orphan and the migrant, we seek to hear and respond to God’s voice. We are compelled to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, in whose image we are all created, including our immigrant brothers and sisters (Micah 6:8).

We call for a National Day of Fasting and Prayer on November 16, 2010. Across the nation, we will be united in prayer for a common purpose- to pray for an end to family separation due to deportations, to lament the broken immigration system, and to ask God for guidance on the way forward.

We will fast because we recognize our need to repent for our nation’s tragic neglect of immigrants throughout American history, and particularly today. We will fast with a spirit of lament because when our brother or sister grieves, we grieve along with them. We will fast because we want to intentionally remind ourselves that many immigrants in our land do without basic needs and security on a daily basis. Finally, we will fast because we want to unite in action as we lift our prayers up to God, pleading for God to act on behalf of the immigrant in our land by making a way out of no way for the Dream Act, and ultimately for comprehensive immigration reform.”

To register for this event and see the original post see the website

Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law

November 2, 2010

original article here:

by Laura Sullivan

October 28, 2010

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said. “He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

“They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community,” Nichols said, “the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”

But Nichols wasn’t buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

“They talked like they didn’t have any doubt they could fill it,” Nichols said.

That’s because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it’s upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it’s not about prisons. It’s about what’s best for the country.

“Enough is enough,” Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading “Let Freedom Reign.” “People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation.”

But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It’s a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce’s idea took shape.

“I did a presentation,” Pearce said. “I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, ‘Yeah.'”

Drafting The Bill

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC’s boards.

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in “a significant portion of our revenues” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

“There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law.

They even named it. They called it the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”

“ALEC is the conservative, free-market orientated, limited-government group,” said Michael Hough, who was staff director of the meeting.

Hough works for ALEC, but he’s also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona’s law.

Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.”

Nothing about this is illegal. Pearce’s immigration plan became a prospective bill and Pearce took it home to Arizona.

Campaign Donations

Pearce said he is not concerned that it could appear private prison companies have an opportunity to lobby for legislation at the ALEC meetings.

“I don’t go there to meet with them,” he said. “I go there to meet with other legislators.”

Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.

As soon as Pearce’s bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC’s influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

That same week, the Corrections Corporation of America hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.

The prison company declined requests for an interview. In a statement, a spokesman said the Corrections Corporation of America, “unequivocally has not at any time lobbied — nor have we had any outside consultants lobby – on immigration law.”

At the state Capitol, campaign donations started to appear.

Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.

By April, the bill was on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk.

Brewer has her own connections to private prison companies. State lobbying records show two of her top advisers — her spokesman Paul Senseman and her campaign manager Chuck Coughlin — are former lobbyists for private prison companies. Brewer signed the bill — with the name of the legislation Pearce, the Corrections Corporation of America and the others in the Hyatt conference room came up with — in four days.

Brewer and her spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

In May, The Geo Group had a conference call with investors. When asked about the bill, company executives made light of it, asking, “Did they have some legislation on immigration?”

After company officials laughed, the company’s president, Wayne Calabrese, cut in.

“This is Wayne,” he said. “I can only believe the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what’s happening. Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and that for me, at least I think, there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do.”

Opportunities that prison companies helped create.

Produced by NPR’s Anne Hawke.

What’s Illegals?

October 25, 2010

by Sergio Cisneros

Words we use have the power to signal the past and foretell the future. The way they define a situation or a problem has the potential to decide its outcome. For this reason, it is important that people stop using the term “illegal” when referring to undocumented immigrants in the United States. This change is a fundamental first step to immigration reform.

Many Americans speak casually of “illegals” and “illegal aliens” when discussing undocumented immigrants. When these terms are used, they make it seem as if criminals and terrorists are arriving on our doorstep — a total misconception of the 11 million people who, for the most part, seek the kinds of jobs that Americans avoid.

It’s true that these immigrants did break the law when they entered the U.S. without documents, and when they extended their stay here without obtaining the necessary visa, but what about the legal obligations of the numerous individuals and companies that hired them? If the workers are called “illegals,” why are we not referring to those who hire them as “illegal companies” or “illegal business owners” or “illegal employers”? Are they not guilty of breaking the law?

The moral argument for solving the predicament of undocumented workers is summed up in a simple phrase in the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.” The language couldn’t be plainer; it does not say or even imply that only citizens and legal residents are equal. Yet undocumented immigrants are not treated or thought of as equals.

This fundamental inequality must change, and change often begins through language. Words matter. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor notably decided to use the term “undocumented immigrant” in a written opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court last December. It marked the first use of the term by a justice, though the term “illegal immigrant” has appeared in many decisions. This is the way change occurs: word by word.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona almost always used the word “undocumented” during his 2008 presidential campaign. So did Barack Obama.

During his presidency, Obama has rarely used the term “illegal,” when referring to immigrants. An exception is his July 1 speech on immigration reform at American University in Washington, D.C., in which he also reminded us that we have “always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants.”

Convincing Obama and McCain to use the right words is a start, but it is not enough. We must convince Congress and the American political elite to follow their example. Only then will ordinary Americans follow suit.

Hopefully, politicians and Americans will decide very soon to speak of these immigrants with respect and even gratitude. It is no secret that the undocumented contribute much more to the economy than they take from it. They deserve to live free from fear and persecution in this country of equals. This freedom will come when we change the language we use to describe the undocumented. Immigration reform depends on it.

Sergio Cisneros is a sophomore political science major at George Fox University. Sergio is from Klamath Falls and interned in the Washington, DC office of Senator Jeff Merkley during the summer of 2010

The No Soy El Army Justice Tour stopping in Newberg!

September 29, 2010

** The No Soy El Army Justice Tour will be stopping in Newberg during the Christians & Immigration Conference on Friday, October 1st from 2-5pm. Join us! **

by Kari Koch, Rural Organizing Project

During one of those perfect Oregon weeks in late August, the Rural Organizing Project packed up our little car with a folder full of maps, a case of translation headsets, a bilingual translator and two amazing visiting organizers. We drove to 6 communities where the presenters spoke of their personal experiences with the military – the seduction for them as youth, its violence towards them &, ultimately, their organizing against the militarization of their communities.

The August leg of the No Soy El Army Tour was a huge success. From a park in Hermiston to a church basement in Newport, people talked about peace abroad, peace in our own communities, and opportunities for our rural & Latino youth beyond graduation.

Ultimately, No Soy El Army Tour is about our relationships – the peace community, immigrant rights community, youth & veterans all in the room together talking about how to make our towns, in addition to our world, a welcoming place full of opportunity and justice.

The unique thing about this Tour is that we are engaging in a legitimate dialogue about the future of the military in our lives. We talk, listen & learn because this stuff is complicated & not everyone always agrees! And dialogue is a wonderful thing; it makes us smarter and stronger as a movement.

At the forefront of many minds this week is the DREAM Act, a piece of federal legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented youth. The DREAM Act, its hope & possibilities, as well as it shortfalls was a topic of conversation on this tour.

At one stop, Maricela Guzman shared her military experience as a survivor of sexual assault and her concern that the DREAM Act offers only two options for undocumented youth – attending a 4-year college without federal aid or joining the military, and then often only conditional residency.

Local youth from the Juventud FACETA took the stage and shared how they are “Dreamers”, youth fighting for the passage of the DREAM Act because they want to be welcome in this country, to live fruitful and productive lives out of the shadows. We had a thoughtful conversation about legislation and our values – and what happens when those two things don’t perfectly intersect.

Though the DREAM Act, and the war funding that went along with it, has been put on hold for the time being, there are still conversations to be had between neighbors about how to balance our community’s needs, communicate between allies across divides and resolve the dilemma of legislation and values.

It was a powerful and important dialogue.  The No Soy El Army Tour is where dialogue, peace and immigrant rights intersect in small town communities across Oregon.

Join us in Newberg at George Fox University, during the Christians & Immigration Conference from 2-5pm for food, friends, visitors & a great event!

Sergio España – Sergio is a young activist from Baltimore who was one of the founders of the Civilian Solider Alliance. Civilian Soldier Alliance is a national organization of civilians working with veterans and active-duty service-members to build a GI resistance movement towards a just foreign policy.

No Soy El Army is a collaboration between the Rural Organizing Project, American Friends Service Committee & PCUN (the Oregon Farm worker Union).

Water Drops for Migrants: Kindness, or Offense?

September 27, 2010
Published: September 26, 2010

original article here:

BUENOS AIRES NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Ariz. — In this remote, semidesert landscape along the United States-Mexico border, water is a precious commodity — and a contentious one, too.

Two years ago, Daniel J. Millis was ticketed for littering after he was caught by a federal Fish and Wildlife officer placing gallon jugs of water for passing immigrants in the brush of this 118,000-acre preserve.

“I do extreme sports, and I know I couldn’t walk as far as they do,” said Mr. Millis, driving through the refuge recently. “It’s no surprise people are dying.”

Mr. Millis, 31, was not the only one to get a ticket. Fourteen other volunteers for Tucson-based organizations that provide aid to immigrants crossing from Mexico to the United States were similarly cited. Most of the cases were later dropped, but Mr. Millis and another volunteer for a religious group called No More Deaths were convicted of defacing the refuge with their water jug drops.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit weighed in on Mr. Millis’s appeal this month, ruling that it was “ambiguous as to whether purified water in a sealed bottle intended for human consumption meets the definition of ‘garbage.’ ” Voting 2-to-1, a three-judge panel overturned Mr. Millis’s conviction.

The issue remains far from settled, though. The court ruled that Mr. Millis probably could have been charged under a different statute, something other than littering. And the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to forbid anyone to leave gallon jugs of water in the refuge — a policy backed by this state’s immigration hardliners, who say comforting immigrants will only encourage them to cross.

From 2002 to 2009, 25 illegal immigrants died while passing through the refuge’s rolling hills, which are flanked by mountains and are home to pronghorns, coyotes, rattlesnakes and four different kinds of skunks. Throughout southern Arizona, the death toll totaled 1,715 from 2002 to 2009, with this year’s hot temperatures putting deaths at a record-breaking pace.

The Border Patrol has installed rescue beacons in remote areas along the border, including several in the Buenos Aires refuge, to allow immigrants in distress to call for help. Those who are injured and have been left behind by their guides are often so desperate they no longer fear deportation.

Still, the federal government has acknowledged that additional steps are needed to keep deaths down on its land. In 2001, it gave another aid group, Humane Borders, a permit to keep several large water drums on the refuge, each of them marked by a blue flag and featuring a spigot to allow immigrants to fill their water bottles for the long trek north.

Last year, the government considered but ultimately decided against allowing No More Deaths to tether gallon jugs to trees to allow immigrants in more remote areas to drink without taking the jugs on their way.

Right now, even after the court decision, there is what amounts to a standoff. This month, the federal government said it was willing to allow more 55-gallon drums on main pathways in the refuge. It said it would not permit any gallon jugs.

But the water jugs continue to appear.

Last week, Gene Lefebvre, a retired minister who co-founded No More Deaths, hiked along a path popular among immigrants until he reached a clearing where volunteers for his organization had recently left some jugs.

Each bottle had markings on it noting the date it was left and the exact location on the group’s GPS mapping software. There were also signs of encouragement for the immigrants: a heart and a cross on one bottle and the words, “Good luck, friends,” on another.

“We’d give water to anyone we found in the desert, even the Border Patrol,” Mr. Lefebvre said.

But opponents say the water drops are encouraging immigrants to continue to come across the border illegally. The critics say there ought to be Border Patrol agents stationed near the water stations to arrest those who are crossing illegally as soon as they finish drinking. So furious are some at the practice of aiding immigrants that they have slashed open the water jugs, crushed them with their vehicles or simply poured the water into the desert.

The Buenos Aires refuge is among the most troubled of the 551 refuge areas across the country, the federal government says. The reason is its location, adjacent to the border.

“Since its establishment in 1985, refuge staff have worked diligently to protect species such as the endangered masked bobwhite quail and pronghorn, as well as offer meaningful visitor recreational opportunities,” a recently released government report on the water controversy said. “However, over the past decade an increasing amount of refuge time and energy has been required to address the growing issue of illegal traffic entering the U.S. across refuge lands.”

In 2006 and 2007, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants crossed the refuge annually, along with Border Patrol agents pursing them, federal officials say. “As a result, refuge lands have been marred by illegal trails and roads, litter and degraded habitat,” said a government report on the problem.

The numbers have dropped in recent years, to 31,500 in 2008 and about 20,000 in 2009. “This still averages approximately 50 to 60 illegal immigrants traveling through the refuge daily,” the government report said.

Mr. Millis, a former high school Spanish teacher who now works for the Sierra Club, disputes the notion that leaving out water jugs is luring more immigrants. He said it was border enforcement efforts that had pushed those seeking to cross into dangerous desert areas.

As for spoiling the environment, he said he collected as many jugs as he left behind. He also recounts how he found the dead body of a 14-year-old Salvadoran girl near the refuge days before he was ticketed.

“People are part of the environment,” he said.