Tag: Social Justice Team

Afghan Refugees in US Still in Limbo: Action Needed to Prevent Deportations

By Phil Boonstra, AACRC Social Justice Team Immigration Leader

The Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) is currently under consideration in the United States House of Representatives and Senate. If passed and signed into law, this legislation would provide a path to permanency for the thousands of Afghan refugees, including our friends the Azizis, who have come to the US following the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 and the subsequent collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, most of whom do not have a permanent status nor a path to such a status. Absent legislation like the AAA, their future in the US is uncertain, and a safe return to Afghanistan is not possible. You can read more about this legislation on the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants website, and you can read the Senate’s version of the bill here. Reach out to your Representative and Senator to let them know you support this bill. You can accomplish this very conveniently via this link: Tell Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (rescue.org)

Godly Fasting Opens Cages

By Rhonda Workman, SJT Anti-Racism Leader

In her book, White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo references a metaphor that Marilyn Frye, a scholar, uses to explain how White people look past the systemic web that holds Black people in their place. Marilyn Frye states that if you stand too close to a bird cage, you will see the bird but not the bars that are keeping it confined. If you turn your head slightly, you might see a bar and wonder why the bird doesn’t just fly away. If you draw back a little further, more bars will come into view and since the bird is still there you may come to the conclusion that the bird remains because it is content. It is only when one stands further back that all of the bars come into view revealing the web that holds the bird in place.

Three years ago this month, nine minutes of suffocating force caused our nation to draw back and begin again the process of examining the plight of African Americans. With the murder of George Floyd, a time of enlightening occurred as people began to read, listen to podcasts, and watch movies and documentaries about racism. And as they read and explored, some were beginning to see for the first time the systemic web that holds Blacks down. People around the country, Blacks and Whites, alike began to protest the injustices perpetuated against African Americans.

Since the protests of 2020, there have been some hopeful efforts made to effect change in our country.  As mentioned in an earlier article, there are some hopeful criminal justice reforms occurring. There have also been some truth, reconciliation, and reparation movements across the country. Evanston, IL, San Francisco, St Paul/Minneapolis, and most recently Detroit, have done work towards acknowledging the truth of how racism has affected the Blacks in those cities and are seeking ways to offer reparations.

And yet, despite these positive actions, a recent PEW survey published some discouraging results in November of 2022. Four in ten U.S. adults say the legacy of slavery has not much or not at all affected the position for Black Americans in the country today. 77% of Black Americans versus 18% of White Americans support any kind of reparations. Three fourths of the U.S. adults who support reparations believe it likely will not happen in their life time. The PEW Report, in light of the plethora of information that was studied in the last three years, seems to indicate that there has been little impact on the White conscience.

The fear of the Black communities is that these tragedies will once again fall away from the White consciousness. If that happens, it will be another indication of White privilege. Whites have the luxury of forgetting and procrastinating in making reforms because we do not experience systemic barriers as Blacks do. There is no urgency for Whites.

In her book, White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo uses the example of women seeking the right to vote. They were unable to achieve their goals on their own because only people who could vote could give them that right. They were at the mercy of the men, who held all the power. Unless they chose to share their power, women would be voiceless.

There are many changes that need to be made, wrongs that need to be addressed, but it is the Whites who wield the power (DiAngelo, pg. 31). Until Whites search their consciences and through humility seek to understand the barriers that Blacks face every day and seek to understand how our culturalization contributes to those barriers, there will be minimal changes to our society and the systemic web that suppresses African Americans (and other persons of color) will stay in place.

Isaiah 58: 6, 9b-11 reads:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untied the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Interesting reading:

https://naacp.org/resources/reparations

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2022/07/13/us/reparations-state-local-commission-reaj/index.html

https://www.christianitytoday.com/better-samaritan/2021/june/what-does-racial-reconciliation-look-like-before-during-aft.html

https://www.barna.com/research/racial-reconciliation/

https://clintonwhitehouse3.archives.gov/initiatives/OneAmerica/what.html

https://diversity.berkeley.edu/impact-slavery-today

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/10/ramifications-of-slavery-persist-in-health-care-inequality/

 

Statement of Inclusion

On March 22, 2023 the Council of our church voted unanimously to approve a Statement of Inclusion that can be viewed here.  This statement is an affirmation of our faith community’s intention to welcome and enfold everyone who comes through our doors, and to reach across the lines of race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status lines that too often divide us with respect, grace, understanding and love.

Food and Faith

Written by Barb Fichtenberg, Hunger & Poverty Leader for the AACRC Social Justice Team

Most of us probably don’t think about it very often, but there is a moral dimension to one of our favorite activities—eating!

As people of faith, how can we help ensure that all people have access to food that is nutritious, both here in the U.S. and around the world?  How can we support small and medium scale farmers as well as farmers of color who struggle to survive in a sea of agribusinesses? How can we encourage sustainable stewardship of our soil, water and air which are necessary for food production?

“The Farm Bill is a hard-working bill that covers everything from crop insurance to community food projects, from Meals on Wheels and SNAP (food stamps), to energy, conservation, and international food aid.  If you eat food or know anyone who eats food, then this bill directly impacts every part of your meal from where and how your food is grown, how it is cleaned and processed, how much it costs and any money you may receive to help pay for your food.” (www.foodinneighborhoods.org)

The U.S. government has until September 30, 2023, to pass a new Farm Bill, so now is the time to let our members of Congress know what kind of food and agriculture we want—a food system that is equitable and sustainable.  Debbie Stabenow is the Chairwoman of the Senate Agricultural Committee and will be instrumental in formulating the new Farm Bill, though it is also important to contact Senator Gary Peters and Representative Debbie Dingell.

Our AACRC Social Justice Team took some time at our meeting last week to have our own “Offering of Letters” and we invite all of you to help amplify our voices on this issue. For your convenience, Bread for the World has an online letter which you can sign. Step 1 is to enter your contact details so that you can get a response. Please check the box which says “Yes, this is an Offering of Letters,” and then enter “Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church” as the congregation hosting the event. Step 2 will take you to the letter. Here is the link https://go.bread.org/page/48001/action/1

Reviewer: Phil Boonstra, AACRC Social Justice Team

Voices of the Border:
Testimonios of Migration, Deportation, and Asylum

Edited by Tobin Hansen and María Engracia Robles Robles
239 pp. Georgetown University Press, 2021

Reviewed by Phil Boonstra, SJT Immigration Leader

Who gets to tell your story? This is a question that comes to mind while reading this collection of first-hand stories of migrants’ travels between Central and South America and the United States. If you strip away the news’ abstract descriptions of these persons (“migrant caravan”) and go past the legal euphemisms (“Migrant Protection Protocols”, better known as “Remain in Mexico”), then what’s left is what’s in this book: the humanity of the people living through these circumstances. Each testimonio is a first-person retelling, both in the original Spanish as well as an English translation, and thus forces the reader to reckon with the speaker’s experience rather than our own explanations or assumptions.

The testimonios are all from persons who have, over the past 10-15 years, spent time in the cities of Nogales, Arizona or – just across the border – Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, home of the Kino Border Initiative, a migrant advocacy organization. Some migrants traveled from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, or farther south and were in limbo, waiting for the right time to cross into the US. Others were sent to this Mexican town from the US, deported after a few days or many years of living here. The book is organized around eleven different themes, including wealth inequality, organized crime, gender violence, family separation, governmental abuse and corruption, and migrant criminalization and deportation. Every chapter opens with some contextual information related to the theme and then gives the testimonio of two or three persons.

In each testimonio, the reader encounters a variant of the same paradoxical circumstance, in which the speaker had come to the conclusion that the best and safest option was to leave home, livelihood, and family and traverse hundreds of miles, subjecting themselves to risk of extortion, robbery, or sexual assault. From our perspective, this is unfathomable. Yet, each story shows that, indeed, it is the perfectly logical choice. In a haunting and – sadly – typical testimonio, Julieta Payán Urías shares about her childhood in Mexico City, writing that her children’s father began stalking her at 12 and repeatedly sexually assaulting her throughout her teenage years. Héctor Arturo, a father of two and a deep-sea fisherman from El Salvador, writes about being forced to give fish to local gangs, until such a point as he could no longer feed his own children. Upon refusing to give them any more, they beat him with an aluminum bat. They hunted him across the country until he fled to Mexico, alone.

The testimonios are not just about the circumstances that forced them to flee their home but also their encounters with gangs, cartels, and law enforcement during their journey. Rogelio Heriberto Montes de Ruiz shares about his encounter with US immigration officers upon jumping the border wall at Nogales: “One of them told me to put my hands on my head. I obeyed him. But just then, another one of them coming from a different direction ran at me and gave me a knee in the ribs on my right side…He knocked me to the ground with that knee. I couldn’t breathe” (p111).

Reckoning with such suffering, the reader is tempted to fall back on some variant of legalism (“why don’t they come here legally?”) or nationalism (“countries have borders for a reason”). And yet, these excuses fall short. These people have the legal right to have their asylum case heard without being treated as criminals. And an appeal to nationalism fails to recognize that US military and counterintelligence activities and US corporate expansion in these Central American countries have contributed or even directly led to the problems they are facing today (see Chapter 2 for more details). There are no easy responses here, and this book doesn’t purport to offer any. Rather, it seeks to illuminate and educate. As its penultimate sentence states, “[p]eople need to better understand the situation of those migrating, being deported, or seeking asylum in order to envision a world in which all people enjoy greater opportunity” (p197).