U.S. Foreign Policy in Part Responsible for Influx of Refugees

HarvestofEmpire1According to latest reports, our border crossings are taking on a new challenge with more families coming to seek asylum than ever before. Families at the border

The current Trump administration is determined to not only purge the United States of undocumented community members, many who have now lived in this country for decades, they are hoping to close down the borders by refusing our Central American neighbors an internationally recognized right to seek asylum. What is asylum

Just recently, the new Attorney General, William Barr, announced that people caught crossing the border illegally will be jailed and can be detained indefinitely without bond or a hearing.  This decision effectively hands all authority over to ICE, bypassing the judicial system.  The policies put in place are increasingly criminalizing families who are fleeing violence (best described in the stories of Human Rights and Wrongs)Human Rights and Wrongs.

Join us on Saturday, April 27th at 3:00 P.M. for a viewing of Harvest of Empire, a very interesting and thorough historical review of U.S. policy in the region of Central America.  If you already understand the strong link between destabilizing policies and today’s outcome,  come join us and discuss how we are responding today in our local community.

The event is free and wheel chair accessible.

Human Rights and Wrongs

humanrightsandwrongsOn March 23rd, Dr. Adrianne Aron, long time political activist and liberation psychologist discussed her latest book, Human Rights and Wrongs.  She spoke to a gathering of local community members, many involved in immigrant rights work.  Dr. Aron based her work on the mental health assessments she conducted on asylum seekers awaiting their hearing.     Her book is premised on the question, who are the people seeking asylum and coming across the border?  By writing her book, she provides counter narratives to the hateful descriptors of “invaders” and “criminals”.  Below is one account represented among many.

IMG_2464Dr. Aron was asked to perform a mental health evaluation on a 30 year old Salvadoran man.  He had been jailed for drinking in public and lifting and carrying a child whom he did not know.  This was not her typical interview. Most of her work with refugees involved non-criminal cases.  But she was curious.  Based on the surface of the case, how easy it might be to conclude that this man was attempting a kidnapping, she told us.

Her interview yielded a different story.  This man, at the age of 13 had been forced into the Salvadoran militia-twice.  He had been in detention where he repeatedly heard screams of torture.  But he never processed this powerful and traumatic period, instead he had periods of deep sadness and sometimes suicidal thoughts.  When the most recent drinking incident occurred prior to his arrest, he hadn’t been eating for a week, missed his family in El Salvador, and medicated himself with beer.  Dr. Aron concluded that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and not anti-social impulses.  He didn’t recall picking up the child- he was too drunk.  Most importantly, he hadn’t succumbed to what Aron called, the “militarization of the mind.” In this case, this man turned his trauma against himself, he didn’t lash out in violence, believing violence as the only way to address a situation.    Aron emphasized that he was not an invader as the current administration would like you to believe.

As you may expect,  none in the gathering remotely believed Trump’s version of the “caravan”.  When Dr. Aron asked who is doing work to support immigrants, most all raised their hands. We used the opportunity to discuss additional ways to locally support immigrants and spent the remaining time sending messages targeted at presidential hopefuls and current representatives to look at the work of theTexas Civil Rights Project  and their report on the real numbers of family separations and missing children.

Other groups that need your help:

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant  

Interfaith Movement 4 Human Integrity

Freedom for Immigrants

Solidaridad con los ninos

Help Detained Immigrants

Also, Adrianne Aron will be going to Honduras next month and needs a helper to take care of her dog.  Any takers?  This is one way to support the solidarity work with immigrants.

Please join us for more gatherings on local response to abhorrent immigration policy. On Saturday April 27th we will be viewing the film Harvest of Empire  at 3:00 p.m.- Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church.

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Refugees, Immigrants and Trauma – a community responds

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Dr. Adrianne Aron speaks on Human Rights and Wrongs

Saturday, March 23, 2019

3:00- 5:00 pm

Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church in El Cerrito


Join Dr. Adrianne Aron and learn of her journey into the lives of the men, women and children living without a homeland and seeking a safe place in the United States.  How does their journey impact their lives and ours?
Human Rights and Wrongs grew out of Dr. Adrianne Aron’s experience as a liberation psychologist serving immigrants and refugees who have suffered traumatic abuse. This experience also generated Writings for a Liberation Psychology (Harvard University Press, 1994); her English translation of Mario Benedetti’s powerful play about torture, Pedro and the Captain (Cadmus Editions, 2009); and several professional articles, book chapters, and lectures about the unique challenges of doing psychology with oppressed populations. For respite, she took up writing short prose pieces, which won her acclaim in the worlds of both fiction and nonfiction. She has been awarded literary prizes by, among others: New Millennium Writings, Able Muse, the Jack London and San Francisco Writers’ Conferences, and the California Writers Club. 
Adrianne Aron took up fiction writing for respite from her long hours with traumatized refugees. The recognition she received for her short fiction encouraged her to write Human Rights and Wrongs, a work of nonfiction, in the style of a collection of stories for the general reader rather than as didactic narrative. Dr. Aron used to think of herself as a psychologist who writes. Nowadays she thinks of herself as Adrianne, a writer who does a little psychology. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is an active advocate for social justice.
In addition to Dr. Aron’s presentation on her latest book, the community event sponsored by El Cerrito Progressives – Social and Racial Justice Committee will provide participants and opportunity to share information on advocacy and action including opportunities to support refugees and immigrants locally.
For more information about the event:  elcerritoprogressives@gmail.com

We Demand Smart Community-Informed Border Solutions

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Please contact your Congressional representatives!

In the debate about border walls, the (false) alternative to wall has been “increased border security” including more drones, surveillance and an increased Border Patrol presence.

This is not a smart solution. More policing and militarization of the border will lead to increased racial profiling and anxiety in border communities. We don’t need more militarization at the border any more than we need more militarized police forces in our hometowns.

What we DO need is community-informed solutions developed by those most heavily impacted.

The BEST POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS we have found are from The U.S.-Mexico Border Policy Report of 2008. It includes 13 pages of excellent recommendations from their task forced that included the faith community, law enforcement, academics, civic leaders, attorneys and community organizations along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Please consider emailing the letter below to your representatives in Congress through their websites (takes 6 minutes). Note: you will need to reformat the paragraph breaks once you copy and paste the letter.

If you have an extra 30 minutes, please email the senators on the conference committee listed below who are tasked with negotiating an end to the logjam with President Trump vis-à-vis the border wall.

Please reject border security that puts communities at risk – Propose Smart Solutions

Dear ______ ,

I call on you for a border approach that involves affected border communities who understand their situation and their needs.

An armed Border Patrol presence around existing and planned border walls has proven to be lethal too many times according to Southern Border Communities Coalition* that tracks deaths at the hands of the Border Patrol.

The blanket “increased border security” alternative to more walls is NOT a smart solution. More drones and Border Patrol agents too often go hand-in-hand with racial profiling and detention of people who are citizens or those with legal immigration status. This increases anxiety in the community.

According to Ann Williams Cass, Executive Director of Proyecto Azteca and a health care researcher, a recent study of Hidalgo County’s colonias (near McAllen, Texas) found a shocking 80% FOOD INSECURITY RATE among residents because they are too afraid to leave their neighborhood to shop, for fear of being arrested. For comparison, according to the USDA in 2017**  only 11.8% of US households were food insecure. Most of those families in McAllen have money, transportation and access to food stores – but they and their children are going hungry out of fear of arrest. This is just one of many serious and invisible implications of racial profiling and high security along the border.

The Border Patrol needs better vetting as part of their hiring process as well as better training. According to Politico reporting in The Green Monster: How the Border Patrol Became America’s Most Out of Control Law Enforcement Agency the Border Patrol has had serious problems including hiring members of the MS-13 gang and averaging one arrest per day of its own agents in a seven year period.

The US-MEXICO BORDER POLICY REPORT (2008) proposes the BEST COMMUNITY-INFORMED POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS I have seen. PLEASE incorporate their excellent suggestions (pages 21-34).

https://law.utexas.edu/humanrights/borderwall/communities/municipalities-US-Mexico-Border-Policy-Report.pdf

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

 

*https://www.southernborder.org/deaths_by_border_patrol

**https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx#children

Continue reading “We Demand Smart Community-Informed Border Solutions”

Will the ‘Wall’ be Funded by Cutting SNAP and Medicaid?

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Reportedly the White House is proposing to replace Medicaid with block grants using waivers, allowing state ‘flexibility’ in issuing funds, while also lowering the ratio for able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps.

Many hospital administrators throughout the nation maintain that the use of block grants will place a cap on federal funding for medical coverage, assigning an added financial burden to states in filling healthcare funding gaps. The result would be further limiting the number of people covered by healthcare, and/or reducing payments to hospitals for care of the uninsured. Nursing homes would also experience payment reductions.

Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, “questioned whether the [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] can legally allow these waivers.”

The American Hospital Association (AHA), accompanied by other hospital groups, are also in vehement opposition of a block grant, and previously enacted their concerns by contending against such a proposal in 2017, offered as an Obamacare repeal by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

“We have long voiced concerns about how block granting Medicaid could ultimately result in losses of coverage and negatively impact access to quality care,” stated Ashley Thompson, AHA Senior Vice President of Public Policy.

Currently White House policy seems to bypass statutory precedent with fiat dominance. It also seems that the administration may be looking toward funding the ‘Wall’ with revenue extracted from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.

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Just as the current briefly relieved government shutdown has placed burdens on public services, pulling funds out of food and healthcare programs heavily impacts state finances and the plight of those in need. Recipients of the provisions from these programs would experience further food and healthcare insecurity.

Congressional Democrats are apparently poised to combat SNAP reductions and block grants that would replace Medicaid.

“Hell no,” tweeted Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. “If the Administration tries to decimate Medicaid through executive action after its scheme was rejected by Congress and the American people, I will fight it with everything I have.”

Sen. Casey continued, “That fight will be through legislation, in the courts, holding up Administration nominees, literally every means that a U.S. Senator has.”

The political issue is the action to preserve SNAP and Medicaid as much needed public resources. The conceptual issue is mandating the role of Congress as the originator of laws which the administration must follow.

If you are concerned about the possibility of reduced funding to SNAP and Medicaid, please contact your Congressional representatives to pressure for continued funding at current levels.

Find more on the administration’s actions in respect to SNAP and Medicaid in the following articles, from which the above information was derived:

DAILY KOS: Hospitals ‘furious’ at Trump’s Medicaid block grant proposal

POLITICO: Trump wants to bypass Congress on Medicaid plan

Modern Healthcare: Medicaid block grant waiver reports revive hospitals’ funding worries

DAILY KOS: Trump administration plans to bypass Congress, institute Medicaid block grants

DAILY KOS:Trump administration unveils plan to make more Americans go hungry

Witness at the Texas-Mexico Border

Submitted by Tomi Nagai-Rothe

bollard wall

In June I saw images of tent city prisons built for children separated from their families and all I could think about was the concentration camp where my mother’s family lived for several years during World War II.

The Japanese-American community has made a point of standing in solidarity with those targeted by the US government, including the Muslim community after 9/11. Because almost no one — except for the American Friends Service Committee — stood for them when they were forced out of their homes simply because of their ethnicity. I feel a part of this solidarity movement so that no one and no group targeted because of their identity will feel so alone.

I felt led to do more than organize locally in El Cerrito − to go in person to witness what is happening at the Texas-Mexico border. Going in person felt like one way to embody my commitment.

In October I spent 2 ½ weeks volunteering with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in Alamo, Texas just outside McAllen which was ground zero for the family separation crisis over the summer. TCRP interviewed 382 families and organized 90 attorneys as part of the #FamiliesBelongTogether effort over the summer (there are only three attorneys in their Alamo office, and six others in the other TCRP offices).

Humanitarian Respite Center

By October the family crisis had abated somewhat, so I worked on a border wall project. I studied the history of the border wall, including the economic, cultural and environmental impacts and created this illustration of the executive summary of the article, Death, Damage and Failure: Past, Present and Future Impacts of Walls on the US-Mexico Border.

To support the work of the TCRP attorneys I created an interactive map of the landowners affected by the October 10 waiver of 28 federal laws that clears the way for additional border wall construction. TCRP is working with individuals who need help negotiating with the government and cannot afford to hire an attorney.

FINAL Impact of Wall on the Border

On my last day in Texas I volunteered at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen where newly arrived families and individuals gather before taking busses to reunite with family members in other parts of the state or country. I was struck by how young they were — in their 20s and 30s — and how composed they seemed, having experienced unspeakable challenges. Soon after I arrived I started crying inexplicably. I can only guess that it was the feeling of so many people’s trauma in one small room.

When I returned to the office I edited stories of people killed by the Border Patrol for a Dia de Los Muertos Offrenda (altar). It felt important to write a respectful obituary for those who died a violent death. It was an emotional end to an eye-opening visit.

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To learn more about why the Bay Area is a border region, why the Texas-Mexico border has the fewest miles of wall and more, come to Tomi’s talk about her sojourn in South Texas.

Saturday, January 5 3 to 4:30pm at Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury at Lincoln, El Cerrito

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STOP THE TEARS AT THE BORDER!

teargasNationally, Families Belong Together are calling for a National weekend of protest on December 1 and December 2nd.  Locally, West County residents can join the chorus to STOP THE TEARS by Showing UP at the El Cerrito Plaza at Noon on December 1st. Event Sign Up  This visibility action is for ONE HOUR and meant to be a reminder – just 10 hours from our borders, we are placing innocent people in harms way, ignoring international law, and making it virtually impossible for asylum seekers to carry through with their quest for asylum.

When tear gas traveled through the throngs of migrants on the border areas of our State, most citizens stood by horrified by the images of women and children frantically running for safety,   Trumps latest manifestation of a hostile policy toward migrants  follows on the heals of the failing family separation policy,  long term detention of immigrant families, not to mention the newly restricted rules for asylum application.  It is clear that the architects of the current administrative changes at the border are determined to halt any immigration of the refugees who are fleeing from countries that have been torn apart by violence, political corruption and economic deprivation.

Locally, other efforts are underway to support the migrants at the border.

The city of Berkeley will donate money for the migrant caravan to the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, not to exceed $250 per council member. Funds will help provide food, shelter and basic needs to caravan members detained at U.S. ports of entry or traveling to immigration hearings, according the Daily Cal (November 28, 2018)

safe_imageTo learn more about the solidarity work that can be done on the border, please join the Interfatih Movement 4 Human Integrity

Saturday, Dec. 8th, 7 pm – 9 pm
People’s Assembly for Migrant Caravan Solidarity
@ 1st Pres. Church Oakland, 2619 Broadway Ave. Oakland
Join IM4HI & the Migrant Welcome Committee of the Bay Area for an evening of sharing and action as we better understand the recent caravans and take action in solidarity with their participants.
  • Find out the root causes of the mass migration of Hondurans and other Central Americans in this historic moment.
  • Hear testimony from participants of the migrant caravans about the realities, stories and power of their journey and collective action.
  • Find out the many ways individuals and organizations right here in the Bay Area can support the material and political goals of the migrants who are seeking asylum in the US.
Financial Donations to support organizations in Tijuana supporting migrants
and migrant legal defense will be collected at this event.