Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quick Devotion #2: Detention


"When I was a stranger, You welcomed me... and when I was in jail, You visited me." (Matthew 25:35-36)

Immigrants are detained in inhumane conditions.
300,000 individuals--including asylum seekers, young children, and families--are detained each year in immigration detention facilities without access to proper medical treatment, legal counsel, religious services, etc.

Loving God, just as you watched over Joseph in Egypt, the disciples in Jerusalem, and Paul and Silas in Philippi, protect those we have unjustly criminalized. We pray for the children living behind closed doors without access to schools and communities where they can grow healthily. We pray for families separated due to detention, for those in need of health care, for those dependent on the support of a detained person. And we pray for the wisdom and boldness to speak and advocate effectively on their behalf, as they cannot.

Other Resources on Immigration Detention
US Detention of Asylum Seekers and Human Rights
Death By Detention, NY Times article
CBS Report on Detention in America
Locking Up Family Values--A study on immigrant family detention by Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service.

Monday, May 18, 2009

T.Don Hutto "Residential Center" Taylor, TX

This week, as a part of OnFire's immigration focus, we'll be looking at detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers. Check out this video (a 3-Part series on YouTube) from Grassroots Leadership on the T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, TX, and visit the Grassroots site to find ways to take action on this important issue.

Part II:

Part III:

From Grassroots Leadership:
ICE holds immigrant families at the T. Don Hutto family detention center. Before the successful legal action by the ACLU in the fall of 2007, children wore prison garb, and were denied adequate schooling, health care, and recreation. Despite some important improvements made as a result of community organizing, the fight is not over. Hutto remains a medium security prison managed by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a for-profit adult corrections company. Incarceration of infants and children cannot be allowed-- even with the "privacy curtains around toilets" mandated in the ACLU settlement.

The Department of Homeland Security must adopt humane alternatives for managing families whose immigration status is in limbo and work to incorporate alternatives which keep families intact and that do not rely on incarceration. Alternatives must recognize that these families possess equal and inalienable rights to dignified treatment as members of the larger human family.


Sign the Facebook petition to end family detention.

Write letters to the Obama Administration.


The Big Business of Family Detention, by Courtney E. Martin

The Least of These: Documentary Film on Family Detention

US Should Stop Locking Up Immigrant Kids, by Rev. John S. Rausch


"It's not criminal [...] if you run away from your country looking for peace, a place to live."
--Bahja, Asylum-seeker from Somalia
What should be a common-sense statement resonates as profound, or even controversial in our current cultural climate. And though aware of typical responses, I find myself asking anew, why is this the case? There are Biblical examples of "illegals" from Abraham to Joseph, father of Jesus--strangers seeking refuge in a foreign land. If we rarely question the divine purpose of their migrations, why, then, do we criminalize today's peace-seekers? How can we, as young people of faith, reverse the xenophobic hardening of hearts? Please share your thoughts with the community.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quick Devotion #1: Raids

From May to August of 2009, OnFire members are organizing a movement "Welcoming the Stranger: in out midst, at the border, out of the shadows." On Wednesdays a (very) short devotion about a specific aspect of immigrant justice will be posted here. On Mondays an article or action alert will appear. In light of yesterday's anniversary of the Postville, IA raid, today's devotion focuses on immigration raids. Thanks to Church World Service for providing the framework for all devotions.


"Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt." (Leviticus 19: 33-34)

Raids devastate families and communities.
More than 5,000 immigrants were deported in 2008 as immigration officials entered immigrants' homes during pre-dawn hours and/or invaded their places of employment. Persons arrested in a raid are often detained with little or no chance to contact their families. Their children, many of them US citizens, are left to care for themselves without knowledge of the whereabouts of their parents. Persons allowed to return to their children under house arrest are unable to work to support their families.

Compassionate God, come into our broken midst--into our broken communities, broken families, broken and breaking hearts. We beg of your comfort for the oppressed, for those who as a result of a raid must live unjustly separated from loved ones and homes. We pray for the children, for their cries that often go unheard. We ask for forgiveness for our complicit silence, and for the strength to raise our voices when others cannot. Amen.

Other Resources on Immigration Raids
Effect of Immigration Raids on Children
Examination of the 2007 large-scale raid in New Bedford, MA.
Examination and Analysis of the 2008 raid in Van Nuys, CA.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

1-Year Anniversary of the Postville Raid

Today marks the one year anniversary of the raid in Postville, Iowa where 389 people were arrested. In Postville and in communities across the country people are standing in solidarity with Postville and calling for justice and comprehensive immigration reform. You can TAKE ACTION NOW by standing in solidarity as well by sending a letter to your representatives through the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s website. For more information on the history and the current situation in Postville, read the summary below from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, or check out the articles at the end of this post.

Impact of Immigration Raid on Postville
On May 12, 2008, helicopters and dozens of agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) descended upon Postville, a small Iowa town with a population just over 2,400. ICE conducted an immigration raid of the Agriprocessors plant, apprehending 389 immigrant workers, nearly 20 percent of the town’s population. ICE officials used the National Cattle Congress [click for video] in Waterloo, Iowa, to temporarily hold workers. Many workers were then transferred to detention facilities in Iowa and across the country and have since been deported from the United States. Sole caregivers among the apprehended were released from detention with electronic monitoring devices, but were prohibited from working. One year later, 24 of these caregivers and their children still rely upon charities for food, medical care, housing and financial support offered primarily through St. Bridget’s Catholic Church with the assistance of churches and groups nationwide. The faith community also supports individuals required to remain in Postville to assist as material witnesses in the federal and state criminal investigations of Agriprocessors.

The prosecutors used aggressive negotiating tactics, such as time-limited plea offers, and brought charges of aggravated felony identify theft against the workers, nearly all of whom were represented by overburdened appointed counsel. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the government overstepped in applying such charges.

Twelve months following the raid, devastating ripple effects continue to impact every corner of the Postville community. Hundreds of families have either been separated by deportation or have left Postville. Others remain in legal limbo, waiting for the completion of their cases. Many businesses have closed, boarding up their windows. More businesses face bankruptcy. Decreased student enrollment will likely force the Postville schools to consolidate with other school districts.

In sum, the federal government spent over $5.2 million to conduct the raid. Given the extreme hardship Postville and surrounding Iowa communities have suffered, many question whether these taxpayer funds were properly spent.

On the anniversary of the raid in Postville we are reminded that harsh enforcement measures put children at risk, divided families and drove other immigrants even farther into the shadows. The raids threw an entire community into disaster and economic peril as a result of a failure to recognize that immigrants and refugees are integral to our communities and to America’s economic, cultural, social and political fabric.

Articles & Resources:

United Methodist News Service Report

A People in Peril: Archdiocese of Dubuque on Postville Relief

Reflection on Postville by UM missionary, Jim Perdue Burke

Interfaith Vigil in Waterloo, IA