Monday, September 24, 2007

women of the bracelet

Today my meeting did something called "Common Grounds," where the Peace & Social Concerns committees of two of our local meetings put together an event in a local park. There were tables on war, immigration, refugees, the environment, domestic violence, and several other topics.

The one that came to my attention in a new way was the immigration issue. I knew we are struggling with our immigration policy (to put it politely) in this country, but it became really personal when we had a few women who've formed a group called "Women of the Bracelet" come and make tamales and enchiladas (for a donation, because they're not allowed to work). They were part of a group in Portland, OR who were detained after a raid on a Del Monte Food factory. 167 people were taken in; these women were released so they can take care of their children but basically put on house arrest. They are illegal immigrants, most of whom have legal family members (children or spouses) and who are going through the legal process of becoming citizens.

When they were detained, they were each given an ankle bracelet that's a tracking device. They must stay in or near their homes for at least 12 hours/day, and they are not legally allowed to work. They still have to pay their bills, however. So they formed this organization that goes to church functions such as ours today, and they educate people about their situation and receive donations to support their families.

What do you all think about this situation? Should we as Friends do something about the immigration issue? If so, what? If someone is an illegal immigrant, how should we help them? Should we break the law?

I've provided several links below for you to hear about this group, what happened to them, and what the issues are. The one that stands out to me is from the web page of Portland mayor Tom Potter. He said:

"I remember watching the TV 40 years ago as demonstrators in the South were beaten as they tried to register to vote. I think Americans everywhere saw those same images and said out loud to themselves, to their families and their neighbors: That’s not me. Those aren’t my values. That’s not the world I want for my children."

I keep thinking that if I was alive in the '60s and saw on TV what was happening in Alabama, I would have gotten on a bus and gone there to be part of the demonstrations. I have wished I could be part of something that gets at the heart of the injustice in our society like that. Is this my chance? I think so, but I still wonder how to get involved. Where's the Martin Luther King, Jr. in this situation? How do we start bringing this issue up in people's minds and hearts in a way that shows up the injustice of our system, and the humanity of the people it hurts?

Like the picture at the top of this post, we are using illegal labor to do the things we don't want to do, and then attacking those who are performing this service for us. Here's a quote from a local indie newspaper, the Willamette Week (which is where I got the picture):

"[T]he allegations seemed to point to the fact that there was a sweatshop--albeit a cold one--operating in Portland, a city that professes to care both about its food and liberal causes such as worker rights." (Willamette Week article on Del Monte Foods, before raids)

As Friends, how should we act in this situation?


Anonymous said...

Our meeting is currently discerning way forward on this issue. Our P&SA committee has scheduled a worship-sharing session with a staffperson from AFSC in October. I believe the opportunity is for our meeting to learn more about the issue and discern what we are called (if anything) to do.

In the Light,


Nancy A said...

Mexican refugees/immigrants who are being expelled from the US are now showing up in Canada. They might think twice about their decision after winter starts! But for now, they are sleeping in gymnasiums in Windsor and Niagara as the backlog of claimants grows.

There will be more and more waves as the claim lines are cleared. Trying to solve micro-level problems without looking at macro-level problems means the problems persist.

When will we learn that life must be made bearable in all parts of the Americas? If all we did was fund the schools and water supplies, people would be happy to live their lives with their families.

Robin M. said...

To my mind, this connects to the shove in my heart about the refugees fleeing Iraq right now. The US is failing to take responsibility for the refugee crises we have created in the Middle East but why should I be surprised? We have been failing to deal with the constant human migration in the Americas all along. More prayer will be needed before I can see what I'm supposed to do about it besides blog and sigh.

Justin Ray said...

Thanks for writing this post. It's good to read about Christians back in the states that aren't isolated from the community around them. I doubt the Christ-likeness of modern Christianity's detachment from the local community. I'm glad that we are concerned with personal righteousness, but what about the sins of the Pharisees that Jesus spoke against so often? How often do we denounce these sins? How often are we the one's committing them?

Nate Swift said...

You might want to check on materiels offered by Sojourners:
It is a volitile issue for sure, but it helps to look at who is benefitting from the current situation....what happened to Del Monte because of the raid?

I hope you had a good experience at retreat.

In His Love,
Nate Swift

cherice said...

Mia, Please let us know what your meeting decides about how to move forward on this issue!

It's good to know others are thinking about this issue, but I agree with Robin that it's hard to know what to do besides "blog and sigh."

Justin, I agree that we're usually a lot more like the Pharisees than those who followed Jesus. I don't know that I fit your definition of "not isolated from the community," because I usually feel like although I care, I don't know what to do, and remain isolated. But at least I'm thinking about stuff, right? Or does that make it worse that I'm not doing a lot to help?

Nate, thanks--I really like Sojourners, too.

And Nancy, wouldn't it be great if we would fund schools and water supplies in other countries so people would want to live there instead of move here? Wouldn't that be such an easier solution than trying to keep people out? Thanks for the suggestion...if only our leaders would listen.

Claire said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue. I stumbled on your blog while searching for the responses of Friends to the current immigration crisis. I work for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C. ( on immigration issues and we are working hard to push for humane laws and comprehensive reform of the system. There is a great deal you can do! Congress needs to hear from you because there will be no reform until there is a genuine push from the ground up...

In peace.

Jeff M. said...

Well, I as others, was surfing the net trying to get an idea of other Quakers views on the immigration issue, and found myself here.

The initial posting on this topic seems somewhat old, but maybe someone still reads this???

Anyway, I am a member of NWYM from Meridian ID, and echo the sentiments of others as to the deep struggles with this issue.

Last summer (2008) this issue was brought before the YM body in the form of a minute. Needless to say the response of the minute was split in a variad of directions. In the end, nothing was agreed upon.

Recently, pastor Hernan Diaz wrote an article in the YM Connection newsletter regarding this topic from a Latino point of view.

It has been interesting for me to converse back and forth with him on the YM blog to the article, and share different outlooks on many different aspects.

One of my most recent post to him focus' on the example of John Woolman. His championing against slavery is not a direct match for the immigration issue, but I believe there are aspects of his work that we might apply today!

The primary example I believe he brings to us, is that of a ministry/activism based at the grass roots level. You will not fnd him attacking the problem from the top down, but from the bottom up. Woolman made a difference by how he interacted with Friends and non-Friends alike in his everyday dealings not by making grand demonstrations or petitions to those in authority (that's not to say that these things must be ignored).

At our meeting we recently did a study from the book "The Upsidedown Kingdom" by Donald B. Kraybill. It wonderfully shows how Jesus' ministry/activisim here on earth was not based on a top down style but instead on an upside down approach. This seems to match Woolman's thinking and practice.

I fear there is much that we "Won't" do, if all we do is focus on finding absolute agreement on every last issue of immigration. If all we do is focus on a top-down mentality, then we will surely miss out on opportunities to minister to these families who live right amonst us.

What might happen if each of us made an effort to impact some aspect of the immigration issue within our local communities from an upsidedown perspective? We might not solve the bigger issue, but wouldn't our effort to individuals and families be rewarded?

Might not a grass-roots effort such as this take hold and begin to make an impact on the bigger issues? Maybe or maybe not, but I fear we must, as Woolman did, take some type of practical action within our everyday lives, and not let the larger problems/divisions keep us from doing anything.


cherice said...


I do still get these comments! I'm also from NWYM. These are important thoughts, and hopefully we as a YM will be able to figure out how to live out Woolman-type actions in our individual lives with the support of our community.

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