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?