With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Bad Example

Yesterday afternoon, after a weekend filled with 45's tweets dissing NFL and NBA stars who exercised their First Amendment right to free speech, after his use of crude language, after his complete Tweet disregard of American territory Puerto Rico and it's hurricane-beseiged populace (composed of American citizens), I threw my hands in the air. "Whatever the president does," I told my children, "do the opposite. He is not a role model, he is a bad example."

They grasped the concept instantly. 

"You mean, don't hate on people who think or look different than you?" asked the older son.

"Yeah, and don't get mad if someone's better at basketball or football," said the younger son.

"And don't get in a shouting match with a bully  and make stupid threats," said my daughter, who is keeping a watchful eye on North Korea.

I'm glad they understand me, that their knowledge of right and wrong makes clear the prejudice, immaturity, impatience and disrespect inherent in every move that 45 makes.  Yet I am so frustrated that their country is run by this man. That my eleven-year-old comes home every day and tells me "the world is going to explode tomorrow."  That my daughter balances her concern about college applications with the knowledge that "nuclear war could break out." That  American citizens in Texas and Florida receive proclamations of mercy and visits from leaders while the American citizens in Puerto Rico receive no public attention, even when their country's infrastructure has been set back by decades.

I don't even have the heart to tell my children about the worst stories, like ICE arresting a mother and father while they sat in a hospital waiting for their infant child to have lifesaving surgery. That my friend Ingrid is being deported and her children will either be motherless or have to go with her to Peru, where their chance of education and advancement is slim to none. Desperately seeking some sense and positive direction for my children, I have to look elsewhere. Maybe to Angela Merkel of Germany, arguably now the leader of the free world.  Or Justin Trudeau of Canada or the Pope.  Anywhere but the White House, where they will only find the cautionary tale of a bad example.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Shine a Light on the Casa

What a heart-warming surprise to open the Sunday Post and find an article on Casa de Paz, a non-profit run by our friend Sarah Jackson.  The Casa does amazing work, picking up men and women released from immigrant detention and providing them with needed clothing, food, shelter, and a ride to bus or plane that can take them to family. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) releases people with only the clothes they were wearing at the time of arrest, oftentimes a tee-shirt and jeans. That doesn't work well on a cold or wintry Denver day.

Sarah also provides shelter for families traveling to visit mothers, fathers, sons, or daughters in the detention center. She has help from over two hundred volunteers who are continually inspired and moved by the stories of the men and women they assist. I've been lucky enough to provide some help - though I would say that the immigrants have blessed and affected me more than I have helped them.  Here's the story link: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/09/17/ice-detention-transfers-immigrants/

I interviewed one of the individuals in the article for my Master's capstone. Shoeb Babu was imprisoned (for that's what detention is) for over two years before he was released and granted asylum. His only crime was turning himself in to the Border Patrol without papers.  Shoeb is bright and funny; it's difficult to read how his long imprisonment wreaked havoc on his hopes. He's free now, but we can't restore the two years we took from him, or help him repair relationships that suffered while he was confined.

"Welcome the immigrant, the stranger" says the Bible in  both Old and New Testaments. Sarah takes that directive at face value, doing the work of Christ from Casa de Paz. Her example lights a fire under me and I hope that readers of the Post will find a similar light of truth and strength to inspire them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Not Fair - Thee - Well

My friend Ingrid is being cast out of the tribe today, evicted from the country she has made her home, separated from her nine-year-old son and her husband, the aunt who raised her, and her community of friends. Ingrid came to the U.S. from Peru when she was only 17, fleeing trauma. She told me once, "There was nothing left for me there."

I met Ingrid when she was in Sanctuary at the Mountain View Friends Meeting House.  She lived in Sanctuary while pursuing a court case that would hopefully allow her to overturn an earlier conviction and remain in this country. With Ingrid was her one-year-old son, Anibal, who learned to walk on the wooden slats of the meeting house floor. Every weekend her older son Bryant would join her, sacrificing soccer games with his friends and much of his casual outdoor time to sit inside the church with his mom and his brother. The children were good-natured, but confused at the way in which their lives had been turned upside-down.

That confusion will mount to emotional distress and pain when Ingrid has to leave for Peru today.  She applied for U.S.  passports for both of her boys months ago, fearing and preparing for the worst while always hoping for the best. At the time, Anibal napped while she completed the applications with the help of a volunteer, and I sat quietly by, wondering how she would support herself in Peru with two young children. Anibal received his passport but Bryant's documents have not yet come in the mail. He will  - at least temporarily - lose his mother today.

Ingrid made a life for herself in this country. She worked two jobs, built a family and community, and crafted her own version of the American dream. Her major error was purchasing a social security number that belonged to another person.  Ingrid did not know that the number she purchased belonged to Daisy Navarro, a woman who lived in Colorado. She didn't know where the number came from, only that she needed it to get a job. Our system is set up so that she couldn't obtain citizenship, couldn't work, couldn't become a full-fledged member of society. We all know the system is broken, and now a family will be torn apart because of our lack of willpower, our inability to solve a widely-recognized problem.

Because our broken immigration system doesn't always affect our own friends and family members, because we can hide from the costs of the brokenness, we don't fix it. Meanwhile, citizens like Navarro are hurt when their identity is stolen, and families that are undocumented or of mixed status are torn apart because we couldn't extend a guest worker permit, visa of path to citizenship.

Governor Hickenlooper denied a pardon for Ingrid after she fasted and waited outside his office for seven days. He said it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make, and he was grim-faced and unwilling to discuss it with reporters. Ultimately, our country could not forgive Ingrid her crime, though we forced her hand when we would not allow her to work without papers. We took her years of hard work, her dedication to family and community, her loving spirit and her positive attitude and then, because we are broken, we cast her out.

**On her scheduled deportation day, ICE granted Ingrid thirty more days to prepare herself and her family for the move to Peru. Ingrid still needs Bryant's passport and medical appointments for Anibal at Children's Hospital, and hopes to have everything in order by her new deportation date,

Thursday, September 7, 2017

So Much Good

I just listened to a voicemail from the Cherry Creek School District, informing me that students from multiple high schools in our district are planning a walkout tomorrow to protest the President's decision on DACA. The district office wasn't asking parents to stop the kids, just to talk with them about safety and plan routes that don't follow busy "multi-lane thoroughfares."

Tears stained my glasses (darn peri-menopause) at the thought of students in our huge (55,000) district standing up to support other young people in their struggle with our immigration system. All of our young people want an education, want to work, want to make a difference. I don't know if my two high school students are planning to walk out, but I will support them if they do.

My congresspeople also raised my spirits this past week as Colorado Senators Bennet and Gardner, along with my Representative Mike Coffman, all expressed their support for the DREAM Act and urged Congress to act to protect the over 800,000 Dreamers who may lose protection when DACA expires in six months.

Here are some other voices that spoke out, and convinced me there's so much good in the world.
  • "I have met these DACA recipients. They are bright, committed young people just like the other young people you know. They aspire to be doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, teachers and preachers. They are determined to grow and learn, to care for their families, to contribute to their communities and to make a difference in the world. I believe they will do great things that will continue to benefit all of us — if we will continue to support them."
  • - Minerva G. Carcaño, the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of the United Methodist Church and the Bishop for the San Francisco Area, in TIME (http://time.com/4927600/daca-dreamers-donald-trump-christianity/ )  In the same article, Carcaño said, "According to a recent study from the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, removing DACA recipients from the U.S. workforce would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next decade." 
  • "This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag.  These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.  They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants.  They may not know a country besides ours.  They may not even know a language besides English.  They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license."
Microsoft and Amazon responded to the DACA decision by pledging to join a fifteen-state lawsuit against the US Government for its recent decision to cancel DACA and further asked Conress to restore DACA - and do this before tackling tax reform - a major issue for the technology industry.
  • “We say this even though Microsoft, like many other companies, cares greatly about modernizing the tax system and making it fairer and more competitive,” explained Brad Smith, the company’s president and chief legal officer. “But we need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill.”
  • In a note to employees, meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook similarly said he is “deeply dismayed” by Trump’s decision — and pledged the company would “work with members of Congress from both parties to advocate for a legislative solution that provides permanent protections for all the Dreamers in our country.”
  • Cook also said the company would provide the roughly 250 at Apple affected by the decision with the “support they need, including the advice of immigration experts.”
  • https://www.recode.net/2017/9/5/16255490/microsoft-satya-nadella-offered-aid-employee-worker-trump-daca-dreamer-deport
Now we need to add our voices to the call for justice, for liberty and equality.  The individuals brought here as children had no voice in the matter, and their future was the reason and fuel for the parents who brought them on long and difficult journeys, leaving behind family and all that was familiar. They are our children now, and we must protect them.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Week of Turmoil

Our minor flooding issue  (as described in "Eclipsing the Eclipse") comes to an end today as our wonderful contractor redoes the drywall, insulation and paint in the basement bedroom. His friend came and fixed the carpet last week, and so we've dug ourselves out of that particular hole for less money and hassle than expected.  Let me rephrase: the amazing immigrants who have done the work for us, giving up their Saturdays and family time, have dug us out of our hole.

My stress around one inch of water in one small basement bedroom seems ridiculous in the face of Biblical floods in Texas and Louisiana. I heard this morning that Houston residents may have to watch their homes flooded again when reservoirs are partially emptied to reduce structural stress. How can the nation's fourth-largest city dry out, restore and repair from such devastation? I am grateful for first responders, the "Cajun army" rescuers, and all the people who are helping to care for victims of the flood.  Perhaps our administration can set aside empty rhetoric around border walls and similarly focus on helping those who lost everything in Harvey's wrath.

Mexico sent money and troops and supplies to help victims of Harvey, just as they sent aid to Louisiana in the wake of Katrina. My friend says that the government of Mexico acts "like grownups." This generosity and putting differences aside fills me with hope, just like the acts of the Cajun army did throughout every (otherwise sorrowful) newscast from last week. We are stronger together, and we can do amazing things when we focus on our common goals.

In contrast to the generous giving of both US and Mexican citizens sits the U.S. government's threat to take away protected status from people who came to the United States as children. President Obama created DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to provide young adults a two-year (renewable) window in which they were safe from immigration enforcement and could work.  Over 800,000 people in this country have registered, providing all contact and personal information to government. Now they wonder if that was a bad move, as the current President has said that he will decide the program's fate on Tuesday, September 5. If the individuals covered by DACA were to go underground or be forced to leave the country, not only would they suffer from the loss of family, opportunity and education, but the United States would suffer from the loss of their productivity, creativity, hard-working ethic and income. A huge loss on all levels - but let's hope that the President protects the program and that Congress works toward making status more permanent with the latest proposed DREAM Act.

I met a young man protected by DACA the other night at a meeting. He was student body president at Metropolitan Statue University of Denver and would like to go to med school to study neurobiology. His mother brought him to this country when he was 3, and he has been "standing in line" for citizenship since that time - almost 20 years. Can we stand to lose him, and others like him? Let's pray for the spirit of unity to move our government on issues around Houston and immigration, just as our citizens have tried to band together to lift up those who need our help.