Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Overwhelming

What a very long day it has been. I left home a bit after 8 a.m. and am just now getting home a little before 11 p.m. After attending a community meeting on the ICE raids here in Portland last week, my mind is racing with things I'd like to post, but really too overwhelmed to put them into words. We had discussions at church on Sunday (sheesh, it's only Tuesday, yet Sunday feels so far gone!) about The New Sanctuary Movement and what could be done as a body to provide aid to the people affected. The raids left many families unable to pay rent, provide for their children, etc. As such, the city's justice, human rights and labor groups are pretty fired up. Even the mayor's office released a statement in protest of how the raids were handled by ICE.

I learned yesterday from a Latina neighbor that eight families in her church were affected by the raids with some children left with no parental care. Whatever one might think about immigration law and the necessity of reform (and I certainly believe our current paradigm is not cutting it), I can't see anything right about children being left with no parental care, families without a means to food. If I as an adult abandon my children, charges will be brought against me, yet if children are forcibly abandoned as an after effect such a raid, then justice has somehow been served? It's messed up and it was truly overwhelming to look around the room when the audience was asked how many of them had a family member who had been arrested and then how many had been arrested in the raids themselves, especially seeing how many had children with them.

The whole issue is so complex - far too much so to address with short shrift, but the bottom line is that there has to be a better way of handling it than tearing families apart and putting people in peril of not being able to obtain the basic necessities required to live. That goes beyond immigration control and into the area of human rights. These people are not here "taking American jobs" or because they "jumped line" (a newly found understanding from tonight's meeting - that I admittedly need to look into somewhat more before feeling totally confident about its veracity - is that under current U.S. law there is no really viable way to for the average "unskilled worker" to enter the country legally from Mexico and - this part I already knew - that when you talk about "line jumping" you also have to take into account that there are, based on US foreign policy of the day, nationalities that are given preference when it comes to immigration, which adds some nuance to the "but what about the people who come here legally?" question). Our current immigration question is the direct result of a myriad of conditions brought on by economics, NAFTA, the Mexican government, our policies, etc. It's enough to make a person's head spin.

That aside, I can't get away from the feeling (and, being rather fond of having a conscience, I consider it a good thing that I have it) that these are fellow human beings we're talking about - people who just want a better life for themselves and their families. They're not "other", they're not against us, they're not animals, they're not lesser, because they weren't born here. Most of our families emigrated from somewhere at one time. It just seems like that alone should breed a bit of compassion, whatever our feelings are about the tangled mess of policy versus reality.

4 comments:

anne said...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5391395
It's amazing to me that they thought new legislation wouldn't make much of a difference.

Martina said...

I know. The whole thing is amazing to me. Now that I'm over the shock of actually being in a room full of the people affected (it's one thing to think about it, quite another to see young mothers with ankle bracelets holding their children and hear about children who weren't lucky enough to get back even a mother with a monitoring bracelet), I'm helping to organize an educational event that will explain a bit about the economic conditions and policies of the 80's and 90's that engendered what we have today. I'm looking forward to learning more depth about it myself.

Anne said...

That sounds great. I took a course in immigration about 2 years ago and it was a big eye opener. I also recently watched the 8 part PBS documentary on New York (ok- 6 episodes so far) and what was amazing was the rhetoric used about immigrants in 1850 is still what is being used now.

Martina said...

You take a lot of classes, don't you? I bet it would be. The PBS documentary sounds interesting as well. I'll have to see if they release it on DVD when it's finished running.