It’s Time To SPEAK OUT!


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma-Lazarus

Emma Lazarus

The above is the text of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus.  She wrote the poem in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, and in 1903, the poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.  For more than 100 years, those words have been symbolic of what this nation stands for.

Three days ago, on August 12th, this man …

Cuccinelli

Son of a Bitch, Ken Cuccinelli

… Ken Cuccinelli, with malice aforethought and in defiance of the very values that have heretofore defined this nation and its people, re-wrote a line in the poem.  Mr. Cuccinelli revised it to say …

“Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge …”

Mr. Ken Cuccinelli is, in the opinion of this writer, a Grade A Son of a Bitch.

He further claimed that the poem was intended only for European immigrants, not Middle Easterners, not Asians, and not Latinos.  I repeat … Mr. Ken Cuccinelli is a Son of a Bitch.

Trump-toonIt is against the laws of the land to change an author’s work without his or her permission.  Emma Lazarus died on November 19, 1887 and thus cannot give her permission for the changes Mr. Sonofabitch has proposed, nor do I believe she would give permission.  These changes are not in the spirit upon which this nation was founded.

The United States has made its share of horrific mistakes, starting with the enslavement of Africans early on, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the rejection of the St. Louis carrying Jewish refugees, many of them who later died as a result, the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki … We ought to have learned from those mistakes, but instead, today we have a so-called president who wishes to make this a “white, Christian nation” by rejecting refugees fleeing violence and terror in their native lands.  He would build a wall to keep out Latinos from Central America, he would impose a ban on refugees from Middle-Eastern, predominantly Muslim countries, and he promotes and applauds racism and white supremacy on a near-daily basis.  This week, he implemented new ‘rules’ to deny citizenship to immigrants who are struggling financially and are being assisted by government programs such as rent subsidies, food stamps, and Medicaid.

What’s next, folks?  Think long and hard about this … Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, Andrew Wheeler, Steve Bannon, Ken Cuccinelli, and a boatload of others in the Trump administration are bigots to the nth degree.  They have no respect nor love for the principles on which this nation was founded, but their only concern is putting more wealth into the pockets of the already-wealthy at any and all costs to the people who are paying their way in the world.  We are increasingly pawns being moved about on a huge chessboard by people who have no heart, no values, nothing but a lust for money and a sense of entitlement.

Will we allow them to re-write history by re-writing the lines on the base of the Statue of Liberty?  If we do, then we should simply send that statue back to France, for we no longer deserve it.  If we do, then we have stopped being the United States of America as it has been envisioned throughout its relatively short history.  Perhaps in two years, it will be called the DSR – Divided States of Russia.

I began this post with the poem by Emma Lazarus.  I shall end it with yet another well-known poem, this one by Martin Niemöller …

Martin-Niemoller.jpg

Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

liberty cries

Trump’s Cruelties are Typical Of Hitler Figure/ 8/7/2019 ICE Raid Of Food Plants VS. Abused Workers

This, my friends, is what the U.S. has become … this is not the behaviour of a democratic republic, not the actions of the nation we once knew. Thank you, Gronda, for showing us what this nation has become: a cruel, inhumane, authoritarian regime.

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTOS US WORKERS PROTESTS OVER EMPLOYER ABUSES

@dutch163 Tweeted the following on 8/9/2019:
“The news is covering a story about children abandoned after their parents were rounded up… The story is way worse than that. Workers were rounded up by ICE because they won a lawsuit against Koch Foods for sexual harassment, discrimination, & abuse.”
7:32 AM · Aug 9, 2019
***

This is what happens when undocumented workers stand up against abuse by their employers. Please note who were not charged criminally or fined for having employed undocumented workers.

Can you believe that there are those in the republican President Donald Trump’s administration who are trying to sell the tale that there’s absolutely no connection between Mississippi food plants having lost a suit filed by workers and the scheduling on 8/7/2019 for ICE raids being executed on undocumented workers at these same plants, where children on their first day of school were traumatized as they figured…

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Voices Worth Hearing …

ObamaThere are many ways in which President Obama has earned my respect, one of which is the fact that though it must certainly be tempting, he almost never comments publicly about our current politics, the current state of this nation.  However, yesterday he endorsed and tweeted a letter written by 149 African Americans who served in his administration that called out President Trump for recent comments degrading four congresswomen of color, saying …

“I’ve always been proud of what this team accomplished during my administration. But more than what we did, I’m proud of how they’re continuing to fight for an America that’s better.”

The letter was initially published in The Washington Post yesterday.  And Michelle Obama, who, like her husband remains largely silent on the current state of affairs, rang in as well …

“What truly makes our country great is its diversity. I’ve seen that beauty in so many ways over the years. Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for us all. We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.”

It is worth noting that both of the Obama’s comments were positive ones, not negative, not promoting hate, but rather encouraging humanity, compassion, inclusion rather than exclusion.  This is the difference, folks … think about it.

This letter is one that deserves to be read by every person in this nation, and I agree with it 100%.  In the interest of space, I did not publish the names and titles of the signatories, but you can find them by clicking on the above link to The Washington Post OpEd.

We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by

We’ve heard this before. Go back where you came from. Go back to Africa. And now, “send her back.” Black and brown people in America don’t hear these chants in a vacuum; for many of us, we’ve felt their full force being shouted in our faces, whispered behind our backs, scrawled across lockers, or hurled at us online. They are part of a pattern in our country designed to denigrate us as well as keep us separate and afraid.

As 149 African Americans who served in the last administration, we witnessed firsthand the relentless attacks on the legitimacy of President Barack Obama and his family from our front-row seats to America’s first black presidency. Witnessing racism surge in our country, both during and after Obama’s service and ours, has been a shattering reality, to say the least. But it has also provided jet-fuel for our activism, especially in moments such as these.

We stand with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with his supporters and his enablers, who feel deputized to decide who belongs here — and who does not. There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined.

We are proud descendants of immigrants, refugees and the enslaved Africans who built this country while enduring the horrors of its original sin. We stand on the soil they tilled, and march in the streets they helped to pave. We are red-blooded Americans, we are patriots, and we have plenty to say about the direction this country is headed. We decry voter suppression. We demand equitable access to health care, housing, quality schools and employment. We welcome new Americans with dignity and open arms. And we will never stop fighting for the overhaul of a criminal-justice system with racist foundations.

We come from Minnesota and Michigan. The Bronx and Baton Rouge. Florida and Philadelphia. Cleveland and the Carolinas. Atlanta and Nevada. Oak-town and the Chi. We understand our role in this democracy, and respect the promise of a nation built by, for and of immigrants. We are part of that tradition, and have the strength to both respect our ancestors from faraway lands and the country we all call home.

Our love of country lives in these demands, and our commitment to use our voices and our energy to build a more perfect union. We refuse to sit idly by as racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are wielded by the president and any elected official complicit in the poisoning of our democracy. We call on local, state and congressional officials, as well as presidential candidates to articulate their policies and strategies for moving us forward as a strong democracy, through a racial-equity lens that prioritizes people over profit. We will continue to support candidates for local, state and federal office who add more diverse representation to the dialogue and those who understand the importance of such diversity when policymaking here in our country and around the world. We ask all Americans to be a good neighbor by demonstrating anti-racist, environmentally friendly, and inclusive behavior toward everyone in your everyday interactions.

The statesman Frederick Douglass warned, “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” This nation has neither grappled with nor healed from the horrors of its origins. It is time to advance that healing process now through our justice, economic, health and political systems.

Expect to hear more from us. We plan to leave this country better than we found it. This is our home.

divider-new

Then … And Now

Two days ago, June 17th, marked the 134th anniversary of the arrival of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.  The statue arrived dismantled, in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases, and it would be October of the following year before it was fully re-assembled and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.  The statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and came to symbolize freedom and democracy.

In 1892, Ellis Island opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor.

In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants.

This is that vision today …

immigrant-children-3immigrant-children-2immigrant-children-4immigrant child-2

immigrants-2immigrants-3immigrants-4immigrants-6

It’s funny that the longer humans are on this earth, the more ‘developed’ our society becomes, the better educated we become, the less tolerant and compassionate we are.

By the way, in case anyone is interested … today is World Refugee Day.  Ironic, isn’t it?

liberty cries

A Man On Trial For Having A Heart …

Today, May 29th, begins the trial of Scott Warren in U.S. Court in Arizona.  Scott is a 36-year-old college geography instructor from Ajo, Arizona who was arrested in early 2018 and faces three felony charges.  If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.  What, you ask, did he do?  He gave food and water to people.

Scott works with a group I’ve written about before called No More Deaths or No Mas Muertes.  I will let him tell you his story which was published in The Washington Post yesterday …

Scott-Warren.jpgAfter a dangerous journey across Mexico and a difficult crossing through the Arizona desert, someone told Jose and Kristian that they might find water and food at a place in Ajo called the Barn. The Barn is a gathering place for humanitarian volunteers like me, and there the two young men were able to eat, rest and get medical attention. As the two were preparing to leave, the Border Patrol arrested them. Agents also handcuffed and arrested me, for — in the agency’s words — having provided the two migrants with “food, water, clean clothes and beds.”

Jose and Kristian were detained for several weeks, deposed by the government as material witnesses in its case against me and then deported back to the countries from which they had fled for their lives. This week, the government will try me for human smuggling. If convicted, I may be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

In the Sonoran Desert, the temperature can reach 120 degrees during the day and plummet at night. Water is scarce. Tighter border policies have forced migrants into harsher and more remote territory, and many who attempt to traverse this landscape don’t survive. Along what’s become known as the Ajo corridor, dozens of bodies are found each year; many more are assumed to be undiscovered.

Local residents and volunteers organize hikes into this desert to offer humanitarian aid. We haul jugs of water and buckets filled with canned food, socks, electrolytes and basic first-aid supplies to a few sites along the mountain and canyon paths. Other times, we get a report that someone has gone missing, and our mission becomes search and rescue — or, more often, to recover the bodies and bones of those who have died.

Over the years, humanitarian groups and local residents navigated a coexistence with the Border Patrol. We would meet with agents and inform them of how and where we worked. At times, the Border Patrol sought to cultivate a closer relationship. “Glad you’re out here today,” I remember an agent telling me once. “People really need water.” In a town as small as Ajo, we’re all neighbors, and everybody’s kids go to the same school. Whether it was in the grocery store or out in the field, it was commonplace for residents and volunteers to run into Border Patrol agents and talk.

Those kinds of encounters are rare these days. Government authorities have cracked down on humanitarian aid: denying permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and kicking over and slashing water jugs. They are also aggressively prosecuting volunteers. Several No More Deaths volunteers have faced possible imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 on federal misdemeanor charges from 2017 including entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and “abandonment of property” — leaving water and cans of beans for migrants. (I face similar misdemeanor charges of “abandonment of property.”)

My case in particular may set a dangerous precedent, as the government expands its definitions of “transportation” and “harboring.” The smuggling and harboring laws have always been applied selectively: with aggressive prosecutions of “criminal” networks but leniency for big agriculture and other politically powerful industries that employ scores of undocumented laborers. Now, the law may be applied to not only humanitarian aid workers but also to the millions of mixed-status families in the United States. Take, for instance, a family in which one member is undocumented and another member, who is a citizen, is buying the groceries and paying the rent. Would the government call that harboring? If this family were driving to a picnic in the park, would the government call that illegal transportation? Though this possibility would have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, it has become frighteningly real.

The Trump administration’s policies — warehousing asylees, separating families, caging children — seek to impose hardship and cruelty. For this strategy to work, it must also stamp out kindness.

To me, the question that emerges from all of this is not whether the prosecution will have a chilling effect on my community and its sense of compassion. The question is whether the government will take seriously its humanitarian obligations to the migrants and refugees who arrive at the border.

In Ajo, my community has provided food and water to those traveling through the desert for decades — for generations. Whatever happens with my trial, the next day, someone will walk in from the desert and knock on someone’s door, and the person who answers will respond to the needs of that traveler. If they are thirsty, we will offer them water; we will not ask for documents beforehand. The government should not make that a crime.

He is right … helping others should not be a crime.  What have we become?

 

Good People Doing Good Things — Florence Phillips

Good people.  They are not hard to find.  They come from all walks of life, and their contributions to the world are many and diverse.  As we have seen since I started this feature in February 2017, some contribute large amounts of money to worthy causes, others just do small things that may go unnoticed.  They are young, old, every ethnicity, race, gender and religion.  The common bond they share is that they care about people.  While giving money to good causes is certainly admirable, I always enjoy highlighting those who give of themselves — their time and energy.

Today I have the honour of introducing you to one great lady, Ms. Florence Phillips.  She was born in New York in 1931, shortly after her Jewish parents came to this country from Europe prior to the Holocaust.  Young people are most always able to learn a second or even third language much more easily than adults, and Florence was no exception.  Her parents struggled to learn English, and for most of her childhood, Florence served as their interpreter.

“I did all the translations for them. I saw how they struggled being new to a country and not knowing the language.”

For most of her life, Phillips worked various desk jobs. Then, in her late-50s, she enlisted in the Peace Corps. She served three tours—in Kenya, Guatemala and Jamaica—working on community-building projects and teaching English.  When she returned to the U.S. after her last tour, as she said in one of her videos, she found she had “nothing to do”.

“It came to me that I didn’t have to leave the US or my hometown to help. I could do here what I did overseas.”

She volunteered with AmeriCorps, a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.”  She moved around the country, eventually settling in Carson City, Nevada, where immigrants comprise some 22% of the population.

Florence-Phillips-4She started out by contacting some of the immigrants, and one woman asked her to come for a visit.  When she arrived, she found five people, three of whom spoke no English, all eager to learn.  As she worked with this family, teaching them to speak the language, word spread and before long she was getting dozens of calls.Florence-Phillips.jpgNow, Florence is an energetic woman, but even so, it soon became more than one woman could handle. And thus, her ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada was born.  The organization is a nonprofit that provides free ESL (English as a Second Language), citizenship, GED and computer classes and relies strictly on volunteers.  Started in 2004, they have thus far helped more than 5,000 people become more proficient in English.

Recently, Ms. Phillips was interviewed by CNN’s Laura Klairmont … let’s listen in, shall we?

Laura Klairmont: What are some of the barriers that get in the way of immigrants accessing English classes?

Florence Phillips: It was amazing to see how many immigrants there were that wanted to learn English. I got calls from all over Nevada. Many of these immigrants could not attend ESL classes because the schools and other organizations have a set schedule, and their times were not convenient for the student who works three jobs. So, my program teaches morning, noon, night, weekends, holidays. We provide these services at the times and days that the student is available and wherever the student is or can be. My program is very flexible.

We teach English on all levels to immigrants and refugees in Northern Nevada who want to learn. There is no other program like this in the state. We give the students personal attention; I match them with a tutor. We teach at no cost to the student.

There are people who were living in rural counties and in other counties where they did not have transportation if there was a class available for them to go to. If they lack transportation, just had a baby, are sick or disabled, we will tutor in their own homes or the tutor’s home.

Klairmont: Your program also provides free classes that help people prepare for their citizenship test.

Phillips: It is a very difficult test. A lot of Americans say they could not pass. These people have to know the answers to questions about the branches of government, how many senators there are, etc. It’s a lot of history, a lot of civics, a lot about our government. They have to know how to write, how to read. They have to know how to converse in English with the interviewer. We do all of that for them. We have a mock interview at the end of the class so that they know what to expect when they go for their exam. It takes a commitment of coming to a 12-week class. It takes a lot of memorization.

To apply for citizenship today, it costs more than $700. Many of our students cannot afford to apply. So, we help to raise money to help these students apply.

Whether they’re working two, three jobs, they have to sit down and study every single day, and they make that commitment because it is their desire to become an American. My students inspire me because of their dedication, their commitment, their motivation to learn.

Klairmont: How has your work affected the lives of your students?

Phillips: I have students that were promoted to be supervisor. I get students who call me and say, “I was able to talk with the teacher about my child.” And I’m being told by the students that they went to the market and the clerk understood them. Those are the rewards I get as they progress.

My students love this country. They are very proud about being here, learning English, learning our culture. I see the pride when they say, “I am an American.”

Florence-Phillips-2.jpgIn this day, when fear of immigrants is being manufactured by politicians, isn’t it refreshing to see people who are actually trying to help immigrants assimilate and become contributing members of our society, realizing that they have so much to offer.  My hat is off to Ms. Florence Phillips, who at age 87 has more energy than I do at 67!

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Thoughts On This ‘Independence Day’

fireworks-promo-articleLarge.gifToday is the Fourth of July … typically a fun holiday involving grill-outs, get-togethers with friends, and at the end of the day, a fireworks display.  I remember many a Fourth spent with our old friends Kim & Jerry, cooking out on their patio, then going to a local park where every year there was an awesome fireworks display.  It was a much-anticipated day.  This year, I actually forgot that it was the fourth until yesterday when I was talking on the phone with my friend Herb, and he reminded me.  Whoopee.

The point of the holiday is to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence back in 1776, some 242 years ago.  It would be another eleven years before the U.S. Constitution was born, but still, it was the beginning of the process that eventually led to the nation we now know as the United States of America, the USA.

Frankly, while I still have admiration for those who have gone before and helped shape this nation, those who worked tirelessly to make it a good place to live by abolishing slavery, working toward civil rights and equal rights for women, those who have engaged in humanitarian ventures to help the people … the ordinary people … of this nation thrive, I have very little pride in this country today.  I really do not feel like celebrating the hypocrisy that this nation has become.

We are currently in the midst of such great upheaval, such chaos, that I no longer even feel that it is a single nation, but rather a bunch of people living on the same continent, but being engaged in a constant battle with prize being … nothing.  The things that once made me proud to live in this country are being eroded day-by-day.  Police killing unarmed blacks simply because they can get away with it.  White supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups marching, holding rallies, all because they are arrogantly convinced that somehow pale skin is a virtue.  Conspiracy theories running rampant. People at either end of the political spectrum engaging in juvenile name-calling, threats and taunts, rather than trying to work together to solve the nation’s ills.  And nearly 3,000 innocent children, torn from the arms of their parents and being held hostage by our own government, innocent pawns in a high-stakes game of politics. Where this nation began as a nation of immigrants, we now vilify immigrants.

The people we voted for, we elected to represent us and our values, sit in their fancy air-conditioned offices and scoff at our needs, our desires.  “Vote for me and I’ll promise you everything you ask for,” they say in the lead-up to November, but then after they are elected, it’s “Ha ha, sucker!  Don’t call me … I’ll call you!”  They do not even hear or see our cries for equality, for truth, for justice, for help.

The history of this nation has sometimes been noble, often not.  We killed the Native Americans in droves and ran them off their land for our own greed.  We held on to the notion that African-Americans were not wholly to be considered human beings, but rather slaves, for far too many years and even today, some hold onto that belief.  We interned citizens of Japanese ancestry for no other reason than unwarranted fear during World War II.  We murdered more than a quarter-of-a-million people by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in 1945.  The list of our less-than-glorious moments in history is long.

And today, we are engaged in actively and knowingly destroying the earth for no other reason than to put more money in the pockets of rich corporate barons.  We are devaluing our poor people, robbing them of health care and even food & shelter.  We are condoning the blatant discrimination of people whose skin is not pale or who do not believe in the “Christian values” that are determined by a small group of men called ‘televangelists’ who are getting rich off people who can ill-afford to support their luxury lifestyles.  We are supporting corrupt politicians who are milking us for their own personal gain.  We are intentionally scaling back our education system so that only the wealthy will be well-educated enough to hold political offices in the future.

There are many things to love about this nation, but today I have trouble remembering what they are.  I love the wonderful forests, rivers, lakes and coastal areas, but those are being destroyed by greed, by oil pipelines, drilling and mining operations that put more money in the pockets of the wealthy.  It feels like everything that was once good is being destroyed, and I find it difficult to feel any joy in celebrating the birth of a nation that is now eating its own.  A nation that places more value on a dollar than on a life.

Many will not like this post, will not like my harsh words, and I understand that.  Frankly, I don’t like them either, but they are honest words.  Honesty … one of the values, along with integrity and compassion, that we have thrown in the trash as we race to become a nation of rich white people.  It is a vision that sickens me and one that I want no part of.

Keep safe and enjoy your holiday, friends.  Love ‘n hugs to you all!

Before The War Came

Some time ago … I believe it was early in 2016, I discovered a blogger from India by the name of Anam, writing as Love Read Dream. Anam is very young (17-18) but wise beyond her years. She is at times funny, other times pensive, but she writes as well as any I have read. A few days ago I read a poem she wrote titled Before the War Came, and I was so touched by her words that I wanted to share it with my readers. Please allow me to introduce this beautiful young lady and her touching words. Thank you, Anam, for this hauntingly beautiful poem, and for your permission to share it with my friends.

Fade Into Oblivion

hiraeth(n.)  
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the grief, the yearning for the lost spaces of your past.

“Go back to where you came from!”
I wish I could.
But my home is burning.
And I’m aching for the beautiful place my home once was.
There is a name for this feeling.
Hiraeth. It’s Welsh.
A foreign word for a foreign person.
“You are Dirty!” “Immigrants!” “Job stealers!””Refugees!”
My blood is tainted by my foreignness.
Maybe that’s the dirt you’re talking about.
I wish I had an answer for you.
But I’m drowning in nostalgia.
My dreams are invaded by images of my home.
The way my home has been invaded by war.
In this state of daydreaming,
I’m sorry if I accidentally bump into you
I’m sorry if that makes you jump out of your skin

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The Unjust Department of “Justice”

 

AG Sessions has some explaining to do. This will either take a long time or a very short time.Four weeks ago, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)  —a respected nonprofit in Seattle that represents immigrants in deportation proceedings—received a “cease and desist” letter from the Department of Justice, aka Attorney General Jeff Sessions, threatening disciplinary action. The letter  demanded that NWIRP drop representation of its clients and close down its asylum-advisory program. What prompted this action on the part of the DOJ?  In all likelihood, it was because NWIRP has been at the forefront of resisting Trump’s travel ban. Its staff and volunteer lawyers were at SeaTac airport immediately after the White House launched the first Muslim ban, and in March it sued to block the second Muslim ban.

Last week, NWIRP filed a lawsuit to defend itself against the DOJ’s order—and on Wednesday, a judge granted a restraining order.   So for now, the organization can keep helping immigrants who need legal advice. But what’s at stake extends far beyond NWIRP and the 5,000 people it serves every year. The outcome of this legal battle will profoundly impact access to legal representation for the tens of thousands of immigrants who apply for asylum in the United States every year.

airportRemember that part of the Miranda warning that says, “if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you”?  It doesn’t apply to immigrants who face potential deportation, because it only applies in criminal, not civil proceedings, and being in the United States without authorization is a civil offense.  This is where organizations like NWIRP are crucial to provide legal representation to immigrants who face mounds of legal paperwork and language barriers, and few have the means to pay for legal representation.

There are non-profits like NWIRP in many major cities around the U.S.  They coordinate the volunteer work of lawyers at big law firms, who represent children and refugees in immigration and asylum proceedings for free. The DOJ’s suspiciously timed cease and desist letter sends a chilling message to exactly these groups, and to volunteer attorneys. This attack by the government on a legal services-provider for immigrants could dissuade law firms from letting their lawyers volunteer for these cases, scaring those firms away by convincing them that immigration-related projects are too risky pro-bono projects.

attorneyIf they succeed, they don’t just deprive people of scarce resources for volunteer counsel, they gradually muzzle the bar. They marginalize the heroic work of nonprofits like NWIRP and its peers around the country. They defang the big law firms that have been willing to stand up to this administration—like Davis Wright Tremaine, which is assisting NWIRP—and they make immigrant representation a more marginal part of the law.

When lawyers rushed to airports in January and again in March to protect our friends, our neighbors, and our Constitution, people cheered. The Trump administration took offense, and now those lawyers are in their cross hairs. The president is taking a sledgehammer to the pillars of our government: the FBI, the Justice Department, the federal courts.