Category Archives: Human Rights

IMMIGRATION: Urge the president to expand deferred action for our undocumented community members

childrenattheborderbutton-smallAs President Obama prepares an executive order on immigration, urge him to inclusively expand deferred action for our undocumented community members.

Call the White House TODAY and every day until the President acts!

And tell Congress that you support the President taking action!

Immigrant rights groups and faith communities across the country have been urging the administration to take bold, concrete actions to stop the pain that families and communities face due to deportations. Such action has been promised and delayed, but it seems likely that President Obama will act soon. Every day the administration delays its executive order, more than 1,000 individuals are deported from their families and communities. The President’s action could look similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in which undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children can apply to temporarily be able to travel and work legally. Such action may condition relief on having a child who is a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), living in the United States for five or ten years, and/or other criteria. This could leave out a significant number of our community members who have lived here for less time, do not have U.S. Citizen or LPR family members, and individuals who have committed immigration infractions or crimes in the past but have accepted responsibility for their actions and turned their lives around. As people of faith, we do not define a person by how long he or she has been in the United States. We do not value family unity based on one family member’s immigration status. We believe in the power of redemption, repentance, forgiveness and rehabilitation, as all of us have made mistakes. Now is the time for the President to hear from us that administrative relief must be inclusive.

Some members of Congress have threatened to stop administrative action through legislation, legal action or blocking funding for implementation. It is important for Congress to hear from people of faith that we support the President expanding deferred action. President Obama has signed fewer executive orders than any president in 130 years. He has the authority to provide our undocumented community members opportunities to stay in the United States without fear of deportation. Deferred action is one of the many long-standing forms of prosecutorial discretion available to the Executive Branch. Indeed, every U.S. President has used their authority to offer temporary immigration relief to groups in need since at least 1956. Ronald Reagan used categorical grants of deferred action for large groups of undocumented immigrants in 1987, as did George H.W. Bush in 1990.  George W. Bush exercised prosecutorial discretion in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for over 40 percent of the then-unauthorized population.

Tell the White House that you don’t want to see your community members left out of administrative action!

And tell Congress that you support the President using his authority to expand deferred action!

Call the White House at 1-866-961-4293. You can also call the White House Comment Line directly at 1-888-907-2053.

“I’m from (City, State, Congregation/Community) and as a person of faith, I urge President Obama to inclusively expand deferred action. The President must act boldly and act now. Administrative Action should not be limited to individuals who have been in the United States for a long time, or those who have family members here. We seek broad, accessible relief for all of our community members.”

Then call 1-866-940-2439 to be connected with Your Representative. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 or find your Representative’s direct line at http://www.house.gov

“I’m from (City, State, Congregation/Community) and as a person of faith, I support President Obama expanding deferred action. The President has the authority to act boldly and act now. I ask Congress to support the President’s decision to expand deferred action and to promote its implementation.”

Keep up the pressure on social media!

Ex: .@WhiteHouse As a person of faith I want you to use your authority to grant inclusive relief to our undocumented community members. #Not1More family separated

Ex:.@Raul_Labrador As a person of faith from Idaho I support the @WhiteHouse decision to expand deferred action for our #immigrant brothers and sisters (Find you Representative’s Twitter handle at house.gov)

Follow @InterfaithImm on Twitter and “like” the Interfaith Immigration Coalition on Facebook to receive up-to-date alerts.

REFLECTION: Everyone deserves a home

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Just imagine for a moment that you have no home.

What will you do for meals today? Where will you shower? Where will you sleep? If you have children, how will you provide for them?

And how will you cope with being homeless tomorrow, next week, next month?

Such imaginations are distressing. Aren’t they?

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Last winter I took imagining what it would be like to be homeless one step further. I lived one day in Baltimore as a homeless man trying to stay warm and fed. From street, to soup kitchen, to shelter I ventured.

I learned a lot that day about how rough it is to have no place to call your own. But later that night my experience as a homeless person ended. I got in my vehicle and headed for home.

But for 100 million people throughout the world, not having a home to go to each night is a hard, sad reality (61st session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights).

And in the U.S., according to the National Coalition for the Homeless (www.nationalhomeless.org), 3.5 million people – 39 percent of which are children – have no place to call home.

Recently I spoke with Ken Leslie, a former homeless alcoholic and drug addict, who is now a leading advocate for people who have no home. Based in Toledo, Ohio, Leslie founded 1Matters (www.1matters.org), an organization inviting each of us to “Be 1 that matters to 1 that matters.”

As their motto indicates, 1-on-1 relationships help break down homeless stereotypes and build community.

One major stereotype is the word “homeless” itself. Because the word “homeless” often conjures up negative images of people – which in most cases are completely untrue – Leslie prefers using the word “unhoused.”

A model project of 1Matters is “Tent City.” Every year on the last weekend of October, Tent City brings together doctors, nurses, medical students, social workers and over 500 other caring souls to serve the unhoused.

Recently – Oct. 24-26, 2014 –Tent City celebrated its 25th anniversary. On Toledo’s Civic Center Mall, under several tents, approximately 1,000 unhoused and marginally housed fellow human beings received medical treatment, prescriptions, job and housing assistance, I.D. acquisition, haircuts, food, clothing, commitment to follow-up care and lots of love.

To watch an inspiring video on Tent City go to www.1matters.org/tentcity. And then kindly consider how a Tent City could be started in your town or city. You can contact Ken Leslie for assistance at ken@1matters.org.

Another outstanding program of 1Matters is “Veterans Matter.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs there are over 49,000 homeless veterans on the streets of America. And while many of them qualify for government rental assistance, they lack the upfront deposit needed to get an apartment.

Veterans Matter has provided deposits for approximately 500 veterans to date in several states. You can help an unhoused veteran get off the street and into decent housing by making a donation at www.veteransmatter.org.

Everyone deserves a home. And National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week – Nov. 15-23 – is an ideal time to get started in helping to make a difference in the lives of unhoused people.

The social doctrine of the Catholic Church clearly teaches that safe, decent housing is a basic human right. And that individuals, governments and society in general have a moral obligation to help end homelessness.

In the spirit of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who help the unhoused, for they shall find a home in heaven.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

RESOURCE: Webinar on Thursday on “Understanding the U.S.-ISIS crisis”

from the Institute for Policy Studies

iraq-syria-buttonJoin Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism project, for an in-depth discussion on the crisis. We will discuss:

  • Why is the Obama administration going back to war in Iraq and Syria?
  • What is ISIS and why are they considered such a threat?
  • Is this U.S. war helping the Syrian regime?
  • Who – AND IN what country – is next?

Please join us for this important discussion – and invite your friends!

Understanding the U.S.-ISIS Crisis and Washington’s New Wars: A Discussion on Context with Phyllis Bennis

Thursday, November 13, 2014
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST

You can participate in the webinar online or in-person with us in the conference room of the Institute for Policy Studies (1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington DC, 20036.)

If you will be joining us online, you can listen in using either using your computer’s microphone and speakers or your telephone.

To participate, please RSVP to the webinar.

After entering your information at the above link, instructions on how to participate will be displayed and emailed to you.

We hope to see you there!

CHILDREN AT OUR BORDER: PCUSA signs onto letter calling for provisions to adjust root causes of forced migration

childrenattheborderbutton-smallPax Christi USA has signed onto a letter drafted by a number of human rights, faith-based and humanitarian groups addressed to Conferees on the State Foreign Ops portion of the Omnibus appropriations bill which will be negotiated for passage next month.  The letter seeks to encourage Conferees to include provisions that would address the root causes of forced migration from Central America of children and families, specifically endorsing certain funding lines.

The letter begins:

As faith-based, humanitarian, labor, and human rights organizations, we are greatly troubled by the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America that has compelled the migration of families and children, often unaccompanied, to the United States.  This crisis deserves a response that is both compassionate and sustainable.  As you finalize your conference negotiations of the omnibus legislation, we urge you to retain provisions of the FY15 State and Foreign Operations bills that seek to address some of the factors driving children, families, women, and men to abandon their homes in the Central American region…

The letter will be delivered this week.

REFLECTION: Ferguson – Reflections on race and racism in America

Scott WrightBy Scott Wright, Former PCUSA National Council member & member of Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore

On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by six bullets fired at close range by a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

His death sparked outrage in this black suburb of St. Louis, and led to weeks of nightly protests in the streets where black residents faced off with a militarized white police force ready to turn on U.S. citizens as though they were enemy combatants.

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It was a familiar story, but something seemed different this time. The police response to the protests looked like they were prepared to invade a village in Iraq or Afghanistan. Black protesters, hands in the air, carried signs with the message: “Hands up, don’t shoot!” What happened?

I remembered last summer, when thousands of people – black and white – returned to the site of the 1963 March of Washington on the 50th anniversary to remember and recommit themselves to work for racial justice in our nation. Then, the mood was festive, though Martin Luther King III reminded the crowd: “Our task is still not done, the journey is not over,” and Congressman John Lewis issued a challenge: “We cannot go back. We cannot wait. We want jobs and freedom.”

This summer, on the eve of the anniversary of the March on Washington, we were reminded by the events in Ferguson of all that has not changed in our country these past fifty years.

Some Are Guilty, All Are Responsible

A few weeks ago, I participated in “A National Service of Mourning in remembrance of those who have died in Palestine and Israel.” Again, a familiar story, but something – the overwhelming use of violence and the media coverage of it – seemed different this time. The BBC reported that 2,104 Palestinians, of whom 1,451 were civilians, were killed in the Israeli airstrikes over Gaza; by contrast, 66 Israeli soldiers and 7 Israeli citizens were killed in the conflict.

The interfaith service began on a note of lamentation and confession, and included voices of Palestinians who had lost family members in Gaza, and an Israeli conscientious objector who refused to fight. I was intensely aware that it mattered whether we came to the service as Christians, Jews or Muslims, because in real life it matters, and we must acknowledge the violence for which each of us is responsible. It mattered and it didn’t matter, because we were joined by our common humanity and mourning for the loss of innocent life, as well as by a common dream for peace. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Some are guilty, all are responsible.”

Prior to and after the service, my thoughts returned to the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I thought, too, that it matters whether we approach Ferguson as whites or as blacks, because, in Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, “Racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.” It mattered and it didn’t matter, because, again in Dr. King’s words: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Two Societies: One Black, One White – Separate and Unequal

I came of age in the 1960s, and still remember the vivid media images of riots in the streets of major cities across the United States. I remember the night in 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, and joined my first protest with blacks and whites on a southern university campus. My roommate was African American, from a poor family in Richmond, Virginia. We watched with horror the scenes on TV of U.S. soldiers with machine-guns on the steps of the U. S. Capitol, and then joined hundreds of fellow protesters, locking arms and singing together, “We Shall Overcome.” I was 18 years old, and became aware for the first time that I had a new identity. I was “white,” and I had just received notice to register for the draft.

These were turbulent times. Even “official” voices declared we were living in “a system of apartheid” in our major cities, and “Our nation was moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.” That was the conclusion of the Kerner Report, which was commissioned by President Johnson in 1967 after three years and 24 racial riots in 23 cities between 1964 and 1967.

The commission asked: “What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?” And it put the blame squarely on white racism: “What white Americans have never fully understood – but what blacks can never forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Why did it happen? The report concluded: “Race prejudice has shaped our history decisively; it now threatens to affect our future. White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.” Specifically, “pervasive discrimination and segregation in employment, education and housing have resulted in the continuing exclusion of great numbers of blacks from the benefits of economic progress.” And for many blacks, the police “have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression.”

Powerful words, and a powerful indictment from fifty years ago. How much has changed? The roots of white racism are deep, and go beyond laws that discriminate. White racism is still institutionalized in employment, education and health care, housing and criminal justice practices that exclude great numbers of blacks from the benefits and opportunities of a dignified life with hope for the future.

What Happened in Ferguson?

Two recent articles from The Washington Post, one optimistic and one pessimistic, both by African American professors, are instructive.

The first article (by Fredrick Harris, August 24) asks, “Will Michael Brown Become Emmett Till?” Emmett Till was the black teenager from Chicago who was viciously lynched in Mississippi in 1955 and whose family spoke at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, standing next to the parents of Trayvon Martin, the black youth killed in 2012 by a white man “standing his ground” in Florida. The article’s optimistic conclusion is “no,” things are different now: The cumulative effect of police misconduct against black people has exposed the reality of police brutality; there has been a backlash against rhetoric that blames poor black youth; innovative protest tactics like the ones used in Ferguson have been effective in attracting media attention; and the support of allies demanding justice and reforms in policing is important.

The second article (by Carol Anderson, August 31) says: “Ferguson Isn’t about Black Rage,” it’s about white rage and fear, particularly in light of the changing demographics and predictions that whites will be a minority by the year 2050. Today, the picture is not as hopeful as that painted by the previous article: There is a rash of voter-suppression legislation, a rise in stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality, a foreclosure crisis that stripped blacks of half of their wealth, and the mass incarceration of black youth that is depriving an entire generation of hope.

The Problem Not Talked About

Recently, a friend of mine shared an observation she learned as a social worker: “The only problems that can’t be solved are those that aren’t talked about.” That’s seems to fit the current situation of white racism in America.

Why is it so difficult to engage with one another in a national conversation about racism, or to strategize together – black and white – about how to combat institutional racism? Especially when our friends and our children’s friends, our co-workers and fellow parishioners, are often of another race?

Rev. Bryan Massingale, a priest of the Milwaukee diocese, moral theologian at Marquette University and convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, has addressed many of these concerns in his book, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. His words, I believe, speak to the reality we face, as Americans, as people of faith, and as Catholics:

“Today the continuing resistance to racial equality, despite undeniable progress, can be largely explained by a fundamental ambivalence on the part of the majority of white Americans: their desire to denounce blatant racial injustices, and yet preserve a situation of white social dominance and privilege. To say it plainly, most Americans are committed to both interpersonal decency and systemic inequality.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said something similar in 1967, in words which still ring true: “White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap [of inequality] – essentially it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects to retain it. . . . The great majority of Americans are suspended between . . . opposing attitudes. They are uneasy with [racial] injustice but unwilling yet to pay a significant price to eradicate it.”

Only One Third of the Dream?

What would Dr. King say today to his white brothers and sisters regarding our response to the events in Ferguson, and beyond Ferguson to the plight of our African American sisters and brothers in America today? What the Kerner Commission characterized as “a system of apartheid” is still true if we look at the levels of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, access to education and health care along racial lines today.

Perhaps Dr. King would say what he did in his letter fifty years ago from Birmingham Jail:

“I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. . . I  came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.”

Yet he would, perhaps, also express his disappointment with love and with hope: “In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. . . . Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty.”

The recent events in Ferguson challenge us – black and white – to a conversation about race and effective action to end the violence of institutionalized racism. Dr. Martin Luther King’s challenge to eliminate the “giant triplets” of poverty, racism and war inspires us to work for such a magnificent dream. With a little imagination and re-engagement we – and here I express a hope for all of us, black and white – can see the wisdom of Dr. King’s vision to include all three: “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth and with righteous indignation say: ‘This is not just.’” . . . A true revolution of values will strive “to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. . . Racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.” . . . A true revolution of values “will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’”

It was the struggle of African Americans for racial justice and Dr. King’s Vietnam address at Riverside Church in 1967 that helped turn the tide against the war in Vietnam; and it was the Poor People’s March in 1968 that brought the national disgrace of poverty in the U.S. to the gates of the White House and demanded a reordering of our national priorities to promote justice at home, not war in some distant land. It will take all of us – black and white, immigrant and native-born, Muslim, Christian and Jew – to build an effective movement for justice and peace that can challenge the violence of racism, poverty, and war.

Today we are, in Dr. King’s words, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. . . .” “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

A Word of Caution from the Past

A few months ago – before Ferguson – I visited the American History museum in Washington D.C. and the exhibit on the March on Washington. In its film recollection, you can hear the voices of A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis, and many others, as well as the dramatic address of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years later, the words are inspiring – and challenging. The one speech that challenged me the most, however, was given by Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who offered a word of caution to the nation on that day in 1963. He said:

“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”

All life is precious, and the destruction of any life – black or white, Muslim, Christian, or Jew – is a grave violation of the common humanity and Abrahamic heritage we share. May we not be silent in the face of any violence – be that the institutional violence of poverty, racism or war – but instead work for that day when Dr. King’s Gospel dream of a beloved community may become a reality.

PRAYER: Lamentation for Ferguson, MO

Sr. Anne Louise headshotby Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN
Program Director, Pax Christi USA

Laments are cries of anguish and outrage, groans of deep pain and grief, utterances of profound protest and righteous indignation over injustice, wails of mourning and sorrow in the face of unbearable suffering. Laments name the present pain, and forthrightly acknowledge that life and relationships have gone terribly wrong. Lamentations transcend the logic of reason, rational analysis, study and planning. They pierce the crusty calluses of numbness, cynicism, indifference and denial.  (Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, Bryan N. Massingale, 2010, Orbis Press)

LAMENTATION FOR FERGUSON, MO
(and all other communities living with mistrust and fear)

Our response to each lament is “HOW MUCH LONGER, O HOLY ONE, HOW MUCH LONGER?”

How much longer will terror grip families, neighborhoods and cities … terror caused by unjust systems that prey on the vulnerability of people, especially communities of color?

How much longer will the expectation of heartbreak, suffering and death be a way of life for too many?

How much longer will it take for war zones to become zones of safety and well being?

How much longer will the stench of death, misery, tear gas and bullets eclipse the beauty of creation in neighborhoods?

How much longer will the collective memory of a people no longer remember a quiet night during which to sleep?

How much longer do parents have to wail primal cries of anguish at the inhuman conditions heaped upon their families?

How much longer do parents have to live under bone-crushing suspicion that their children will be accused of wrong-doing when out on the street?

How much longer do parents have to continue burying their children while being unable to fully grieve since there are more deaths and more children to lay to rest?

How much longer will neighborhoods who have a basic human right for safety have to confront the growing militarization of their police forces who were once committed to serving its people?

How much longer do children have to endure the ravages of terror, trauma and confusion wondering what they did to deserve such fear, dread and insecurity?

How much longer will neighborhoods all over this country, who are at the tipping point from continuing racial oppression and systemic misuse of power, hold on?

How much longer will we stand by shaking our heads at the sadness of it all … before we join in solidarity with one another and work towards “liberty and justice for all?”

Our faith tradition tells us that we are to “love the enemies and pray for those who persecute.” (Mat. 5:43)

Where do we find it within us to pray for those who inflict such acts of atrocity upon the community of nations, the beloved community of the Holy One?

As a simple beginning, we match our Litany of Lamentation with a Litany of Hope, praying from the core of our beings that violence and hatred cease, especially in Israel and Palestine…

Side One:                                                                Side Two:

When hatred dominates…                                          …may we announce by our lives                                                                                           the primacy of love.

When we are seriously offended…                            …may we offer forgiveness.

When conflict is rampant…                                        …may we offer to build peace.

When error is entrenched…                                       …may we proclaim truth

When doubt paralyzes…                                              …may we awaken faith.

When distress weighs heavily…                                  …may we re-vitalize hope.

When heaviness and despair overwhelm…              …may we bring an air of                                                                                                        healing.

When sadness reigns…                                                …may we liberate the joy                                                                                                       within us.

When betrayed by love…                                            …may we be open to healing.

When confronted by evil…                                          …may we proclaim that                                                                                                         ‘goodness’ is stronger.

When our hearts are wrenched by injustice…         …may we be steadfast in                                                                                                        working to promote and                                                                                                        proclaim ‘peace with justice.’

Amen.

IRAQ-SYRIA: The U.S. and ISIS

by Stephen Zunes
in The Huffington Post

n-US-AIRSTRIKE-large570

At the start of classes one year ago, I was having to explain to my students why the United States appeared to be on the verge of going to war against the Syrian government. At the beginning of this semester, exactly one year later, I’m having to explain to my students why the United States may be on the verge of going to war against Syrian rebels.

It is not surprising, therefore, that while the horrors unleashed by forces of the so-called Islamic State are all-too-real, there is skepticism regarding the use of military force.

Already U.S. planes and missiles have been attacking ISIS forces in northern Iraq. Given the real threat of a heightened genocidal campaign against Yazidis and other minorities and the risks of ISIS control expanding into the Kurdish region, even some of those normally averse to unilateral U.S. military intervention abroad were willing to acknowledge it may have been the least bad option.

Within days, however, there were already indications of “mission creep,” as what had been officially declared an exclusively defensive mission turned offensive when the United States provided air support for Kurdish and Iraqi forces, which seized the Mosul Dam from ISIS forces.

Even if one can make a convincing strategic case for such a military operation, the failure of President Obama to go before Congress for authorization of this renewed military intervention in Iraq is extremely disturbing…

Read the rest of this article by clicking here.