Central Baptist Church's affiliation with the Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement is a renewal of CBC's prophetic engagement in the original Sanctuary Movement, declared in a congregational vote in 1984. This reaffirmation today of our historic commitment is grounded in our congregation's vision of “justice rooted in spirituality” and “making a difference in community.”-Congregational Meeting April 25th, 2010.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One Dream at a Time

The Dream Act may not have passed Congress, but under pressure from Democrats and immigration activists, some states are taking a case by case approach to blocking the deportation of undocumented persons, especially students, who have no criminal records and are doing well at school or work. This is not the kind of immigration reform we can celebrate, but it is proof that defeat of legislation does not necessarily negate right actions. And it is very good news for the persons being reprieved. Read the NYTimes article.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sunday, May 1st, worship service on immigration justice

Join us for a special worship service on the theme of immigration justice this Sunday, May 1st, at Central Baptist Church at 10:45am.
  • The worship service will be in Spanish and English -- songs/prayers/sermon/communion. Various members of our CBC Immigration Justice Group will be worship leaders. 
  • Our guest preacher for the day is Rev. Doug Avilesbernal, from Calvary Baptist Church in Norristown, one of our sister congregations.  Doug is a wonderfully warm and wise person.  He is Mexican, but grew up in El Salvador.  In Norristown, Doug is personally and pastorally involved with the Mexican immigrant community. 
  • The service will include communion, which at CBC is always open, with everyone invited to take part in sharing the common bread and the cup as an expression of God's radical welcome. 
  • To close the worship time,  a Mexican folkloric dance group from Norristown will perform "Las Chiapanecas" -- a folk dance from the State of Chiapas, Mexico.
  • We'll have some time after the service for conversation and refreshments.

We're hoping this will be a good way to continue to reflect on immigration justice following the New Sanctuary Movement retreat hosted at Mishkan Shalom on Saturday, April 30th.  Remember, too, that the New Sanctuary retreat will begin with participating in Mishkan's Shabbat service at 10am.  Let me know if you need details about the retreat plans.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are Migrant Workers from North Africa Threatening the European Union?

As migrant workers from Africa and poor areas of the Middle East throng to leave Libya where they have worked in construction, the oil fields, and the military as paid soldiers, many are seeking to enter Europe where they hope to find security and work. Often their documents have been seized by employers in Libya, they have been robbed by both sides in the current violence, and there is little promise for them "at home."

In addition, many Tunisian refugees fleeing turmoil in their country are hoping to settle in Europe.

Italy is the point of entrance, but many migrants, especially the French speaking, want to continue on to France. The Italian govenment is both trying to limit access to their ports and to argue that this is a European problem, not an Italian problem. France is acting to tighten their borders with Italy.

This is both a humanitarian and a political crisis. How can Europe support protest in Northern Africa and refuse to accept refugees created by the turmoil? How can Europe claim to be a Union and not share the burden of migration? Read on.

The website for the International Organization for Migration (http://www.iom.int/), currently running rescue boats out of Misrata, has constant updates.

The New York Times is staying current as well. On April 13 they published an article -- "Fears about Immigrants Deepen Divisions in Europe" -- recording divisions in the European Union over the flood of immigrants feeling the unrest in North Africa. Read the article.

They followed this with an article on April 15 -- "Libyan Port City Brims with Migrants Desperate to Flee Seige" -- narrating the story of hundreds of migrant workers clustered at the port of Misrata awaiting rescue. Read the article.

An article on April 20 -- "On Journey to New Lives, Young Tunisians Need Only a Final Destination" -- concentrates on Tunisian refugees seeking to settle in France, but being caught in the political struggle over immigration between Italy and France. Read the article.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Who Goes and Who Stays? Two Asylum Cases Grounded in the 1980s

There are two interesting "companion" articles in the NYTimes today (April 18). One reports that the US has finally agreed to deport General Eugenio Vides Casanova, El Salvador's top military officer during the bloody 1980s, who oversaw numerous human rights violations, including the rape and murder of four North American nuns serving the poor in his country. Read the article.

The second article tells the story of Victor Toro, an outspoken critic of the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who was imprisoned and tortured during the 1980s and is presently fighting deportation and hoping for asylum to continue his work as an advocate for the poor and marginalized in New York. Read the article.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NYT article - The Anti-Immigration Crusader

Read the article about Dr. John Tanton, anti-immigrant crusader, in the NYTimes today.  Tanton is a major force behind three national anti-immigrant efforts, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which helped draft the Arizona law last year to give the police new power to identify and detain illegal immigrants.   Here's an excerpt from the Times article.  Link to full article below.

Rarely has one person done so much to structure a major cause, or done it so far from the public eye. Dr. Tanton has raised millions of dollars, groomed protégés and bequeathed institutions, all while running an ophthalmology practice nearly 800 miles from Capitol Hill. 

“He is the most influential unknown man in America,” said Linda Chavez, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan, who once led a Tanton group that promoted English-only laws. 

While Dr. Tanton’s influence has been extraordinary, so has his evolution — from apostle of centrist restraint to ally of angry populists and a man who increasingly saw immigration through a racial lens.

Read full article here

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spanish News Coverage of April 12 Debate

For those of you who speak Spanish, even a little, here is a good news piece on the debate. You will see and hear an interview with Maria Marroquin, founder of Dream Activists. http://univision65.univision.com/noticias/video/2011-04-14/son-bienvenidos-los-inmigrantes-en

Thursday, April 14, 2011

News Coverage of April 12 Immigration Debate

What follows is an English translation of the report from Latino News and Opinion on the immigration debate at Broad Street Ministries on April 12. CANDIDATES WERE CONSPICUOUS BY THEIR ABSENCE IN IMMIGRATION DEBATE Three of the democratic candidates to City Council from District One, Vernon Anastasio, Joe Grace and Jeff Hornstein, broke their promise to attend an immigration debate with the southern community of Philadelphia on April 12. The event, nevertheless, was a success. Neither the rain neither the wind impeded nearly 300 people (mostly eligible to vote) who congregated in a church in the center of the city. The activity consisted of a heated debate between a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, Stu Bykofsky, and a professor from University of Pennsylvania Law School, Sarah Paoletti. The questions of the debate came from the Asian and Latin American communities, those persons deeply affected by threat of deportation and by anti-immigrant measures that favor racial profiling and collaboration between the Philadelphia Police and ICE. These measures particularly threaten those lacking identity papers and vulnerable to be victims of crime and abuse. After the debate two democratic candidates at large were presented: Andy Toy who, if he wins, will be the first Asian member on the City Council, and Sherrie Cohen, the first openly lesbian candidate. Both said they said were against the collaboration of the Police and ICE. Zac Steele, community organizer, explained that the absence of the candidates from District One was due to two events occurring simultaneously. "We know that they responded to a meeting with the Civic Organization of Washington Square West. We are very disappointed; those present were anxious to know their positions in terms of migration", said Steele. Hornstein, arriving 15 minutes after the end of the event, apologized for his absence and assured those still present that he takes immigration issues seriously. "For the last 10 years I have been organizing immigrant workers in the union SEIU. It is a very important issue for me", said Hornstein. The event was organized by "Voices for Safe and Diverse Neighborhoods", a coalition of pro-immigration organizations.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ten Plagues Facing Immigrant Populations

At an immigration-focused seder at Mishkan Shalom on April 1, attended by many of the New Santuary Movement affiliated congregations, we read out loud the ten 'new' plagues afflicting immigrant populations. Here they are as presented by the staff at Mishkan. "Today many politicians are playing G-d and imposing their own plagues on immigrants, moving them farther and farther away from any taste of freedom or dignity. Today’s immigrants are no different from the millions of Jewish immigrants in days past – they are looking for safety and a better life for their families. These are the new plagues:

1. Immigrants are called 'criminal aliens' even though immigrant crime rates are lower then non-immigrant crime rates. In the early 1900’s, Jewish immigrants were also scapegoated for urban crime.

2. The 1996 immigration laws cut off pathways to legalize for vast numbers of immigrants. Many hard working people want to legalize but have NO options to do so. Deportations have skyrocketed – 400,000 people were deported in 2009 alone.

3. Arizona-style immigration legislation is being introduced in Pennsylvania to encourage reporting 'reasonably suspected' individuals. 'Love your neighbor' is being changed to report on your neighbor.

4. Many refugees in life-threatening danger cannot get refugee status, because they cannot prove they were personally singled out for persecution according to the details of these restrictive laws.

5. Immigration policies are ripping apart families. Undocumented parents who are picked up for minor infractions or 'caught working' are getting deported forcing some to abandon their children.

6. Undocumented immigrants fear deportation and become vulnerable to hate crimes and other crimes because they won’t go to the police.

7. There are no exceptions for those brought here as children. Even if the United States is the only country they know, because the DREAM Act failed, they are just as vulnerable to deportation.

8. A politically charged initiative is developing that would hurt children by attempting to deny citizenship to those born in the U.S.A. to undocumented parents.

9. Immigrants are subject to economic exploitation and marginalization. Employers pay low wages and even legal immigrants are not eligible for food stamps and other safety-net benefits.

10. Undocumented immigrants are called 'illegals' or 'alien invaders.' This language disregards the Torah’s teaching that there is a Divine spark in each person and we are all made b’tzelem Elo-him, in God’s image."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Durbin to Reintroduce Dream Act in Congress

The seven Dream Activists have been freed in Atlanta. But it's not over until the bill is passed. Is this a positive step forward or a disappointing compromise? http://newamericamedia.org/2011/04/sen-durbin-to-introduce-diluted-dream-act-in-congress.php

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DreamActivist Pennsylvania

April 7th, Vigil for Maria Marroquin, Activist from Pennsylvania,

and 6 Other Undocumented Youth Arrested in Georgia

WHAT: – DreamActivist Pennsylvania will hold a vigil in solidarity with 7 undocumented youth arrested in Atlanta, Georgia on April 7th, 2011. Maria Marroquin, co-founder of DreamActivist Pennsylvania and DreamActivist.org, was one of the seven arrested after participating in civil disobedience action. Undocumented youth and allies will pray and speak in support of Maria’s release from jail. Maria, along with the 6 other youth, may be turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We will light a candle in solidarity with the youth that were arrested by fighting for equality and justice.

WHO: Immigrant youth, educators, and community members will come together in unity and declare which side they fall on. Prior to her arrest, Maria Marroquin stated that “We need to come out and we need to show this nation that we are undocumented and unafraid and will accept nothing less than equality

Today, I will be participating in a sit-in action. I will most likely be arrested and placed into deportation proceedings. I am willing to risk all of this because my current situation is unbearable. It took me nearly five years to graduate with a two-year degree paying out-of-state tuition. I don't complain about it; however, I can't stand by knowing that my little brother and sister will have to follow the same path.

WHERE: Pennsylvania Senator Toomey’s Office, 1628 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA.

WHEN: Thursday, April 7th at 5PM

WHY: Undocumented youth will no longer remain in the shadows. They decided it’s the right time to come out as unafraid and through that empower other youth to take action in Pennsylvania. Maria Marroquin and other undocumented youth are asking the American public and Presidents of Universities to choose a side. The bans on education are spreading across the country, and we will not allow for Pennsylvania to follow Georgia’s path of banning undocumented students from their universities.

Please join us as we show our support for the 7 undocumented youth that put their bodies on the line. They risked it all for other undocumented youth, let's show which side we are on by coming together at the vigil Tomorrow, April 7th at 5PM

Please feel welcome to contact us with any questions or concerns: dreamactivistpa@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1951 and committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. It is an excellent source for statistics and information on current crises. http://www.iom.int/jahia/jsp/index.jsp

What's good for NY is good for PA -- op ed piece from the NYTimes

April 4, 2011 Unfair to Immigrants, Costly for Taxpayers By SCOTT M. STRINGER and ANDREW FRIEDMAN EVERY year thousands of immigrants being held on Rikers Island are transferred to federal custody and deported. Only about half of them have a criminal record, many of them are here legally, most of them have their due process rights violated and all of them are subjected to substandard conditions before being returned to their countries of origin. The city has no obligation to hand over detainees, and in fact many cities around the country have refused to participate in the federal government’s efforts. Mayor Michael Bloomberg should do the same. Under what is known as the Criminal Alien Program, for more than a decade city law enforcement officials have given the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency the names of all arrestees, regardless of the crime they are accused of committing and regardless of whether they are convicted. When agents locate an immigrant, they often request that he be transferred to federal custody. Once in federal hands, most detainees are transported to centers in Texas and Louisiana, far from their families. Conditions at these federal detention centers are worse than those at many prisons, with inadequate medical care and access to phones and legal materials. Detainees are subjected to abuse and sometimes even death — 107 people died in immigration detention from 2003 to 2010. True, earlier this year the federal government proposed upgrading these centers, including those in the New York region, to increase capacity and improve conditions. But this is a Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem: over 80 percent of those in detention have little or no access to lawyers — and no effective way to represent their interests in a surreal, confusing system. Not only is the program an injustice — according to our calculations, it has cost the city tens of millions of dollars. New York houses these prisoners at Rikers far longer than it would otherwise, because of a misguided city policy which forbids anyone with immigration holds — meaning they might be placed in deportation proceedings — from being released on bail. What’s more, because of its flaws and draconian rules, the city’s policy deters many immigrant New Yorkers from reporting crimes, fearing that contact with the police could lead to deportation. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that sometimes legal immigrants who have been convicted of no crime are caught up in this system. Their plight stems partly from flaws in federal databases; the process is too rushed to ensure proper identification of status and identity, let alone confirmation of criminal background. But it’s also a matter of political pressure to increase the number of people who are deported every year. E-mails released in December from the Department of Homeland Security showed how the immigration agency has been pushing states and cities to send it the fingerprints of all those they arrest as part of a similar program, Secure Communities. For all these reasons, Mayor Bloomberg should end New York’s collaboration with federal officials on Rikers Island and resist Washington’s pressure to join the newer Secure Communities program. New York wouldn’t be the first: communities as diverse as Santa Clara, Calif., and Arlington, Va., have limited or prevented federal access to their jails. For decades, New York City has been a beacon to the rest of the country in promoting immigrant rights. We must not let our desire to enforce immigration laws lead us to dim that light. Scott M. Stringer is the Manhattan borough president. Andrew Friedman is the co-executive director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy organization.