Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Migration in Mexico: Roots, Realities, and Resistance

A Joint Witness for Peace/AFSC New Hampshire Delegation
February 25 to March 4, 2012
The southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is home to 16 different ethnic groups, making it one of the most diverse and culturally rich states in Mexico. But due to extreme inequality and misguided development policies, a large number of Oaxaqueños and Oaxaqueñas have migrated to other parts of Mexico and the US looking for economic survival. The effects on the families left behind, on migrants themselves, and on community life in Mexico and the U.S. raise many questions that we will address while in Oaxaca. The knowledgeable Witness for Peace Mexico Team has extensive connections to people, organizations, and communities who will tell us the real story of migration in Mexico.
What to Expect:
 Learn about the root causes of migration,
including US foreign policy in Latin America
 Hear stories of Central Americans migrating
through Oaxaca on their journey northward
 Learn about the connections between migration
and the drug trade
 See rural and urban projects that provide
alternatives to migration
 Learn about the history and resistance of
indigenous communities in Oaxaca
 Stay in the homes of families directly impacted by
 Connect delegation experience to the realities of trade and immigration in the US
 Develop strategies to act in solidarity with the Mexican people and immigrants in the US
$910 + airfare (includes the cost of food, lodging, in---country transportation, guides, and language interpretation. Scholarships and fundraising opportunities are available. ) For more information or to apply contact: Arnie Alpert, aalpert@afsc.org, (603) 224-2407
Witness for Peace (WFP – www.witnessforpeace.org) is a politically independent, nationwide grassroots organization of people committed to nonviolence and led by faith and conscience. WFP’s mission is to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies and practices which contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean. This trip is co--sponsored by the New Hampshire Program of the American Friends Service Committee.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reflections on the Intersections of Flawed Drug and Immigration Policies

The criminalization of immigrants continues to reach new heights and enforcement programs expand and justify themselves in the mainstream by saying they are going after “criminals”. In CFIR we have been having some intense discussion on challenging this view that it is ok to target and deport people labeled as “criminals”. The discussion has been challenging at times because there is often pressure both within and outside the movement to highlight the worthiness of “good immigrants”. This perspective ignores that more and more basic activities (like working and driving) have been criminalized, that all groups of people have members who engage in a range of activities and that people should not be labeled and targeted their whole lives for a misstep.

To help us explore this issue of criminalization and how to counter it, last week we brought in Art Way from the Drug Policy Alliance to discuss the intersection between flawed drug and immigration policies. We explored how
labels have been used to dehumanize both immigrants and people who use drugs (words like: “Illegal” and “addict”). We explored how militarization of the drug war is deeply connected to militarization of the border. The eighteen participants in the skill share found it powerful to learn about how historically drug laws have mirrored immigration law to maintain power and are not actually about the substance or “public safety”. Drug laws were targeted against different immigrant and ethnic groups (e.g. anti-opium den laws targeted Chinese immigrants and anti-marijuana laws targeted Mexican workers). Both immigration and drug laws throughout the US’s history have criminalized everyday behavior, but are selectively enforced and target only certain populations for doing these things. The fact that people of color comprise 13% of drug use, but are 78% of drug convictions deeply highlights this point. Tens of thousands of legal residents and other noncitizens are deported every year on drug-related grounds. In 2010, 25% of all deportations of people with criminal records were for drug charges of which the vast majorities were due to minor possession of marijuana. Deportees often are held in for profit detention centers miles away from family members without adequate due process for a drug conviction that may have occurred years ago. The disproportionate emphasis placed on targeting illicit drug use and distribution in communities of color and urban environments where noncitizens are concentrated increases the likelihood of interaction with law enforcement authorities. The imposition of drug sweeps and zero tolerance policies in schools, drug-free zones and the high prevalence of public drug selling invite a heightened law enforcement presence in communities of color, where noncitizens reside in great numbers. Once a noncitizen enters the criminal justice system, there is a substantial risk that the outcome of prosecutorial proceedings will have immigration consequences.

We ended the discussion with what we can do to make change. This discussion included looking internally and addressing the shame and stigma around drug use; to support drug policy based on science compassion, human rights and health; educating ourselves and others on the consequences of guilty pleas for deportation and push for pre-plea judicial programs and paying a fine for drug use rather than criminal conviction; raise awareness around drug propaganda; work to end the war on drugs and militarization of the border.

-Gabriela Flora, American Friends Service Committee
To learn about our future skill shares and other activities, please visit us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/AFSC-Coloradans-for-Immigrant-Rights/113045722068217

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In a Broken Immigration System, DOMA Adds Another Layer of Injustice Bi-national lesbian couple waits for answer; DOMA holds their future hostage (Seg

For Immediate Release: August 15th, 2011
Contact: Julie Gonzales, CIRC, Julie@coloradoimmigrant.org, 720-891-2712 | Jessica Cook Woodrum, One Colorado, 720-412-3772, jessicaw@one-colorado.org

Denver, CO - Abandoned as a child, abused, and mistreated, a young lesbian woman made her way from Mexico to the United States and built a life alongside the woman she loves. However, Mrs. Hernandez's future (who asks that her full name not be used) now hinges on a decision from an immigration judge. But new prosecutorial discretion guidelines for bi-national same-sex couples from John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, could prove to be crucial for her future, as they address the way immigration judges should apply and interpret the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

"It is absurd that someone like Mrs. Hernandez is facing deportation from her partner and the life they have built together, due to a traffic stop. This happens to thousands of families across the country as a result of increased local law enforcement collaboration with ICE. Unfortunately, DOMA makes our already broken immigration system even worse," said Julien Ross, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, "DOMA denies committed same-sex couples any rights in sponsoring their spouse, and often leaves their families with few options for changing their situation."

Ross continued: "The real solution would be to recognize Mrs. Hernandez's marriage, and allow them the same rights as any other married couple under immigration law. But at the very least, ICE should follow their own guidelines on discretion and stop her deportation immediately."

Mrs. Hernandez met her partner, a US citizen born and raised in Denver, and fell in love in 2006. They were married in Iowa in 2010. However, as a result of DOMA, their marriage is not recognized for immigration purposes and her partner is barred from sponsoring Mrs. Hernandez for legal status.

When Mrs. Hernandez was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in 2008, she was detained and spent nearly 3 months at an immigration detention center. Since that time, the couple has spent more than $20,000 on the legal battle to fight her deportation case and to have their marriage recognized and respected by immigration courts.

"No loving, committed couple should be torn apart by the laws of our country," said Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado. " Mrs. Hernandez and her partner have made a lifelong promise to take care of each other, and their marriage should provide them with security to build a life together. But because of these unjust, discriminatory laws, their family hangs in the balance. That's just plain wrong."

A decision on Mrs. Hernandez's case is expected on August 19th at the Denver Immigration Court. In the coming days, community organizations will be working to mobilize support. Please contact Julie Gonzales, Director of Organizing for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition at Julie@coloradoimmigrant.org, or Shannon Masden, Field Manager for One Colorado at Shannonm@one-colorado.org to get involved.


The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) is a statewide, membership-based coalition of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business and ally organizations founded in 2002 to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees by making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state. CIRC achieves this mission through non-partisan civic engagement, public education, and advocating for workable, fair and humane immigration policies.

One Colorado is a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring equality and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Coloradans and their families. With offices in Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction, One Colorado effectively improves the lives of LGBT Coloradans by lobbying the General Assembly, executive branch, and local governments on issues like safe schools, relationship recognition, and LGBT health and human services. Learn more about www.one-colorado.org.

Para Distribuicón Inmediata: Lunes, 15 de agosto del 2011

Contactos: Julie Gonzales, CIRC, Julie@coloradoimmigrant.org, 720-891-2712 (bilingüe) | Jessica Cook Woodrum, One Colorado, 720-412-3772, jessicaw@one-colorado.org (inglés)

Bajo un sistema roto de inmigración, DOMA agrega otra capa de injusticia

Pareja bi-nacional lesbiana espera una respuesta; DOMA tiene su futuro rehenes

Denver, CO - Abandonada como niña, abusada y maltratada, una jóven lesbiana salió de México, llegó a los Estados Unidos, y construyó una vida al lado de la mujer que ama. Sin embargo, su futuro ahora depende de una decisión departe de un juez de inmigración. Pero John Morton, el Director del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE, por sus siglas en inglés) acaba de mandar nuevas directrices de discreción prosecutorial para parejas bi-nacionales del mismo sexo, y pueden ser decisivos para el futuro de Sra. Hernandez (quien pide que su nombre completo no sea usado) porque tratan de la manera que los jueces de inmigración deben interpretar y aplicar la Ley de Defensa del Matrimonio (DOMA, por sus siglas en inglés).

"Es absurdo que alguien como la Sra. Hernandez está enfrentando una deportación de su pareja y la vida que han construida juntas, por causa de una parada rutinario de tráfico. Esto pasa a miles de familias al nivel nacional por la mayor colaboración entre la policía local y ICE. Desafortunadamente, DOMA empeora el sistema de inmigración ya roto," dijo Julien Ross, Director Ejecutivo de la Coalición para los Derechos de Inmigrantes de Colorado (CIRC, por sus siglas en inglés), "DOMA niega las parejas comprometidas del mismo sexo cualquier derecho a patrocinar a su esposo o esposa, y por la mayoría de los casos, deja las familias sin la oportunidad de cambiar su situación."

Ross continuó: "La solución verdadera sería reconocer el matrimonio entre la Sra. Hernandez y su pareja, y darles los mismos derechos que reciben todas las otras parejas casadas bajo la ley de inmigración. Por lo menos, ICE debe seguir sus propios directrices de discreción y cancelar su deportación inmediatamente."

La Sra. Hernandez y su pareja, una ciudadana nacida en Denver, se conocieron y se enamoraron en el 2006. Se casaron en Iowa en el 2010. Sin embargo, bajo DOMA, su matrimonio no es reconocido bajo la ley de inmigración y la pareja no puede patrocinar a Sra. Hernandez por un estatus legal.

Cuando Sra. Hernandez fue parada por una infracción de transito en el 2008, fue detenida y pasó casi 3 meses en la cárcel de inmigración. Desde entonces, la pareja ha pagado más de $20.000 para batallar legalmente en contra del caso de deportación y para que las cortes de inmigración reconozcan y respetan a su matrimonio.

"Ninguna pareja comprometida y cariñosa debe ser separada por las leyes de nuestro país," dijo Brad Clark, Director Ejecutivo de One Colorado. "Sra. Hernandez y su pareja han hecho una promesa de por vida de cuidar la una a la otra, y su matrimonio debería de proveerlas con la seguridad de construir una vida juntas. Pero por estas leyes injustas y discriminatorias, su familia está en duda. Es una gran equivocación."

Esperan una decisión en el caso de Sra. Hernandez el 19 de agosto en la Corte de Inmigración de Denver. En los siguientes días, movilizarán varias organizaciones de base en apoyo. Favor de contactar a Julie Gonzales, Directora de Organizar con CIRC, julie@coloradoimmigrant.org, o a Shannon Masden, Manager de Campo con One Colorado, shannonm@one-colorado.org para involucrarse.


La Coalición para los Derechos de Inmigrantes de Colorado (CIRC, por sus siglas en inglés) es una coalición estatal de organizaciones de inmigrantes, fé, sindicatos, comunitarias, negociantes, y aliadas fundada en el 2002 para mejorar las vidas de inmigrantes y refugiados a través de asegurar que Colorado esté más acogedor y pro-inmigrante. CIRC alcanza nuestra misión por involucramiento cívico no-partidista, educación pública, y abogacía para una reforma migratoria justa.

One Colorado es una organización estatal de abogacía dedicada a asegurar la igualdad y oportunidad por Coloradenses lesbianas, gay, bisexuales, y transgéneros (LGBT) y sus familias. Con oficinas en Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, y Grand Junction, One Colorado mejora las vidas de Coloradenses LGBT a través de abogacía en la Asamblea General, el poder ejecutivo, y en gobiernos locales en temas como escuelas seguras, reconocimiento de relaciones, y salud y servicios humanos para la comunidad LGBT. Aprende más en one-colorado.org.


Globalization and Migration workshop

This past Saturday at the AFSC headquarters, we had our amazing workshop on Globalization and Migration. The workshop was designed to dissect the immense topics that are Globazation and Migration while taking into account the economic components as well. As epic and overwhelming as these topics sound, we were able to design a workshop that attempted to tackle the monster of a topic. There were about 35 people in the audience and they were all fully engaged. The activities were enlightening and were well received by the audience.

Globalization Y Migration Head, Heart and Feet from participants:
I learned…
That we can teach each other a lot of things.
The difference between the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
About Nigeria standing up for its people against Neoliberalism.
About the key players and the important terms to know when talking about neoliberalism.
That activities make it easier to show what’s going on
That popular education actually works
That it’s really important to come together and pull some of these things apart, and THEN act
We need to work together as nations and fight at a global level

I felt…
Happy about how this workshop turned out
Excited about being with like minded people
That truth wins out in the end
More equipped
More connected to the suffering caused by the system and my role in it
Inspired by everyone’s contributions
Like I thought really hard today

I will…
Educate myself about resistance in other countries, like Nigeria
Take what I learned to the streets
Do a workshop at CIRC
Talk about the root causes of migration more
No longer buy name brands
Look for more opportunities for action and education around globalization
Bring it to build on our work at RAP
Bring it to my Social Justice faith leaders group, and other faith communities

*written by Fadima Gologos

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4th of July

Photo credit Tim Paynter

On the 4th of July 2011 I attended my first Solidarity Vigil, it was held this past Monday in front of the Detention center in Aurora. The Vigil was sponsored by Denver Fair Food, and it was an act of solidarity "...with all who are imprisoned, exploited or enslaved!" This vigil, which took place on the date of the independence of the United States, was symbolic beyond measure. The participants were of a diverse crowd with people from all ages, socio-economic classes and life paths. As we were making our way down the road there was this atmosphere that was charged with the intensity of the present, melancholic memories of the past and bittersweet hopes for the future.

The wind transported our loud, passionate and eager voices in all directions as we chanted "What do we want? JUSTICE, how do we get it? MELT the ICE". We were a sight to behold, because there was a lot of depth and symbolism accompanying the date we chose to go on that vigil. It was evident that we had acknowledged the progressive strides that have been taken in the America, but we also emitted a profound yearning for the amelioration of the conditions of those who have been and are still imprisoned, exploited or enslaved.

The vigil was also a very educational one; Denver Fair Food enacted a short skit that retraced the exploitative and enslaving roots upon which the American system was built, this skit provided us with enough knowledge to understand the gravity of the situation and prompt us to action. We were faced with the realities of America with all its flaws magnified.

The most moving parts of the day included the testimonies of the people, and the beautiful silence that was a silent cry of prayer. The people in the immigrant community who were bold enough to testify included a father, a mother of six who is forced to support her large family by herself, and another mother who has been deprived of her child. The only crimes that these victims can be accused of are the fact that they were born in another country and wanting to provide a better life for their children. Despite all these injustices, I strongly believe that these testimonies demonstrate fearlessness and bravery beyond measure and I wish I had half the courage and internal strength that these heroes have.

The first person who stepped up to speak was the Mexican father of two (a son and daughter) who had been detained in Montana and subsequently released. He tried to relay to us that he is not a criminal and that we need to keep on fighting; all he ever wanted is give a better life to his children and provide them with opportunities he never had. He mentioned how he can take them to the movies and those were things that he was not able to do while he was growing up. He explained the despicable conditions in these detention centers: in one room there were 70 detainees and they had to share five rolls of toilet paper, and they were reprimanded for pointing out that the toilet paper was not sufficient.

This inhumane treatment struck a chord in a Leticia, mother who has seen her son, Sharif only once in eight months, it caused her to wail in anguish and that was one of the hardest things I had to watch in helplessness. Her son was taken at 5:00 am in the Morning shortly after thanksgiving and he was taken to the GEO detention center. Last month he was transferred to Colorado Springs and has been detained there ever since. The third testimony was from a mother of six, two of which are sick and her husband has been detained in the Aurora detention center since March and she is struggling with taking care of her six children. She mentioned how she has been struggling to find a job and how it is hard to find day care.

My first vigil was nothing short of eye-opening and emotionally charged. I would have to say that my favorite part of the whole evening was when we were asked to get close to our neighbors and touch them, close our eyes and just take deep breaths. There was a cool breeze, the sun was setting and the beautiful silence that ensued felt like a silent victory and a promise that the best is yet to come.

- Written by: Fadima Gologo

The next Vigil: United Communities, Living in Freedom.
Monday, August 1st, 2011.
We will meet at 30th Ave & Peoria Street, Aurora, CO.
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Obama Administration’s Announced Tweaks to Secure Communities Fail to Address Ongoing Human and Civil Rights Abuses

Contact: Jennifer Piper

Denver, CO -- (June 20, 2011) The Colorado office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) rejects the Department of Homeland Security’s recently announced fruitless adjustments to address the overall failure of the Secure Communities Initiative and it’s continued civil and human rights abuses.

“Creating an advisory commission does not addresses grave concerns brought by civil, human and immigrant rights groups. This program has been foisted on local governments and communities under false pretenses,” said Gabriela Flora, Project Voice Regional Organizer of the AFSC. “We restate our demand that the Obama administration suspend Secure Communities.”

In recent weeks Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have either pulled out of or refused participation in the program. Numerous cities across the country continue to seek a way out of this deportation dragnet that stretches local law enforcement’s resources and entangles them in immigration laws. As a result, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Progressive Caucus have both called for a moratorium on the program pending an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General called for by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren slated to begin next month.

Jennifer Piper, Interfaith Immigration Organizing Director of the AFSC, declared “We call on Governor Hickenlooper to follow Illinois, New York and Massachusetts and retract Colorado’s participation in this flawed program. Although ICE claims the program secures our communities, we are all aware of the fact that it has the reverse effect.”

United Church of Christ Pastor Anne Dunlap explained her opposition to the program saying “My faith calls me to support policies that unify our communities and to challenge divisive and unjust policies. ‘Secure Communities’ is a fundamentally flawed program, and cannot be fixed by even well-intentioned minor tweaks. This program perpetuates racial profiling, creates tensions between police and immigrant communities, and pulls people into the broken deportation system, tearing apart families and communities in the process”.

In light of the failure of Secure Communities, the American Friends Service Committee calls on the Obama Administration to:
• Publicly oppose and terminate all programs that create partnerships between state and local law enforcement and ICE.
• Halt the development of the vast data-gathering infrastructure that houses Secure Communities and inform the public of the current scope and purpose of its data collection and dissemination activities.
• Ensure any immigration enforcement programs have rigorous safeguards against racial profiling and human rights violations.
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths
who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief
in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Happy International Workers Day!

...from a generous friend!
Sisters & Brothers, Happy International Workers Day!

...in celebration of this day I wanted to share Part 1 in a series of online slideshows on how to research corporations for economic and social justice. I would like as many workers and community folks to learn how to research this type of information so please feel free to forward this email, post the link on Facebook, etc.

I'll be uploading the remaining parts during the next two weeks and will have all the parts available online for full viewing from Mid-May until June 1st. After June 1st I will start working on a book which will contain much of the same content and introduce you to my labor/political cartoon. : ) I'm taking $10 bucks off the price of the book if you shoot me an email saying you'd like to pre-order a copy. I'll also have the books available in bulk for larger organizations.

This is the only email I'll be sending about the slideshows so if you'd like to stay current just click here to see if a new gallery has opened.

I'll also be posting all the parts of this presentation on Facebook so if you would like to be friends on there, just click here to find me.

hope you're all well, happy International Workers Day!
In solidarity,
Ric Urrutia

Ric Urrutia

Monday, April 25, 2011

In honor of Earth Day, See the Borderlands...

Photojournalist Krista Schlyer has shot some of the most dynamic and astounding scenes of wildlife and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. If you're familiar with Sierra Club Borderlands Campaign, then you've seen her work.
For Earth Day, she has put together a 4-minute film clip capturing a very ominous and timely threat. She exposes an extreme proposal to hogtie more than 30 important environmental protection laws, not just along the southwest land border, but also along the Canadian border, the Gulf Coast, the East Coast, the West Coast, even the Hawaiian and Alaskan boundaries! 2 out of 3 Americans live within the areas to be affected, and depend on the protection these laws provide for clean water, clean air, and a healthy environment.

View the film by clicking on the link below, or copy-pasting it into your browser:
Sincerely, Dan Mills

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Parents, Clergy and Educators take note! "Listen to the Children" is the perfect intro book for you.

I heard great things about the book "Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families" and so decided it was time to read it for myself.

First of all, the book is bilingual; one half in Spanish, the other in English! This is a great bonus making it possible to have discussion and share the resource bi-culturally. It's simply and directly written and is a great tool for adults who want to help kids prepare for:

  • a parent's absence
  • moving to a new country
  • a new school
The author, Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, provides illuminating examples of conversations and situations families might face. I felt guided through how to shift these conversations in ways that empower children and families to love and respect one another. She sees the whole community (faith communities, teachers, extended family, and friends) as key to children's health. I also really appreciated her tips on talking with kids in an age appropriate way.

While the book was written to highlight children's issues, it also helped me keep in mind all of the challenges, strengths, hopes and dream immigrant parents carry with them. "Listen to the Children" provides tips for parents on how to get what they need from schools and faith communities as well. It encourages them to reach out to the larger community for advice, and to share their experiences with other immigrant families.

Conde-Frazier demonstrates how biblical stories can be a source of strength for children whose family's status is precarious. She touches on the capacity of the faith community to support families in the wake of enforcement actions and the importance of a safe and open place for families and children. Most of all I appreciated her treatment of the issues that impact immigrant families regardless of status; identity, education, justice, dignity.

I look forward to more from Conde-Frazier and hope that she can give us a more in-depth treatment of each of the areas she covered in this intro book, providing us with more culturally sensitive bilingual tools on parenting, integration and respect.

The book is in our library of resources now at AFSC, so please stop by to check it out!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ICE Cold Hearts...Melted!

by Jordan T Garcia

On Monday, February 14th, 2011 at the Aurora Immigrant Detention Center, 475 handmade Valentines were delivered to 450 people unjustly interned by the state. An additional 50 cards were handed out to day laborers in Aurora. Thanks to you!

I spoke with a woman named Patricia in the detention center waiting area, as she waited to be allowed to see her husband and the father of her 3 year old before he signed his voluntary departure for his deportation. Her fierce strength gripped me in the moments she shared her struggle to explain to her daughter Alicia that she didn’t do anything wrong to keep her father away on Valentine’s day.

Later yesterday morning, Pedro, a carpenter and Day Laborer from Aurora, tucked a Valentine made by a 7 year old Bella inside his pocket. Among sheepish grins and somewhat deriding chuckles from fellow day laborers, though none were too shy to take a homemade Valentine of thier own, he explained. His son, in Oaxaca, was about the same age when Pedro left to come to the US four years ago to send money home to his parents, now raising his kids.

The Valentines you made touched hearts and shared strength. We are all made more whole knowing these stories of fierce love and unforgettable power.

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.

~ Che Guevara

Many people have told us that this Valentine project provided them with an opportunity to not only be creative, but also to be self reflective. To set aside feelings of frustration about political posturing and to put what LOVE they could into a simple beautiful card. To take just an hour or so to think about the experiences of immigrants in this country and to focus on the reasons we struggle for immigrant justice day in and day out.
A special thank you to all of the Valentine Artists, including but not limited to Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, Metro Organization for People, Melissa Nix, Nicki Gonzales & Tania Valenzulea and the Regis University Social Justice Students, Maria and the students at the Iliff School of Theology, Sister Alicia and St. Mary's Academy and Escuela de Guadelupe students, Harriet Mullaney’s English classes at Bruce Randolph School, and the attendants of Yolotzin (1st!) & Yvonne Sandoval’s birthday party. And another special thank you to Seth Donovan for making the arrangements with the Detention Center Staff.

On February 7th, 2011, over 150 hundred people gathered at the Aurora Detention Center to make their voices heard. The February monthly vigil was planned by Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, a project of AFSC and the Denver Justice and Peace Committee.
We invited Suzi Q Smith, a spoken word artist and slam poet whose poem is copied below, along with other poets such as Homero Ocon who shared their beautiful pieces. DJPC shared broken hearts concerning the roots of migration and participants shared the ways they will mend hearts in their own lives. We sang some love songs and chanted to the people interned inside.

We carried signs with our message including a large broken heart symbolizing how our broken immigration system keeps the United States apart from the rest of the world and the broken hearts of those families separated by borders and walls.

Some of the Valentine’s read like this: Dear Valentine, You are not alone. I hold you in my heart, thoughts and prayers. Love knows no borders or walls and together we can share each other’s strength and courage. I am with you in spirit on this Valentine’s Day. No estas sol@. Est@s presente en mi corazón, mis pensamientos y mis oraciones. El amor no reconoce fronteras ni muros. Juntos podemos compartir nuestr@ fuerza y valor. Mi espíritu está contigo en este Día de San.

Arizona vigilante found guilty of murdering Latino man, daughter

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 15, 2011 2:04 a.m. EST
(CNN) -- An Arizona jury on Monday convicted anti-illegal immigration activist Shawna Forde of murder in the killing of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter during a 2009 vigilante raid she led on their home.
The Pima County jury convicted Forde on eight counts, including two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of Raul Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, and the attempted murder of the child's mother, Gina Gonzales, at the family's rural Arivaca home on May 30, 2009.
The child and her father were American-born U.S. citizens.
The jury also convicted Forde on two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of burglary, armed robbery and aggravated robbery.
The jury is scheduled to return Tuesday for the penalty phase of the trial.
Forde's alleged accomplices, Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, are scheduled to go on trial later this year.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Forde as the ringleader of the hit squad, and said she had planned the raid and the murders to steal weapons, money and drugs to finance a new anti-illegal immigration outfit.
The trio picked the Flores home, prosecutors said, because of a claim made by Gaxiola they would find drugs there.
While Flores had a history of drug-related offenses, none were found in the house.
Posing as border patrol and law enforcement officers, Forde, Gaxiola and Bush, whom prosecutors identified as the gunman, showed up at the Flores home after midnight, several hours after the family had returned from a shopping trip in Tucson to buy shoes for their daughter for summer camp.
Brisenia Flores was sleeping on the couch with her puppy when the killers demanded to be let into the home. They accused Flores of harboring illegal aliens and said the house was surrounded by agents.
Once inside, the gunman shot Flores in the chest and Gonzales in the leg. Later Brisenia was shot as she pleaded for her life.
Jewelry taken from the Flores home was later found in Forde's possession. Text messages discovered on her phone also implicated her in the crime.
Forde once belonged to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps before she was removed for what former fellow members described as unstable behavior, according to news reports.
Forde then formed a splinter group, Minutemen aAmerican Defense. She led protests against illegal immigration and patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border armed with weapons.
Bush was the group's national director of operations, according to reports.


Monday, January 10, 2011

AFSC Responds to Violence against Those in Public Life

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization committed to overcoming violence in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world, is deeply saddened by the violence of January 8, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona, when an attempt to kill U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords brought death and injury to so many.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all victims of the shooting, as well as their families and friends who are now mourning the deceased and anxiously awaiting the recovery of the injured. As Friends say, we are holding them in the Light.

In our work for peace, we have seen how each act of violence hurts not only the immediate victims, but tears at the fabric of entire communities. In the wake of such a senseless violation, everyone in Tucson will struggle to feel secure, to regain trust for each other, and to work together to move forward. Our hearts
go out to all in Tucson today.

Today’s strident political atmosphere escalates tension and helps to set the stage for incidents like this one. Our world is increasingly swept up in a tide of intolerance. We are all too accepting when political and spiritual leaders use rhetoric that demonizes those with different beliefs; when those who should call us to higher purpose, instead, contribute to an atmosphere that provokes the most vulnerable, disturbed among us to acts of vandalism, violence, and assassination. We all must take responsibility for correcting a political climate that has become so polarized and vitriolic.

It is not an accident that this tragic shooting took place in Arizona, where punitive laws and anti-immigrant scapegoating have only resulted in misunderstanding and divisiveness in our borderlands. These laws have brought us no closer to creating humane, workable policies that respect the rights and needs of those living on either side of the border. This is but one example of how our nation’s divisive rhetoric works against developing effective solutions to society’s pressing needs.

What would help us move forward?

The American Friends Service Committee urges our elected officials, spiritual leaders and community leaders to commit now to act with civility and common purpose to heal our society. Real healing goes beyond civil words and tamped-down rhetoric and looks to the root causes of violence in our society, the conditions of inequality and injustice. A political culture devoted to honestly and reasonably addressing those conditions would be a healthier one for all of us.

We call on national, state, and local leaders to respond with compassion to the needs and aspirations of those who have been disenfranchised by the political system and excluded from the economic recovery. This is a time to fulfill the promise of “justice for all.” This is a time for leadership towards “a more perfect
January 10, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

The DREAM shall never die

Reflections on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the DREAM Act

By CFIR memberMark O'Brien

Proponents of the DREAM Act failed to gain the 60 votes needed for a cloture vote in the U.S. Senate in order to end a filibuster on the Bill.

This of course was a major disappointment for millions of individuals who were hoping that the DREAM Act would pass in the Congress. The prevailing view was that the DREAM Act had a low chance of successfully passing in the Senate despite a courageous victory in the House.

It may seem like this is the end for the DREAM Act at least until the 2012 elections. However, this is just the beginning. While the Legislation failed to gain the necessary votes in the Senate, the DREAM is still alive! As Senator Edward Kennedy stated at the Democratic National Convention in 2008:

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the DREAM shall never die…

December 20th marked the 5th anniversary of H.R. 4437, otherwise known as the Sensenbrenner Bill that passed in the House. This highly punitive legislation would have made it, among other things, a felony to be in the United States undocumented. The Sensenbrenner Bill was a wake-up call for people of all races, colors and creeds to come together and unite against the hard-hearted nature of such legislation.

Almost immediately, individuals and organizations started to mobilize and an awakening began that brought together communities across the nation. People mobilized and engaged in organizing, outreach and service. Folks from all walks of life rose up to say NO to the Sensenbrenner Bill and the hostile tone that was taking shape in the United States towards immigrants.

The energy and enthusiasm was palpable as communities came together through the bond of peace. There was a tremendous amount of organizing, meeting with legislators and their staff, working on messaging, framing and advocacy. We took sharp, decisive action and did not rest or let up during the Christmas holiday break, and by the time Congress returned, the momentum took them off guard. The Sensenbrenner Bill died in the Senate.

The momentum culminated in March 2006 with rallies across the country that drew 50,000 to 150,000 people. In Denver, a March 25, 2006 rally at Civic Center Park drew an estimated 75,000 people. This was extraordinary given that organizers had met 3 days before and thought that there might be 5,000 people in attendance. But the word went out and then suddenly, when all the forces came together in a singular moment, there was an outpouring that came forth like a river. As I drove into town, streams of individuals, families and groups came from all directions towards Civic Center Park. There were people coming from everywhere and I recall telling a friend on the cell phone, who had asked how I thought the rally would go, "hold on...something is happening-something is breaking lose". This was confirmed when I got close to downtown, parked and joined the procession of people heading to the Park. The presence, power and energy of this gathering was effervescent, there was a joyfulness among the crowd. The morning gave way to a celebration of community and an inspiring presentation. No one there that day will forget, nor should forget, the beauty of the experience.

Over the past 5 years a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy has gone into Comprehensive Immigration Reform. From the McCain-Kennedy Bill to the DREAM Act, there has been an enormous amount of debate, argument, demonstration and lobbying regarding this issue. There has been many promises from politicians who have been, at best, ineffectual in providing genuine leadership on immigration reform. The economic crisis has certainly not helped this situation.

Along with other Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation, the DREAM Act was a parallel effort to provide an opportunity for children, teenagers and young adults, brought to the U.S. with their parents, an opportunity to come from the shadows and be able to work, attend school, join the military and have a path towards legal residency, and the potential to become a permanent resident and/or U.S. Citizen.

The fact that the DREAM Act failed to pass in the Congress is a great disappointment to many and will impose difficult hardships on folks who are undocumented, but it cannot be overstated that this is just the beginning of what will be a very challenging road ahead and we will need to press on toward the goal by working together and staying united in one vision, mission and purpose. We will need to work hard and sacrificially with deliberate intent on CIR and a new DREAM Act.

We need to hearken back to those who came before us and have provided an example to follow. I think of Martin Luther King and how many years he and millions labored, and still labor, for Human Rights. I think of Gandhi and the peace movement in India and how it influenced Dr. King and peace movements around the world. I think of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers movement and his efforts that began in the 1950s. I think of Dorothy Day and the many that advocated for immigrants rights in the late 19th and early 20th century. I think of my own father who worked tirelessly for immigrant rights beginning with Dorothy Day in the 1940s and with Cesar Chavez in the 1950s before the United Farm Workers existed. I think about 'the long journey' fighting against the abuse and exploitation of the Bracero Program and picketing in California during the 'Don't Eat the Grapes' strikes. These were long, hard battles that lasted many years and required extraordinary sacrifice.

The main thing is this : The experience over the past 5 years has shown how a communities can come together with a shared vision to advocate for the cause of justice and Comprehensive Immigration Reform. We will not waiver in our commitment and we will stand together in unity willing to sacrifice time and time again until we achieve our common goal. But even when we do achieve this goal we must remember the words of Senator Edward Kennedy when he said...

One of the great lessons I have learned from a life in politics is that no reform is ever truly complete. We must constantly keep moving forward, seeking ways to create that more perfect union..
We must continue and intensify our work to manifest what Martin Luther King, Jr. named "The beloved community."

In addition, I am reminded of a quote that I hears a few years back which was: "the difference between peacemaking and activism is that peacemaking is transformational". So, as we go forth, let us also be peacemakers in the pursuit of just immigration policy, because in addition to our activism; it is peacemaking that is transformational and ultimately what brings about true and lasting change.

Let us love and serve one another, encouraging each other as long as today is called today, remembering that

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the DREAM shall never die…

Peace and Love,