Reflection: Why we got arrested to end deportations

(English below)

El 31 de Julio 2014, nueve de nuestros miembros fueron arrestados en frente de la Casa Blanca protestando la deportación y el horrible trato de los niños en la frontera. Un grupo de 112 inmigrantes y líderes religiosos fuimos arrestados mientras nos sentamos pacíficamente en frente de la Casa Blanca exigiendo que el Presidente Obama pusiera fin inmediatamente a todas las deportaciones. Los arrestos fueron un acto intencional de desobediencia civil, una estrategia de resistencia no violenta planeada en respuesta a los abusos inhumanos del gobierno de los EEUU.

Por qué nosotros, en especial los inmigrantes quienes somos indocumentados, decidimos ser detenidos a propósito? Por qué pensamos que el tratamiento de inmigrantes es tan inhumano que exige una respuesta extrema aunque existan riesgos.

Por toda la historia del mundo e historia de los movimientos sociales, grupos organizados de personas han hecho desobediencia civil no violenta para parar leyes injustas y opresivas – las parteras hebreas rechazando la orden del Faraón a matar todos los bebes hebreos, Jesús cosechando el trigo en el Día de Reposo, la Marcha de Sal de Gandhi en la India, y acciones para confrontar la segregación de los Afro-Americanos son solo algunos ejemplos.

Vivimos en una época sin precedente en el número de deportaciones, separación familiar, y violencia hacia inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos. Muchos de nuestros miembros han tenido familia deportada y trabajamos en los estragos devastadoras que dejan las leyes de Presidente Obama, que han deportado más que 2 millones de personas. Nikki, una diacono quien fue arrestada, testifico, “La Deportación  provoca sentimientos y opiniones discriminatorios y degradantes hacia seres humanos y las familias que creamos. La paz de nuestro país y mi vida individual dependen en como tratamos a los “extranjeros,” peregrinos, y residentes temporales.”

Como personas de fe, no podemos mantenernos callados y permitir que esto pase. Nuestras diferentes religiones son unificadas en un llamado por justicia, dignidad y hospitalidad para todos, sin importar el status migratorio o de que país somos. Hemos marchado, escrito cartas, hemos tenido manifestaciones, hablado con los representantes políticos, y aun el horror de las deportaciones masivas continúa. Fue entonces que nueve de nosotros decidimos que era tiempo de poner nuestros cuerpos en la línea de peligro para parar las deportaciones. Mark, un miembro de Filadelfia quien fue arrestado,  dijo  Marchamos por los derechos civiles y para parar la Guerra en Vietnam, y nadie nos escucharon. Entonces aprendimos el poder de desobediencia civil para hacer un cambio. Ojala que las acciones de hoy inspiren a la gente unirse en nuestra lucha por la reforma migratoria, que pronto haya 10,000 de nosotros bloqueando las calles de nuestro capitolio. Entonces nos escucharan.”

Antes de la desobediencia civil, consultamos con abogados para asegurarnos que todos nuestros miembros quienes estaban en riesgo de ser arrestados– en particular los inmigrantes que participaron – conocían los riesgos y consecuencias potenciales. Esta acción específica fue  “desobedecer una orden” todos los abogados nos aseguraron que si los participantes no tenían un caso legal abierto, estaríamos bien. Todos hicimos la decisión de ser arrestados por la justicia migratoria con el entendimiento que aunque mínimos existían riesgos. Los abogados tuvieron razón y todos salimos de la cárcel rápidamente. Carlos, originario de Mexico quien ahora vive en el Sur de Philadelphia, fue arrestado en solidaridad con gente que fue deportada y los niños encarcelados en la frontera. “Vengo para encontrar una solución positiva por la comunidad inmigrante,” el dijo.

Vivir en los EEUU es un riesgo cada día para los inmigrantes indocumentados. Cada día, las leyes de deportación masiva del Presidente Obama destruyen 1,100 familias, traumatizando y destruyendo comunidades. Tomamos un riesgo pequeño al participar en la desobediencia civil para llamar la atención a los riesgos enormes que enfrentan los inmigrantes cada día. Blanca, originaria de Ecuador quien vive en el Norte de Philadelphia, dijo Estoy arriesgando ser arrestada porque como inmigrante tengo la responsabilidad de abogar por mi misma y mi comunidad. Como madre tengo la obligación de  enseñar a mis hijos quienes son las nuevas generaciones a amar incondicionalmente. Que mis amistades, hijos y familia sepan que no debemos tener miedo porque tenemos la verdad en nuestras historias.”

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On July 31, 2014, nine of our members were arrested in front of the White House protesting deportation and the horrendous treatment of all the children at the border. We were arrested in a group of 112 immigrants and clergy as we peacefully sat in front of the White House demanding that President Obama immediately end all deportations. The arrests were an intentional act of civil disobedience, a planned strategy of nonviolent resistance to the inhumane abuses of the U.S. government.

Why would we, especially those of us who are undocumented, get arrested on purpose? Why do we think that treatment of immigrants is so inhumane that it demands an extreme response with potential risk?

Throughout the world and history of social movements, organized groups of people have engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience to challenge unjust and oppressive laws – the Hebrew midwives refusing Pharaoh’s order to kill all the male Hebrew babies, Jesus picking wheat on the Sabbath, Gandhi’s Salt March, and the sit-in’s at lunch counters challenging Jim Crow laws are just a few examples.

We live in an age of unprecedented deportation, family separation, and violence towards immigrants in the United States.  Many of our members’ families have been torn apart by deportation and we work amongst the devastating ravages of President Obama’s immigration policies that have deported over 2 million people.  As Nikki, a deacon from Arch St UMC who was arrested, testified “Deportation perpetuates degrading and discriminatory views of human beings and the families we create.  The peace of our country and my individual life depends on how we treat ‘strangers,’ pilgrims and sojourners.”

As people of faith, we cannot stand quietly by and allow this to happen. Our different faith traditions are unified in calling for justice, dignity, and hospitality for all, regardless of immigration status or what country we’re from. We have written letters, marched, held rallies, spoken to politicians, and still the horror of mass deportation continues. An injustice so extreme requires an extreme response, and nine of us decided it was time to put our bodies on the line.  Mark, a member from Philadelphia who was arrested, said “We marched for civil rights and to stop the Vietnam War, and nobody listened. Then we learned the power of civil disobedience to make change. I hope today moves people to join us in our struggle for immigration reform, that soon there will be 10,000 of us blocking the streets of our capitol. Then they will listen.”

Before the civil disobedience, we spoke to lawyers to make sure that all members risking arrest – particularly the immigrants who participated – knew the risk and possible consequences.  This specific action was “disobeying an order” and all of the lawyers assured us that as long as nobody had an open legal case, we would all be safe. We all made the decision to get arrested for immigrant justice understanding that there could be unanticipated risks, but luckily the lawyers were right and everyone left jail quickly. Carlos, from Mexico and now living in South Philadelphia, was arrested in solidarity with people who were deported and kids on the border who are in jail. I’m here to find a positive solution for the immigrant community,” he said.

But living in the U.S. is a risk every day for undocumented immigrants. Every day, President Obama’s mass deportation policies tear apart 1,100 families, traumatizing and destroying communities. We took a small risk by participating in the civil disobedience to call attention to the enormous risks immigrants face every day. Blanca, who is originally from Ecuador and now lives in North Philadelphia, said, “I’m risking arrest because as an immigrant I have a responsibility to advocate for myself and my community. As a mother, I have an obligation to teach my children, who are the next generation, to love unconditionally. I want my friends, children, and family to know that we shouldn’t be afraid because we have truth in our stories. 

 

 

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