As we renew our campaign for peace and prepare for changes to our website, we are aware that there is no peace without full inclusion and engagement. For the next 2 weeks, we are eager to engage our readers in dialogue with quizzes and political cartoons aimed at stimulating conversation and provoking thought.
Our first quiz is designed to help us think about issues relating to immigration, asylum, security and citizenship.
Imagine you are an immigration judge at the South Texas Family Residential Center. Your case is a woman with four children who all crossed illegally into the US at the Mexican border with nearly 2,000 other “asylum seekers” in the summer of 2014. She claims that she is on the run from gang and drug violence in Guatemala. You’ve heard it all before. You know that violent gangs control more than half of the territory of Guatemala but you need to decide whether to grant her and her children asylum or deport them back home. Which of the following reasons would convince you to grant her asylum?
* Her husband was murdered by a gang of drug dealers.
* Gangs are targeting her sons, trying to recruit them into the illegal drug trade.
* Gang members are threatening her and her daughters with sexual violence.
* You would grant her asylum for any one of those reasons
* None of those reasons are enough for you to grant her asylum
Change Your View: What’s a good enough reason to grant someone asylum in the US? What should our policy be when it comes to people who claim to be in danger and need our help? Those who worry about security here at home want to err on the side of caution and send border crossers back where they came from, no matter what can be verified about the risks they face back home. They fear that these people are criminals, murderers, rapists, economic opportunists and freeloaders. At the very least, they have been caught breaking the law by illegally crossing the border. As Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary, says, “Our borders are not open to illegal migration… individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed.”
Current US policy is to round up, detain and then deport women and children who have crossed illegally into the US. But are they deserving of asylum? Asylum officials think so: As of the end of 2015, more than 80% of the mothers held at the two family detention centers in Texas passed an initial interview with an asylum official. Yet of the 905 cases of parents with children caught at the border and held in detention centers, 80% or 726 cases, ended in deportation. What’s going on?
The truth is that it is not illegal to go to the border of the US and request asylum. Families desperately seeking relief from threats of violence do it all the time. There’s a famous case you may have heard of because it’s been in the news recently. It seems that like today’s asylum seekers, Ann Frank’s father, Otto, repeatedly applied for visas to protect his family from threats of violence. He was repeatedly denied because the immigration rules at the time reflected the fear that anyone with family in Germany, like the Franks, could be German spies. We have all been moved to tears by Ann’s death in a Nazi concentration camp at age 15. If the US had granted her family asylum, her fate would have been so different.
Like the Frank family, the families who are arriving at our borders now are not murderers; they are victims and potential victims of murderous violence. This is why we are not only urging you to change your view, but to join us in helping them get the legal representation they need to avoid being returned to dangerous conflict zones. For every new follower on the Raven Foundation Facebook page, we will donate $1 to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, up to a total of $500. Please share the word about CARA and our Facebook campaign. America is at her best when she opens her doors to help those in need. We can do this!
Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.