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ICE, Refugees and Justice

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazurus, 1883

A refugee by definition is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. These are typically people with no homes, no money, no tangible evidence of their past life, because they had to move often without any advanced warning for their survival. These are people who despite their former social class advantage are left with very little.

There are 26.4 million of these people in the world right now. According to Amnesty International, all refugees have the right to receive assistance, the right to protection from abuse and the freedom to seek asylum, regardless of who they are or where they come from. What does the United States have in order to help refugees? Well, one of the most notable and feared agencies is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, famously known as ICE. ICE has one thing they are especially good at doing; sending many refugees back home. These refugees get sent back because they don’t have proper documentation, money or identification. Things I would assume that a refugee would have trouble attaining just based on the definition of a refugee.

We have to protect the values of our United States, the values our founding fathers used to create the constitution. The values that throughout United States history were exemplified by hope, refuge and new beginnings. For we are truly the land of second chances. The Statue of Liberty offers a beacon of hope to those around the world that the United States is the home of freedom and liberty. ICE contradicts these values. ICE. isn’t patriotic. The agency seems to be interested in preventing some people from getting to experience these patriotic values.

I have a question for each of you. Are your family members or ancestors immigrants? If so, they likely moved to the United States for freedom and hope or whatever reason that was important to them. Aren’t you glad that they did that so you can have the life you have? Aren’t you glad that the family your ancestors started is here? Aren’t you proud of your heritage, whatever it may be? So why do we want to restrict other people from doing the same? Do we not want to give them the chance to build a family and a life, just like yours did?

This past summer Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Now, there are more than five million Afghan refugees, many of which are trying to flee to the United States for safety. The U.S. response has been to send most of these refugees to holding centers or other places outside of the United States. They denied these people safety. Will they do the same to Ukrainians fleeing the war?

I work in a restaurant and many of the Immigrants I work with are afraid. One of my friends is constantly afraid of getting deported to Mexico, even though he is legally here and not even from Mexico. My friend works every day to support his family. He is 17 and goes to high school and has two jobs. He is the father figure to his younger brothers and he supports his mom financially. Why would ICE deport him, an honest kid just trying to give a better life to his mother and brothers? Why does he live in fear when he has not done anything wrong?

When I read about these people, they aren’t just statistics but mothers, fathers and my friends who are scared, scared for their future and their children’s future. They are not wealthy or influential, but they work hard and are decent and honest people just trying to live.

“Refugee Admissions – United States Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 8 Oct. 2021, www.state.gov/refugee-admissions/.

Stop the Hate Against AAPI Communities

AAPI month graphicSystemic racism and acts of terror towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have dominated media headlines in the past few months. Sadly, while hate incidents against the AAPI community have escalated in the past year, surpassing 6,000 reported incidents between 2020 and 2021, this not a recent occurrence in America.

Anti-Asian sentiments, oppression and violence date back centuries.

The United States imported Chinese workers in the 19th Century to build the railroad system. Once it was built, the workers, who had been cheap sources of labor for employers, were seen as competition by many White working class Americans. The anti-Asian sentiments led to Chinese men and their families being driven from towns, lynched and subjected to newly passed anti-immigration laws.

We have witnessed anti-Asian sentiments becoming increasingly hostile during the pandemic, escalating from verbal to physical attacks to most recently, mass murder.

The belief that Asians carry disease and that they should return to Asia no matter how many generations their family has been in America is often shared on social media. Many Americans also confuse the concepts of country and continent and label Asians as a single demographic, all from the same place. This diminishes the rich and varied cultural beliefs, values, religions and spiritual traditions of the Asian diaspora.

Rich Culture(s)

There are many ethnic identities, cultures and languages within this diverse group of people. In the United States alone, this racial category, according to the Census, refers to more than 40 different ethnic groups. Moreover, in the past 40 years, there has been a widening of income inequality among Asian populations, which has led to social and economic consequences for some. Education and income levels vary widely among Asians. Although they rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the United States, the wide and rapid economic divide belies the growing class differences within this group.*

One lingering remnant from the immigration laws restricting Asian migration within the United states is that a large percentage of Asians and Asian Americans still live in states where there were major points of entry for earlier Asian immigrants, such as New York, California and Hawaii.

While Asian migration throughout the United States has been more prevalent since the mid-1960s, when these laws were overturned, there are still places in the United States where Asians are viewed as exotic and foreign, and not “real” Americans. It is not incidental that people of Japanese descent in America, not German, were imprisoned in internment camps during World War II.

Next Steps for UUs?

What does this mean for us as UUs? We at UU Class Conversations believe that remaining true to our Principles will help break down divisions along class and racial lines. Creating an inclusive community for all racial and ethnic groups begins with meaningful and productive dialogue aimed at combatting racial and class injustice.

What do you see then as next steps for this work?

* Pew Research Center, July 12, 2018, “Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians.”

Endorsing “A Vision for Black Lives”

UU Class Conversations has endorsed “A Vision for Black Lives,” a carefully crafted policy platform that has been drafted by the Movement for Black Lives. The Movement is a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country that have come together to articulate a common vision and agenda.

Sharing a Vision

“A Vision for Black Lives” lays out 30+ policy recommendations under six demands. The platform was created in response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally.

The Movement for Black Lives Policy Table engaged in a year-long process of convening local and national groups to create the platform. In addition, the coalition solicited feedback from hundreds of people through surveys and national calls as well as from members of coalition organizations.

Shared Policy Priorities

The Movement for Black Live engaged dozens of other organizations, researchers, and individuals for their insights and expertise to begin developing a framework for shared policy priorities. While the platform does not include every policy Black people should be working on, it elevates those for which there was shared energy and action in this political moment.

We encourage you to join UU Class Conversations, and endorse this historic document. And work on the parts of the platform that you and/or your organization most strongly agree with. Read the policies, share them with your community, discuss the points you disagree on, and plan actions around the pieces you support.

The Intersection Between Class and Race

Too many events of the past several months remind of us how insidiously classism intertwines with racism. In the recent piece “Class Prejudice Resurgent” by David Brooks, he writes, “During the civil-rights era there was always a debate about what was a civil-rights issue and what was an economic or social issue. Now that distinction has been obliterated. Every civil-rights issue is also an economic and social issue.”

Read his full piece:

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