Wednesday 21 May 2008

After being linked by a few other blogs in the recent days and seeing my numbers just a bit, I figured I should maybe write a new post, since I haven’t written one (at least for my blog — the reason here) in a while and have done only a few in May. Before I get on, though, I’ll point you to one of the blogs that pointed to me (and maybe how you got here).

When I started discerning doing the work I committed my time in April and May to, I was a bit worried. I was worried about my safety, some, but probably my biggest worry was how my parents would react and whether or not they would accept and support what I was thinking of doing. (Mind you, this was way before I had a concrete date in mind and things were much more abstract — think November 2007.) Shortly after Thanksgiving, I visited the church in Chicago where I still hold my membership and discussed with my pastor (and friend) my concerns about the future but also the call that seemed to be getting stronger to really take another step in working toward peace and justice. I shared my concerns about possible estrangement if I felt a call but my parents wouldn’t support me for whatever reason, but also that I knew if I was feeling a call, I should be following that, right?

A few weeks went by and I returned to my parents’ house knowing I had to have the discussion of where I was at and what I might expect in terms of support from them. It was an emotional and tearful conversation as I shared how I was still discerning at this point in time but that I was truly concerned for my parents’ feelings, too, and was worried about fracturing our relationship and the possibility of having to choose between doing something I felt called to do and the relationships I held so dear. In the end, my parents affirmed that, though it might not be the easiest thing for them (and I might mention for me either) to accept, I should prayerfully continue to discern my call.

I think it was during that conversation that I told my mom that I knew, if worst came to worst, she’d share my story in a way similar to Cindy Sheehan, but I’d of course pray that wouldn’t be the case. I shouldn’t be surprised that even before I returned home, my parents were already sharing my story in a way that makes me more proud than I know how to express in words. I think they would say it’s an honor to have me as a son, but I certainly feel it’s an honor to have them as parents and am reminded even more so when I read words like those found in the blog mentioned above:
“Pastor Dana Bjorlin serves as a chaplain at St. Vincent and St. Anne hospitals in Toledo, and I have come to know him as a generally steady fellow. When he came to the microphone to share his son Eric’s experiences as a peace worker in the Middle East, he was overcome with emotion. When his wife, Peg, whom I’ve come to know as a generally cheery lady, observed a Circle of Truth exercise in which people role-played various folks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she was overcome with emotion.”

When I think back on it now, I question whether it was ever really “support” that I doubted or feared would be there. In 26 years I should know better, I suppose, than to question my parents’ love and support for me and my path, wherever it may lead me. I guess sometimes things need to get a little complicated for us to be reminded that there are certain guarantees in life. For me, one of those guarantees is loving and supporting family members, no matter what.

I pray the same for you.

A letter

Thursday 15 May 2008

Hi all — I know I haven’t been writing much lately, but it’s been a busy time. I did want to pass along this letter I received that was apparently written by a teacher in the town where the large immigration raid occurred earlier this week. It is quite the letter, and whether or not it is authentic, I think it makes many important points about the situation of this country. I hope you are moved by it. I know I was.

“I know some of you have called or emailed the past day…so here is an update from Postville (with Big Brother watching).

Yesterday, our town was raided by 400 FBI agents, ICE agents (formally known as INS), state troopers, and a variety of other agencies. We had helicopters flying overhead for hours, all roads were blocked coming into and going out of Postville, media crews and cameras EVERYWHERE, and basically mass chaos. The federal government had decided to make Postville an example for the rest of the nation to see our supposedly working Homeland Security. Ironically, as this all transpired, I was at the county courthouse with my Government class, so that they could see first hand how our judicial system works. We got more of a lesson then we were bargaining for. I received calls from the school not to come back to school because I have students they were concerned about. (Yes, they are undocumented students who have been in this district since they were in fourth grade. They speak English clearly, their parents work here in town and pay taxes, have tried to file papers to become legal, but have been denied due to the fact that they do not come from a ‘desirable’ country.)

I am told after a few hours that I can come back on the school bus, but to expect to be pulled over by the FBI, and I am not to, under any circumstances, let any officer onto the bus. I now have 12 students who are scared as to what will happen, with four students that could possibly be arrested. Basically, I had 20 minutes to get my wits about me and be ready to face ICE or the FBI and tell them to take a hike. Under federal laws, schools and churches are considered sanctuaries, and people can go to them for political refugee. (Think of the Hunchback of Norte Dame.) Although this did nothing to calm my nerves, as I am afraid that I might also be arrested for not cooperating with the law.

We made it back into Postville, only to find that our school is now surrounded by media cameras. I will not make a comment about the news media…I have not much good to say about them at this point. I get to my classroom, to find out that our entire computer network crashed at 10 am (the same time ICE came to Postville). It also has been running off and on today, with an entire computer tech team unable to find out what is wrong. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe our accounts are being scanned. (Big Brother)

After school, all teachers and staff are told to report to the theater. We have 150 students with no parents to go home to. We are told that we need to stay with them until we find out where their parents are at or a relative that will care for them until their parents are found. Many of these kids lost both parents due to the raid and the parents are now sitting in jail in Waterloo, or in the National Cattle Congress Fairgrounds until they are deported. I guess, I don’t really care how any of you feel about immigration, we all have our opinions. But I will say, that as a human being and as a parent, I find it disturbing to see little elementary kids crying for their parents and asking you to take them home, and all one can say is, I am sorry, or we are looking for them. By the way, we got no information from ICE as to who they arrested, and whether or not, their parents were being detained. At this point, I just wanted to go home and hug my own kids.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to locate family members, having students ‘hide’ their personal belongings in classrooms, barns, houses, or where ever, and ward off the media. From what I have heard, we were all over the midwest news channels and newspapers, with CNN and FOX news also doing stories on us. I think we are on the national news tonight. It was announced that Postville’s raid was the largest immigration raid in US History.

Today, I am missing about half of my students. Some have taken off for Chicago, others are hiding in town, some were arrested, and others are at the Catholic Church. I spent the morning helping in the church with food preparation (there are 400 people seeking refugee in the church right now), and also trying to locate items like diapers, food, pillows, blankets, and games for the little kids to play with. From media reports, about 350 people were arrested, with 697 more possible arrests, most of them Guatemalan (not Mexican). Only 57 have been released due to child care or medical reasons. They are currently back with ankle monitors on. Most will be deported.

The town has literally ‘shut down’. Businesses are closed, the school is about half empty, and we are now left wondering if we will all have jobs next year. This town was a ghost town 15 years ago, but has managed to build itself back up on the backs of our immigrant workers. I have complained many times about the language barriers I encountered at school, but I have always said that the reason I had a job was because we were the only district that actually was growing and able to keep their staff due to the sheer number of students in the school district. By me working in the Postville School District, I am eligible to have half of my student loans forgiven over a five year time period. I only have one more year left to complete this goal. If we lose half of our students, this will not happen.

What frustrates me the most is that this raid accomplished nothing positive. It has destroyed families, will more than likely close some area businesses, some of us will lose our jobs, and the real estate in the area became worthless overnight. All this in an already struggling economy. I know that I am complaining in this email and it has become a lengthy email too, but everyone who complains about the immigrants ‘taking American jobs’ don’t even want these jobs. Honestly, who wants to work for minimum wage, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week with no overtime, in cold, smelly conditions, gutting chickens or cows? I know that I don’t want to do that for a living.

Interestingly enough, my US History students made a direct correlation between what we all witnessed yesterday to our history lesson three weeks ago. We have been studying W.W.II and the Holocaust. I had them view the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ and the things that happened in the movie, with the Nazis rounding up the Jews, having them report their names and families’ names, transporting them to unknown places, keeping them in substandard holding areas, and then getting rid of them, was very much like what happened yesterday, with one exception, the US has not practiced the use of genocide.

ICE is today, doing house to house searches of every home and apartment that has a hispanic name attached to it. It is rather scary to see search teams go from place to place, looking for immigrants. We had agencies at the school a month ago with a subpoena to seize all student and employee files. Any name that sounded remotely Hispanic was flagged. I find this to be a form of racial profiling, and I know that it is happening, because I was already asked three weeks ago to bring in a copy of my birth certificate due to the fact that my maiden name was ‘Hispanic’ sounding. (de Julio)

How quickly we forget our own histories. Many of our ancestors came here with nothing to their names and very little to survive on. They wanted a fresh start too. Unless they are 100% Native American, your ancestors were also immigrants. So why are we trying to make an example out of those less fortunate? Why not go after the people who really are doing something illegal and wrong? Like drug dealers or child molesters? If we spent as much money on those items as we are currently spending on the War in Iraq (which we are loosing) or building a 700 mile long wall on the Mexican border which is actually 2300 miles long, we would maybe in a better economy that was safe for our families.

Proud not to have voted for George W. Bush in either election,

….. Teacher in Postville School System…….”

take a look

Thursday 1 May 2008

From Newsweek: the strangulation of the West Bank