Justice Updates – December 3, 2019

One of the strongest reasons for abolishing the death penalty is that innocent people can be wrongly convicted. NPR shares Archie Williams’ story.

Sister Esther Calderon forwarded this letter from Rev. Delle McCormick at Casa Alitas where she and Sr. Rachel Sena minister.  The situation there is as bleak as El Paso. 

November 2019 Update for Catholic Community Services’

Casa Alitas Welcome Center

Dear Friends,

It was a cold day for Southern Arizona as three Casa Alitas Welcome Center volunteers made our way down to a sister shelter on the Mexico side.  We arrived to meet Sisters Judy and Lucy on the US side and stopped for a moment to receive their generous hospitality of hot coffee and homemade pastry. We then loaded their SUV and headed south to cross the border into Mexico. I am always astonished when I cross the border to see US security installations fit for a war zone, which, it increasingly seems, we are at war with our neighbors to the south.

The three of us had brought boxes of donations and an eagerness to see beyond the borders created by the real and virtual realities of border politics. I have served as a volunteer with Casa Alitas shelters for families seeking asylum in the US for the past year, and have witnessed many families’ tragic circumstances that caused them to risk everything and flee their countries for ours. Lately we had begun to hear that while one family out of a large group made it through to our shelter where we facilitate their journeys to their sponsors, the rest of their group, including  small children and pregnant woman, were turned back across the border as part of the draconian US policy of Remain in Mexico, or Migrant Protection Protocol. The “Migrant Protection Protocol” is a misnomer. Ironic at best, the new policy entails the obscene practice of feeding these vulnerable and at-risk people to the wolves.  We wanted to see first-hand what was happening in Mexico shelters as this new policy was implemented, and to collaborate with them through sharing of resources and volunteers.

After passing through the maze of border aisles and barricades we began to see signs of the pressure cooker forces of thousands of migrants waiting to enter or turned back from the US. A bus parked next to the border wall surely helped some cross and was then hastily moved. Long lines of cars and pedestrians waited to enter the US. Just blocks from the highly militarized border, we stopped at a shelter with a long history of providing accompaniment with “migrants in exodus.” The shelter manager and Mexico volunteers faced constant harassment and threats by members of the local cartel, yet continue to advocate for and accompany migrants. The manager of the shelter receives daily threats to his and his family’s well-being, yet will not be deterred. He greeted us enthusiastically, despite the pressures he and his team must be under.

The manager keeps a running list of over seventeen hundred people who are awaiting their turn to enter the US to seek asylum. Some, unable to survive the violence close to the border, take shelter in other towns as they await their turn until their number comes up. But most sleep on the streets, in cheap motels, or houses of friends of friends. They cannot work and are fearful of being kidnapped or worse, so they wait in place, afraid even, to go outside. This day, the magic number was 1,111. The Cuban family of four who had been waiting for seven months to cross, were excited for their turn to come up. Another family had to give up their place in line when the mom delivered twins. When they returned they had to start all over again and were now number 1,125.

We sat with the guests at the shelter as they asked questions: Would their nieces and nephews be able to cross with them? (No.) Would a husband who had been previously deported be able to cross with his two US citizen children, new wife and their children. (No. And his US citizen children would most likely be separated from his wife, because she wasn’t their mother.) Would a seventeen year old young woman be able to cross with her three younger cousins so they could be reunited with their mom. (No, because they weren’t her children.)  It was heartbreaking. Devastating, to interpret for them and deliver this news.

We went on to visit the Migrant Welcome Center, which was adjacent to the border entry. There US volunteers from Presbyterian Peace Fellowship wait with families next in line, and accompany them to the border crossing, lest they be picked off by cartel members. Other volunteers from US faith communities cross the border each day to bring meals to those who wait. The atmosphere today was one of excitement. So few people get through these days. It was likely that two families might cross this day.

As we were leaving, we stopped at the make-shift tent where those ready to cross stay until their number comes up. The dad of the family of four stood outside the tent looking devastated. “They said that if we cross, we will be sent back to wait in Mexico,” he said. “That means we are dead meat.” They had spent those seven months traversing the border, looking for a place they might stay safely while they waited their turn to enter the US. This was supposed to be the day they would be selected to cross. They had money for plane tickets to their sponsor. They were ready. They had survived seven months on the streets.  Now they learned that they would not be allowed to enter the US to seek asylum. Not today. Probably not ever.

They were the first in what soon would be a long, long line of buses filled with hundreds of families to await their US asylum proceedings in Mexico. In other border cities we have heard stories of buses arriving at the border to drop of hundreds of families in the dark of night. These families then cross into Mexico on foot carrying the plastic bags with their belongings and wearing shoes with laces removed, which makes them easy targets for the cartels and Mexican “federales” (famous for their cruelty and corruption) who collude to kidnap them for extortion, torture, and according to testimony by one father who was returned, even organ harvesting.

Our group of three was quiet on our way home as we considered how we might collaborate with border shelters overloaded by the MPP, and how the new protocol would affect our shelters and our guests. We learned upon our return that the MPP was now a certainty for Tucson as well. Asylum seekers would be bused back to El Paso where they would be dropped off in the dark at the border and into the hand of those who would profit from their vulnerabilities. Only women who are six or more months pregnant and families with children under one year of age will be admitted and sent to the Casa Alitas Welcome Center. While this might mean drastically reduced number at the Welcome Center, it does not mean we will be idle!

As I tucked into my warm bed  at the end of the long day, I thought of the cold days to come, and those we had met living on the streets with little or no protection against the cold and abject terror of every single day. In these holy-days of giving thanks and celebration, may we remember them, and act together in ways that bring us together at one great table.

I had planned on writing a bright letter of thanks-giving today, and this letter is, indeed, that. I  am so grateful to be a part of Casa Alitas shelters, of reaching out to make the world a better place, especially for the most vulnerable and at-risk among us. Between the three of us who went to the border today, we had between us many years of service all around the world! This is a common phenomenon at Casa Alitas. We are a gathering place for those who know our work as saving grace in the midst of hatred and fear.  It is humbling to work among such saints –  volunteers and guests alike. We are grateful too for all your very generous support across the years and changing needs of our guests. Thank you! Your contributions have mattered to the more than 18,000 guests we have welcomed over the past year.

And after thanks-giving comes a call to action. We will not stand by and allow this new policy  destroy more lives of innocent people. We will continue to serve the few guests who make it through to us  and we will pour out our love through human and material resources to our sister shelters in Mexico until the policy shifts again. We will be better, stronger, together. God continues to do a new thing in and through us even alongside such hard-hearted and cruel policies for asylum-seekers. This is the story of so many of our faith communities: the Holy One comes every day to save the world. We are grateful to be there to witness and share the good news as an antidote to so much bad news.

Next month I will travel throughout southern and central Mexico to visit and volunteer and write about shelters there. “Seeing Beyond Borders” is an effort to join forces with our neighbors to the south to ease the suffering of those who have already suffered so much. If you care to follow my journey, you can do so at https://bengchurchintheborderlands.weebly.com/

Please feel free to share this letter with others who might be interested in learning more about our important work, and/or who might also like to offer financial support. Your support makes our work possible. Together, we provide help, create hope, and serve all. Your gift strengthens children, families, adults, and communities. Donations can be made directly to CCS at  Support Migrant Aid – Tucson and through our GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/casa-alitas-for-migrant-families. For more information about Casa Alitas shelter programs, please see ccs-soaz.org.

May we find sustenance and hope in changing lives through the services we provide.

Rev. Delle McCormick

* In order to protect those who work and those who are served by each shelter across the border, I will not reveal the name or location of shelters in Mexico.

The UN Sustainable Goals work to move people out of poverty. Celine Paramundayil describes attending a UN Session where a teenage girl from Papua New Guinea sobs that her dreams were going down the drain.  Read more in Global Sisters Report titled A UN Reminder: Please, leave no one behind.

It’s been four years since the Paris Accord was signed in an effort to address climate change.  According to a UN report, China and the United States have expanded, not reduced, their carbon footprint.  “The summary findings are bleak, the report said, because countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions even after repeated warnings from scientists. The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”  Read more here.

Call your senators to support SB 874, the Dream Act of 2019. SB 874 is the Senate version of a bill to protect DACA recipients. The bill directs the “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis to an alien who is inadmissible or deportable or is in temporary protected status who (1) has been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding this bill’s enactment; (2) was younger than 18 years of age on the initial date of U.S. entry; (3) is not inadmissible on various grounds such as those related to crime or security; and (4) has fulfilled specified educational requirements. DHS shall cancel the removal of, and adjust to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis, an alien who was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status unless the alien has engaged in conduct that would make the alien ineligible for DACA. DHS shall remove the conditional basis of the permanent resident status granted under this bill if the alien meets various requirements, such as (1) maintaining residence in the United States, and (2) acquiring a degree from an institution of higher education or serving in the Uniformed Services. DHS may not disclose or use information provided in applications filed under this bill or in DACA requests for immigration enforcement purposes. The bill repeals a restriction barring states from providing higher education benefits to undocumented aliens unless those benefits are available to all U.S. citizens.”

Our oceans continue to struggle.   According to Greenpeace, “the ocean is one of our best allies against climate change. The seas provide half of our oxygen, food for a billion people, and a home to some of the most spectacular wildlife on Earth. But the impacts of climate change, plastic pollution, and destructive industries put them in more danger than ever before.

The oceans in particular are being choked with the plastic that we use everyday — often only once — and throw away. But what about the ocean trash that was literally designed to kill marine life? Most fishing gear used by fleets all over the world ends up abandoned at sea. Ghost fishing occurs when this lost or discarded ‘ghost gear’ continues to catch and kill whales, turtles, and seabirds for many years, or even decades, to come.

Ghost gear is just one reason that Greenpeace has been sailing on an ambitious voyage from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Greenpeace crew members have revealed the wonders that lie beneath the surface of our oceans, and the threats which are destroying marine life. Every inch of this expedition is building the movement for a strong Global Ocean Treaty, that will allow space for wildlife to recover and thrive, and could change the fate of our planet.

Currently, our ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is in the middle of seamount Vema, a 4,600m high underwater mountain located in international waters off the coast of South Africa. Divers and researchers onboard are exploring the incredible biodiversity of the area, and have also seen the impacts first-hand of overfishing in the area, including the amount of ghost gear present on the seamount slopes.

It is hard to believe that there are mountains underneath the shimmering ocean surface. What’s even harder is finding words to describe these underwater wonders. Mount Vema is an absolute carnival of colours, bursting with marine life. However, the threat of destructive fishing is still very real to this underwater world and others like it across our global oceans.

We’re working to create a global network of ocean sanctuaries that would put millions of square kilometers off limits to destructive industries and protect nature’s beauty.”

Right now, until the final negotiating session on March 23, 2020, governments are coming together at the UN to work on a Global Ocean Treaty. Greenpeace and other activists are working to create a global network of ocean sanctuaries that would put millions of square kilometers off limits to destructive industries and protect nature’s beauty.

For more information about the Global Ocean Treaty, click here.

What does nonviolence look like? Listen to this podcast “Trials of Nonviolence The Kings Bay Plowshares Story” prepared by NCR about the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who protested at the Naval Submarine Base in Georgia against nuclear weapons and went to jail.

The Supreme Court will hear its first Gun Rights Case in ten years. This case could change the gun safety legislation around the country a very negative way. Read more.

And now some good news…. Our young folks do care about the environment and telling their legislators.  See how they are doing this.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

One response to “Justice Updates – December 3, 2019

  1. Barbara, thank you SO MUCH for providing us with this information each week. These concerns are our constant Dominican call to truth, and to prayer and action.

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