Monday, July 2, 2018

Reunite Refugee Families Separated at the Border: A Quaker Response to this Moral Crisis

Friends at a demo in Pasadena: Kim and Alex Hopkins, Chris and Elizabeth and their baby Max, and Anthony. See

Quakers have been concerned about refugees fleeing violence in Central America since the 1980s when Jim Corbett, an Arizona Quaker, helped to start the Sanctuary Movement. Many Quaker meetings throughout the nation, including Princeton Meeting (where I became a Quaker in 1984), took Salvadoran and other Latin American refugees under the care during this tumultuous period. 

Quakers have continued to feel deeply concerned about the fate of Central America refugees ever since. Most recently, in 2015, Pacific Yearly Meeting approved a minute of concern supporting efforts to support unaccompanied minors and refugee families:

“  This year six monthly meetings in Pacific Yearly Meeting have approved minutes of concern for refugee children crossing the border from Latin America. A special subcommittee of the Latin American Concerns Committee, Child Refugees and Migration, was formed to address this concern. Many Friends have taken action from visiting elected officials, accompanying a local child refugee through the legal processes, to traveling to Texas to be in solidarity with these children and their families. Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Annual Session supports the efforts of the LACC and numerous other Friends who are seeking justice and showing compassion toward those who are fleeing the violence in their home countries and need a place of refuge in our country. We encourage monthly meetings and individual Friends to read the attached minutes and take them to heart. We also encourage Friends to support the efforts of AFSC and FCNL to promote just and compassionate policies toward immigrants.” See Latin American Concerns Committtee Report

Friends are seeking ways to respond to the current refugee crisis. One example is a minute of concern recently approved by Santa Monica Meeting. Other Friends are taking action by visiting detainees in the Adelanto Detention Center. Some are accompanying refugees in the courts. Quaker organizations like FCNL and AFSC are calling for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to ICE. 

I am including this letter in hopes of stimulating more discussion among Friends (and others) about what we can do to respond to this latest moral crisis. 

Dear Friends,

On behalf of Worship and Ministry Committee, I'm happy to share the Minute approved by a Called Business Meeting on 6/24/18.

Minute 18-06-01 . As Quakers, we are called to treat our fellow human beings with the utmost respect, dignity and care, including those with whom we disagree strongly. This does not mean, however that we will remain silent when acts of great harm are committed by the most powerful against the most vulnerable. We will not remain silent when God, or any sacred justification, is invoked to support such actions.

As people of faith, we call for an immediate end to the practice of removing children from their parents because their parents have attempted to enter the United States,  regardless of whether that entry constitutes a misdemeanor under U.S. law. We call for immediately reuniting children and parents already separated. We call for an immediate end to the incarceration of children, with or without their parents. And we call for an end to any and all practices that treat any immigrating individuals as less  than” or “other,” or that treat them with hostility and cruelty.

We commit to actively working with all those striving to ensure that our immigration policies reflect the best of ourshared humanity and are grounded in the compassionate  application of the principle of “liberty and justice for all.”” 

One Friend raised concern that the phrase "we actively commit" implied that all friends and attenders are committed to take action. We clarify that no, this does not require all friends and attenders to act. The commitment of the Meeting is to provide support and blessing to all who choose to take action on these heartbreaking and inhumane immigration practices. Our actions are enhanced through the community, knowing that we speak and act not just as individual Quakers, but on behalf of and with the strength of the commitment of our Santa Monica Meeting.
Peace and Social Action Committee stepped forward to take leadership. Friends were encouraged to attend P&SA meetings and to share ideas for action on our listserv.

Here are some actions that I (Anthony) recommend for us to do (based on a blog by Kit Danley, founder of Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, AZ):

· Pray, knowing that your prayer will lead to action.
· Give your financial resources to help people who are doing some of these things.  Here are a couple ways to give:
· Contact your Congress representatives and senators OFTENThe FCNL will connect you directly to your senators.
·  Write op-eds for your local newspaper
· Sign on to some national campaigns putting political pressure on D.C.  Here are a couple:
· Take the next 100 days to get involved in a local campaign supporting people who have come out publicly against these horrific practices.
· Volunteer at a shelter for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) in your area (over 100 nationally).  It is a rigorous process to become a volunteer, but it is possible. Research is needed to find a UAC in your area.  
·  Volunteer at legal aid clinics where asylum families will go, should they make it that far, for help with their asylum cases. 
· Join efforts with some local advocacy groups that are completely dedicated to immigrant asylum seekers

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