The quiet path of change

Starting a reading binge at an easy pace of Thoreau, Thomas Merton, Aldo Leopold, Loren Eiseley, Wendell Berry, David Kline, ML King and Gandhi. The order of nature calls for simplicity and enjoyment. My bees. My plantings. Walks and hikes through the gift of nature and parks around here. Watching the birds at the feeders in the backyard.

I am reminded again of a truth I saw about my own life some 25+ years ago. With all the effort I was putting in to work for justice and peace in the world, my methods were creating a lot more of chaos than constructive steps for peace. My intentions were good but my methods created the opposite.

I don’t think we will overcome in this world what Trump is a symptom of by trying to “battle back” with force against force. I think we fuel the beast, add fuel to the fire that we are attempting to overcome and put out.

I am enraged, but rage & anger in and of themselves accomplish little other than leading to self-righteousness. As M L King said, it isn’t passive to non-violently resist. But just to be actively and continually resisting does not necessarily lead to the change I seek and hope for.

We need a reasoned, reflective resistance that is more dependent on a sacred Spirit than on self-will. Chaotic, flailing resistance/activity may create something more a kin to anarchy than true social change with the attributes of justice and peace.

The intracies of US immigration

What is a refugee?

Who are these people?

In the last few weeks by happenstance, I have learned a lot about the folks we tend to lump together on immigration conversations. This is what I have learned:

(I discuss undocumented immigrants farther down)

– Immigrants are folks who have applied through the US immigration laws and who fit into the categories and quotas that US laws stipulate. I know the least about these folks. They have to be extensively vetted and must have avenues already available to support themselves when they arrive here. They cannot have access for some time to governmental support programs. Citizenship I think is available in 7 years. (See more below in the two addendums which are from people who know more than I do)

– Refugees. There are 21.3 million refugees in the world in camps. The UN Commission on Refugees handles them all. Only 1% are considered viable to leave the camps due to the potential emotional and physical reality that refugees will face! 99% spend the rest of their lives in the camps. The largest camp is 250,000 people in Kenya. Most average around 20,000 to 40,000. Average stay in a refugee camp is 15 years. Many are women and children because when the threats arise that cause them to flee their town/country husbands/fathers are often at work or in the army or are taken by the forces that are attacking as prisoners or killed. Also due to the immediacy of the threat mothers will often also have to leave school age children who are at school behind because they do not have the time to go after them if they are to save their younger children who are with them. There is often no documents for these people and there is no central system of documentation. So even if family members survive, they do not know about their other family members who may be in another camp or even in their own camp. The US vetting process to become a refugee is a very thorough 2-3 years process which includes multiple interviews, physical exams, multiple background investigations and trip wires in the process to find any inconsistencies. It is hard to imagine how any more additional vetting will be found to go beyond what is already done. The refugees are shipped to various countries coordinated through the UNCHR. In the US their are 10-14 refugee agencies. Most are religious based. 1/3 in the US are through Catholic Charities. They arrive in the US with only 1 or 2 small backpack size bags per family of possessions. They are given 3 months of assistance to adjust. The law does not allow more than that by the federally funded refugee agencies. If there are special conditions, they can be helped up to 6 months. Many agencies have volunteers to help families adjust through the initial period and then beyond. I just went through the process to do that with the International Institute of Akron. Refugees have fled threats in their homelands of military, starvation, etc. They have access to social services and must apply for citizenship within 5 years. US law allows a minimum of 50,000 refugees a year. Presidents can make that number higher. Previous presidents have fluctuated up and down above that number for some time. Obama in the previous fiscal year (October-Sept) had allowed 86,000. For fiscal year 2017 he had allowed 110,000 because of the huge and growing number of refugees in the world. From October to January of this year 32,000 had arrived. In January Trump cut the number to the minimum of 50,000 which means from now until September only 18,000 more refugees will be allowed into the US.

– Asylum seekers. These are people who due to physical threat apply at the US consulates/embassies to have asylum in the US. I’m not sure about this process.

– Displaced persons are folks who are in their own country but cannot live in their homes due to various circumstances.

-Undocumented immigrants (which some call “illegal”). These are folks who come at least into the US through various means. A percentage cross the border. Most have come into the country legally through a visa, but overstay the visa and try to blend into our population. The Valbuena family that was deported from Akron this week to Columbia had been here legally under a visa to avoid a threat in Columbia. That visa expired and/or the situation in Columbia changed. On the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal today is the story of another family and I heard of another story of another Akron family where dad has been deported, mom may be and the 4 kids born in the US could be taken from her if she is deported. There are a number of undocumented among us in Akron, but due to the circumstances no group is tracking the numbers. The situations that cause these people to come here or stay here are varied. Often it is deep economic deprivation. It may be physical threat. They may not be aware of means to try to seek protection, they may not have time to seek protection, or the systems of our countries (where they come from and our country) simply don’t take into account their conditions and situations.

I cannot claim this is a complete or even fully accurate summary of the situations. It is what I have become aware of in the last three weeks in training to be a Welcomer/mentor for refugees here in Akron and through helping the Valbuena family. Most of the refugees allowed in now are from Congo since the Syrians are not allowed. There is a tragic and atrocious war going on in the Congo that western media has not given the attention because of our more directed national interests in the Middle East e.g. Syria. There are other such wars and conditions in other settings in the world that we in the US just don’t pay attention to though we think we are aware of it all and are sending so much aid to these settings. We aren’t

#Addendum 1 

David – within the category that everyone thinks of as immigrants, are legally two classifications: immigrants (that is the class that has obtained green card status) and non-immigrants (that is the class who are here temporarily through work, school, visiting – they get various visas to allow them to stay per the regulations that pertain to why they are here.). Some non-immigrants may be in the process of becoming immigrants, but until they obtain the green card, they are termed non-immigrants – a designation for temporary stay in the US.

Citizenship is available to green card holders after they have been LPRs for 5 years – if they have not spent a certain amount of time outside of the US.

The avenue to green card status for some legal non-immigrants that are here through employment can take over ten years because of the immigrant visa quotas assigned to their nation of origin. Likewise, US citizens sponsoring relatives in certain countries, are looking at over 15 years in some circumstances to wait for a green card for their family member.

#Addendum 2

So while the immigration process for immigrant/non-immigrant visa class holders here is not untrue, it is only a fraction of the possibilities which can take place. 

You are correct in that in all of these cases, a distinction can be made in that they are all supposed to be able to support themselves (or relative able to support them) or have a job offer lined up for when they arrive. The USCIS website is a great resource for looking at all these classes. There are different requirements for every class and various alternatives/different options. 

If you are staying here on a non-immigrant visa, you are categorized as an alien. The most common ways for an individual on a non-immigrant class visa to get an immigrant class visa is through their spouse/parents or through work. One has to apply for this process and the costs per visa class vary, although they are all in the thousands of dollars. If the person is applying for a work visa, usually the employer will pay this fee. This class transfer process can take a 2 months to years to happen depending on individual circumstances and how backlogged the USCIS processing facility is. If the person’s current non-immigrant class visa expires and they are unable to renew it, they are expected to return to their country until the new visa is valid. 

Only an individual applying for a green card through their spouse can apply for their own green card. Also, green cards are “permanent visas”. All other classes are non-permanent. They are called “permanent resident aliens” or immigrants, although immigrant is not entirely accurate in this case because they have not gone through the entire process of becoming a citizen. Anyway, a person who applies for their green card through their spouse must legally reside in the US and be able to financially support their self and their family. If not, they have to find someone who can sign that they can financially support them. 

In all other cases, a green card must be applied for by someone other than the alien, whether it be family or employer. This entity assumes all financial responsibility for the alien. This process cost is in the thousands of dollars and can take 6 months to indefinitely. Indefinitely because requests are processed by class of green card in order of when they applied and what country they are from. If the alien is from a country with a high volume of applicants per year, they are likely to wait a much longer time. Also, because the US restricts the number of green cards issued per year by a number selected seemingly by whim, this further restricts one’s chances. 

Also, if the alien is on a work visa, the employer does not have to ever apply for a green card. It is totally up to them. If the employer does file and the employee is terminated for whatever reason, the alien has 1 year to find employment on the same class of visa or both their work visa and green card application expire. 

Once a person has attained a green card, life is much simpler. If the green card is conditional, they have to apply for a permanent one after 2 years. Permanent green card holders renew every 10 years and this process is not bad either. After 5 years in most cases, The individual is able to apply for citizenship. 

This is really scratching the tip of the iceberg, but it gives you an idea, which is another reason why we need immigration reform.

We are a “christian” nation detached from the Judeo-Christian tradition

It’s time to study the reputations of the kings of Israel and Judah, and why God sent prophets to challenge those who were arrogant, presumptuous and only focused on national security.

Also, what was going on with the Pharaoh power elite and why God enabled the vulnerable slaves to confront and overcome the unjust economic and militaristic monopoly that pharaoh sought.

As well, from the time Abram left Haran until the slave children of Israel entered the promised land, they had been alien, itinerant people for hundreds of years and many generations. The judeo-christian faith was formed and its foundation is a people without a land viewed as the foreign aliens…often intruders. I do not see that faith tradition in much of the American christian church today!

Reading list for these times

“The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day”
Founder of the Catholic Worker movement

“The Long Haul: An Autobiography”
By Myles Horton, Presbyterian minister, organizer among illiterate and discriminated folks in the south and Appalachia in organizing for voting and economic self-development, trained ML King in non-violence

“Letters and Papers from Prison”
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, martyr in Nazis Germany

“Letter from Birmingham Jail”
By Martin Luther King, based on Bonhoeffer’s book and the Apostle Paul’s letters from prison

By Pablo Freire
“Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
“Education for Critical Consciousness”

We are in the thick of it

I am reposting this from a reply I posted in the thread on the Colombian family who is being deported. Again it was the nuns of the Catholic Worker program here in the Summit Lake neighborhood who have been the faithful, courageous witnesses in this and similar situations for years:

Folks we no longer have the luxury of being shocked, aghast or to rage “it’s unfair.” We are in deep conflict. Become informed. Study. Don’t try to “educate” to change policies. Bannon is counting on naive liberal types to spend time trying to “educate” for change. We are past that. Educate yourself and then organize. Know about all these things backwards and forwards. Then seek out those who didn’t vote. Those who seem apathetic. Show them how this is impacting their life with deep suffering. Don’t try to change the “other side.” As I said, we don’t have time for that as many of your reactions to this family’s situation indicates. There is no one else out there to change this. There is no magic pill available some where. You are the magic pill! You are the someone else out there who can change this. Devote your life not to being an intellectual informed liberal. Become an aware, courageous change agent in whatever way that you feel and understand what that means for you. This is urgent. Remember Bannon et al are expecting us to flutter about in indignant rage. And to have bake sales.