I just came back from a meeting that should not be — a meeting to plan how to protect the human rights of immigrants in the United States.
The January 9 Assemblea de Derechos Civiles meeting held at the Church of the Incarnation in South Minneapolis, had a feeling of urgency as community gathered to talk about a new round of raids being carried out by Homeland Security, targeting recent refugees from Central America who have fled escalating violence in their countries.
The bulk of the raids have been in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, but participants at the Minneapolis meeting spoke of their local experiences with deportations, detentions, and raids. One mother spent 18 months separated from her children. A teacher broke down in tears relating the deportation of one of his student’s parents. A woman talked of a 3AM visit from men in uniform carrying guns, looking for someone she did not know. They surrounded her house, blocking every possible exit as though her home was the site of a major crime scene. And in a way it was — officers, participating in the crime of U.S. immigration policies that terrorize and criminalize people for seeking a better life.
The meeting leader told of talking with a refugee who looked hungry. She asked her if she needed food. The woman replied she has lost her appetite, because everyone she loves has disappeared. The woman’s story, and those of other Central Americans, reminded her of Anne Frank.
Raids like those currently being carried out by Homeland Security are meant to instill a sense of fear in an entire community. There are names for governments that use such tactics. Democracy is not one of them.
The Assemblea has an ambitious agenda. They are involved in a coalition working to expand access to drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants in Minnesota. They are joining organizations across the country to demand that President Obama stop the raids currently separating families. They plan to confront Presidential candidates when they visit Minnesota, and the Mayor and city council to demand non-compliance with the raids in Minneapolis.They are organizing know-your-Rights events in area churches and a mobilization of people of faith.
It’s an ambitious agenda indeed, but even if none of it got done, the meeting would be worthwhile. Some people leaving the January 9, 2016, reunion at Incarnation Church still felt preocupado (fearful), but most left feeling fortalecida, (fortified) bienvenido, (welcome) agradecido, (grateful) sorprendido, (surprised) at the soldiarity, inspirado, y con esperanza, inspired and hopeful.
Not what Homeland Security had in mind.
Next meeting, Saturday January 16, at 5pm at Incarnation Church, 38th and Pleasant Ave S.