Anna Campbell shares details of her recent trip to Indianapolis with us. Anna is National Network Coordinator of the Asylum and Immigration Network, an initiative co-sponsored by LIRS and PCUSA designed to engage more Lutherans and Presbyterians in work to accompany vulnerable migrants affected by detention policies in this country.
Growing up Presbyterian and daughter of a youth minister, I had heard plenty of a place called Louisville. I knew the city was home to a lot of fellow Presbyterians, but that was about all I knew. On June 27th, 2011 I finally traveled to Louisville and experienced the city for the first time.
I arrived on Monday morning and was welcomed by Julia Thorne, my supervisor on the PCUSA side and Manager of the Office of Immigration Issues. My main goals in visiting Louisville were to meet my “other half” and become better acquainted with the work of the denomination. Julia and I were also working with Melissa Gee and Emily Claus to finalize our plans for Big Tent, the triennial Presbyterian event starting later that week in Indianapolis where we were scheduled to conduct two workshops and host a booth throughout the entire convention.
Once we arrived in Indianapolis, I set up our table in the exhibit hall and had further opportunity to meet and talk with PCUSA staff about their work with the denomination. Once the exhibit hall opened, we were flooded with questions and conversation. All of our packets and various handouts slowly disappeared into the hands of interested persons. It was reassuring for me to encounter so many Presbyterians who aren’t only concerned with our country’s unjust immigration enforcement and practices, but are actively looking for ways to make a difference in the lives of those negatively impacted by such policies.
Over the course of the next three days, Julia, Melissa and I hosted two workshops for the Office of Immigration Issues. We created dialogue regarding recent headlines and controversial statements coming out of the immigration debate nation-wide. Then, we presented our new resources and demonstrated how an individual can educate, engage and inspire their community and/or congregation to learn more about immigration.
We had five specific issues, one packet for each:
- The DREAM act;
- Comprehensive immigration reform;
- State legislation;
- Refugee resettlement; and
- Detention in the United States.
Each little packet contained basic information about the issue, a short quiz to test ones knowledge, a movie suggestion with discussion questions, a bible study, how to take legislative action, where to look and how to contact a speaker to present the issue, direct service partnerships and general resources and suggested websites where people can turn to for more information. All of these packets are available electronically, and if you or your congregation would like them, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-230-2838.
It seemed as though people left the room feeling confident in their ability to approach and talk about immigration issues without being overwhelmed or caught up in the negative rhetoric we hear on the news. Being in Louisville and Indianapolis was reenergizing and encouraging for me – it gave me hope and reaffirmed my passion for bringing justice to the immigration system in the United States.
In 2010, more than 400,000 migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers faced prolonged detention with little to no judicial review or access to a lawyer.
All at a cost of $1.7 billion dollars to taxpayers.
On any given day, the U.S. immigration authority detains over 32,000 people. But when we look closely we see that many of those in detention are asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking and others who should be helped, and not thrown into a jail cell.
We forget that every person’s case is different. And if we were to shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to an individualized case-by-case determination of who should be detained, we could create a more humane and cost-cutting enforcement system.
- Because if they are not a flight risk or a security risk, they shouldn’t be deprived of their liberty for months, and sometimes years.
- Because we believe in the principle of proportionality- someone should only be deprived of their liberty to the extent that they cannot be trusted to appear in court.
- Because we know that there is a spectrum of choices to ensure people comply with immigration courts ranging from release on bail and community-support programs on one end, to ankle monitors and detention on the other.
- Because the difference between alternatives to detention and detention is not only an estimated saving to taxpayers of $100 a day per detainee, for those released it is a chance to go through immigration proceedings with dignity and the support of family and community.
Help us and our partners lead the transformation. In June we will be releasing a report that explores how the expansion of Alternatives to Detention can increase the government’s ability to achieve its goals for immigration enforcement as well as meet human rights obligations. In the meantime spread the word and get people talking on Facebook and visit our partners at the Detention Watch Network and get more information.