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Immigration Justice: Session 1


Advance Reading: Members of the group should read the Preface, Introduction, and Chapters One and Two of Undocumented, by Aviva Chomsky.

  1. Invite participants to get comfortable and centered. Share the purposes of this study session, using the introduction above and/or your own motivations and hopes in leading this course.
  2. Ask participants to hold themselves open and receptive to new and different points of view, both from the sources used and from other members of the group. Briefly review standard ground rules for discussion, such as:
  3. “step up, step back”: be attentive to how often you are speaking. If you speak often while others are silent, step back and allow space for others; if you tend to keep your thoughts to yourself, try stepping up and sharing your insights or feelings.
  4. don’t interrupt others
  5. allow a few beats of silence between speakers, to be sure the person before you has finished and to fully absorb what they have said
  6. respect privacy: if someone has shared a deeply personal emotion or concern, allow it to remain in the context of the group rather than sharing it in coming days
  7. Use a meditation bell or a chime to invite participants into a few minutes of silence, with the goal of quieting their minds and becoming receptive to one another’s thoughts and contributions.
Opening Words

“When we are fully present and able to pay attention in a sustained way to our experience we can begin to see directly, uncolored by our ideas and concepts. Placing our trust more in loving attention and less in analyzing the story can allow space for a new way of holding the question.”

— Narayan Liebenson Grady, “Questioning the Question,” Tricycle Magazine


Invite the members of your discussion circle to begin by introducing themselves. Ask each person to say their full name – since these often hold clues to our places of origin —  and to briefly tell their family’s immigration story (just a few sentences). For those whose ancestors were brought to the Americas against their will, what do participants know of that story?


Please have someone from your group read aloud this quotation from Chapter Two:

“Among the undocumented Mayans of Providence, Rhode Island, [anthropologist] Patricia Foxen found a very different conception than what most citizens understand about illegality. Rather than imagining themselves as autonomous individuals making a decision to break the law, they […] understood their migration as a requirement imposed upon them by outsiders, which they have no right or opportunity to question. […] The coyotes that offer to take them across the border may be considered smugglers under US law, but to the Mayans Foxen studied, they were no different from the labor contractors who had been forcibly recruiting them—legally—for generations. Instead of going to the Pacific coast to work on plantations, now they were being sent to la costa del Norte to work in jewelry factories.”

  1. In what ways did this passage and others challenge, alter, or reaffirm your previous understanding of the reasons people migrate to the United States?
  2. Were there elements in the reading this week that surprised you? Are there new questions arising from the reading?
  3. Much of our national discussion about immigration assumes that people coming into the U.S. are doing so purely from the “outside,” and have no prior relationship to the United States. In what ways does Chomsky’s argument challenge this narrative?
  4. Share with the group anything new you’ve learned about (or a new perspective gained on)  the ways in which U.S. policy already affects the lives of immigrants from Latin America, long before they attempt to migrate here.
  5. Within the sphere of your own life and community, do you know personally (or have knowledge of) people whose stories might be similar to those of the Mayans in Providence?
  6. One of the images we hold at the core of our faith is that of the interdependent web, of which we are all a part. It’s a lovely image, when we consider its strands linking us to all the beauty of our world; it can be a deeply troubling image, when we consider the harder truth that it also links us to the suffering of our world. What does consideration of that sacred web evoke for you, in the context of what you’ve learned this week?
Closing Words

Spirit of Life, open our hearts to the call of the earth and all her children.  Give us the courage to follow our hearts, to always reach toward that which brings us joy.  And knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, lead us to join with others with whom we can find strength and common purpose.

Allow us to turn our minds and hearts toward one another in trust, giving love, seeking comfort, and celebrating together, all the days of our lives.  — Rev. Katherine Jesch

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