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Immigration Justice: Session 2

 

Advance Reading: Members of the group should read Chapters Three and Four of Undocumented by Aviva Chomsky.

Note: For this session, please have a laptop or other means available to play for your group the song noted below, “La Bestia.”

Opening Words

“The [realm] of God is concerned with the restoration of lost harmonies, with the healing of fractured integrities, with the creation of new spaces within the soul.  One way of understanding the [realm] of God is to think of it as a code word for ‘mending the creation’ and for enlarging the space in which it can flourish.” — Alan Jones, Episcopal priest and theologian

Gather

Invite group members to share any reflections or feelings that arose after last week’s conversation.

Discussion: PT 1

There are many perils that migrants face as they seek to travel across Mexico to the border of the United States. Chomsky describes many of them in these chapters, including coyotes, narco-traffickers, criminal networks that kidnap and torture migrants for ransom, and law enforcement officials who collaborate with both.

  1. Based on the readings this week, how would you explain the connections between stricter border law enforcement and a rise in criminality? If you suddenly had the power to change border enforcement in any way that made sense to you, what would you do?
  2. Does this week’s reading leave you with a different understanding of the interaction between government and non-government actors in committing human rights abuses?
  3. A growing number of activist faith communities are challenging our country’s current immigration policies on the grounds that our own government is violating fundamental human rights. What do you think of this argument? What does the voice of our faith say to us, as we engage this challenging idea?
Music Break: La Bestia

Invite the group to listen to this song, “La Bestia,” which was created by U.S. Customs as propaganda to discourage immigration but ended up becoming an unexpected pop hit in Latin America.

Invite group members to share any feelings that arose as they listened to the song and read the lyrics.

Discussion: PT 2

Once people arrive in the United States, they often face deportation or detention, if they are caught without papers. Please have someone from your group read aloud the following quotation from this unit’s reading:

“Immigration court is a separate entity from the criminal justice system; it is an administrative court. This means that the whole body of law designed to protect those accused of crimes and guarantee them a fair trial does not apply. […] In the immigration detention system, prisoners have few rights and often lack the means to find out what rights they do have or make use of these rights. For example, immigrants have the right to be represented by an attorney, but not at public expense. Many detainees don’t know that they have the right to representation, don’t know how to obtain representation, and/or can’t afford it. For those who do go through deportation hearings, 84 percent lack representation.”

  1. What surprised you as you reflected on the human rights implications explored in these chapters? Did the information contained here change your understanding of the American justice system as it applies to migrants?
  2. What are the potential human rights implications as our prisons and detention facilities are rapidly privatized? What conflicts of interest are or could be involved in privatization?
  3. Were there elements of Chomsky’s arguments in these chapters with which you disagree? Areas you’d like to understand more deeply?
Closing Words

The Common Good

We breathe the common wind of the earth
no matter where we live, who we love,
what language we speak.

We drink the common water of the earth
no matter what our race, how long we live,
the coverings we drape on our forms.

We walk the common paths of the earth
no matter our beliefs, how far we move from home,
the gold that we carry, or its lack.

May we live from these truths: our hearts
open to the holiness all around us,
and our hands turned always toward the common good.

— Rev. Kathleen McTigue

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