Unit 6 Destination Discussion - Arizona/Mexico

Advance Reading: Members of the group should read Chapters Seven and Eight (“Children and Families” and “Solutions”) of Undocumented by Aviva Chomsky.

Please listen to this song by Woody Guthrie, Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos), sung by his son Arlo Guthrie:

The song commemorates the crash of a plane in 1948 that was carrying migrants back to Mexico to be deported.

Please have a member of the group read aloud this quotation from the reading for this unit:

“When parents disappear into the immigration system […] they run the risk of losing custody of their children. Courts may terminate parental rights after parents are deported or detained. In the criminal justice system, prisoners have guaranteed certain rights and access to services. Immigrant detainees, though, fall into a sort of constitutional and legal netherworld. The circumstances of their detention often make it impossible for them to comply with requirements for retaining custody of their children. […] An unknown number of those children are being put up for adoption against the wishes of their parents, who, once deported, are often helpless to fight when a US judge decides that their children are better off here. […] In a 2007 case an undocumented Guatemalan woman was arrested during a raid at the chicken plant where she worked in Missouri. While she was in detention, her six-month-old son was taken from her custody and put up for adoption.”

Human Rights Watch has argued that one of the most basic of all rights is that to a private family life, free of state coercion. On this basis, they see the separation of family members from one another through deportation as a fundamental violation of human dignity (http://www.hrw.org/node/91453/section/3).

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts: “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. […] The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” (Art. XVI)

  • How do you feel about the assertion that these kinds of deportations represent our own government’s violation of human rights?
  • Are there other ways named by Chomsky in which our current immigration system violates the human rights of undocumented people?
  • What would it look like to craft an immigration policy that respects human rights?
  • What would you add, change, or subtract – if anything – to Chomsky’s discussion of “Solutions” in the final chapter?

In light of our faith:

The UU tradition places a strong emphasis on the worth and dignity of human beings. In doing so, it draws on many sources, including, but not limited to, the Jewish tradition of God’s image in humankind, Christian notions of Jesus’ suffering humanity, 19th century liberal teachings of “inborn goodness,” and 20th century religious humanism.

  • What have been some of the passages or episodes in Chomsky’s book that most resonated with this UU emphasis on human dignity?
  • Were there passages or episodes in which you were particularly struck by a sense of shared humanity with undocumented people?

Finally: What would an immigration policy look like that was truly grounded in UU values? What would it mean to respect the “inherent worth and dignity of all people” in the context of immigration reform?


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