It’s Thursday, blog day, and as I sit here trying to collect my thoughts, I realize what an extraordinarily strange and eye opening week it’s been.
Uncertainty seems to grow day by day, which is why I chose to anchor this post with the crocuses that have emerged without fail this time of year for the past two decades in my front yard. I need any stability I can get right now, since I can’t count on it from our new president and his cadre.
I visited Senator Mark Warner’s office on Tuesday as part of a 150-participant strong constituents meeting and learned that the senator’s questions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials about how policies are being carried out are going unanswered. “No raids have been carried out in Virginia,” he was told.
But how do you define a “raid”? Breaking down a door? What about if an unsuspecting immigrant who doesn’t know their rights politely answers the door, unaware that they can demand a warrant from a judge, not merely a warrant from an ICE official, in order to allow entry? ICE won’t answer the senator’s questions.
I learned from a teacher at that meeting that children at her school are threatening immigrant children, “You better be careful or ICE is going to come and get you,” which evokes images of Germany’s brown-shirted Hitler Youth in the 1930s and ‘40s.
I learned from the senator’s staffer that an administrator of an immigrant-heavy school in our state reported that, while her school used to have perhaps 30 kids absent on any given day, recently 250 children were absent. Our immigrant community is so frightened that it’s keeping its children at home.
I learned from another (white) constituent that her son was just in court supporting an immigrant friend who was charged for being a car thief because he returned a rental car two hours late, putting him in the “dangerous criminal” category for ICE.
I watched a white woman, fighting back tears, talk about the absolute fear that her undocumented husband—who has lived here for twenty years—and his friends are living under, not able to visit their usual places to socialize, many too afraid to go to work, and her undocumented girlfriend asking for rides because she’s too afraid to walk down the street. (Coincidentally, I had just heard a woman call in to a radio show the day before describing the years-long, failed efforts she and her undocumented husband had made to get him legal status—even married to a white American woman—shattering my assumptions that marriage was an easy route to legalization.)
I learned in the newspaper that elsewhere in the country, El Paso County in Texas to be precise, ICE officials showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against a boyfriend she accused of abusing her. ICE arrested her and took her away in handcuffs. (Source)
And I learned that three hate groups operate out of the town where I live.
Really people? This is my country?
I have travelled to many countries around the world, have lived and worked abroad, and have seen what it looks like to be fearful of one’s government. “Wow,” I always thought. “I’m so lucky I’ll never have to worry about that.”
Maybe from the protected spot of my white upper middle class suburb, I won’t have to worry about ICE showing up at my door. But I refuse to sit by and watch quietly, I refuse to simply bury my head in the sand as the tenor of our country shifts to fear, hate, and intolerance.
And don’t even get me started on the important economic role our immigrants fill. For voters who wanted a “businessman” to run the country, any amount of research will reveal that the new administration’s actions against our immigrant community are bad for business, plain and simple. Or are you ready to send your own sons and daughters into the landscaping, restaurant, and domestic service industries, not to mention harder labor sectors to fill the shortages we’ll face if these policies continue? Labor shortages mean higher prices and lower productivity (Economics 101).
One of the speakers at Senator Warner’s constituents meeting said, “History will judge all of our representatives by where they stood at this critical time in our history.” The same is true for each of us as individuals.
TAKE A STAND AGAINST HATE AND INTOLERANCE
Call your elected officials to express your concerns. Sharing your personal accounts with your representatives in emails and letters is more important than ever since ICE is not answering official inquiries (this was the feedback we got directly from Senator Warner’s staffer). Get involved with local action groups. This week, for example, I helped distribute fliers to immigrant-heavy apartment buildings informing residents of their rights if ICE shows up at their door. Supporting the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other reputable organizations will help as well.
And after you take these steps, ground yourself once again, focus for a moment or two on your breath, settle your energy, say no to the drama, and be the calm within the storm until your next opportunity for mindful action presents itself.
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