Friday, January 18, 2019

On Immigration and Detention Centers: Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime

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"Members of the local activist group Rise And Resist organized a silent protest on January 17, 2019 at the Oculus at the World Trade Center, calling on the Trump administration to immediately process all asylum seekers." (Photo and caption by Erik McGregor)
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Photo by Diane Green Lent.
With Vince LiebhartBenjamin Heim Shepard andPatricia Okoumou.

“Her maternal grandmother had two sisters and  two  brothers who were exterminated in the Holocaust, and she was exposed to many discussions about mass murder, the abandonment of the scapegoated, and the responsibilities of witnesses and third parties.  The first socio-political idea that she heard was that “other people stood by and did nothing” while the Jews were destroyed…”
Sarah Schulman,  Conflict is Not Abuse, 2016

We always wonder what would we do if it happened here.
Today the question is not if but what do we  do about it.
What do we do about the scapegoated who are institutionalized,
the kids being separated from their families, sent  to  shelters and foster  care hundreds of miles away as  their parents are indefinitely detained?

On January 17th, 2019, the  New York Times reported that “Family Separation May Have Hit Thousands More Migrant Children Than Reported:

“The total number is unknown,” she said. “It is certainly more than 2,737, but how many more, precisely, is unknown.” Moreover, that number may never be known: Department officials, she said, had told her office that there were “no efforts underway to identify that. It would take away resources from children already in care.”
In an email after the call, Ms. Maxwell’s spokesman confirmed that inspectors believed the number of separated children may be “thousands” more than the 2,737 reported to the court.”

Detained, there are those who do not make it. 
Official cruelty is  our immigration policy.

So we spend our days accompanying immigrants to Immigration Customs Enforcement check ins where we hope they are not detained.
We speak out and remind the world:

Seeking Asylum is Not  a Crime.

On Thursday,  I joined   Rise and Resist in a silent protest in The Oculus at 1 World  Trade Center:

“Our message is that Seeking Asylum Is Not A Crime. There is no national security emergency on the border; there is a humanitarian emergency that can not be remedied by building a wall.
Crossing a border to seek asylum is a right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also established in U.S. law. Yet our government treats asylum seekers not only as criminals but as enemies of the state.  We will carry banners, photographs, and placards to remind everyone that there are thousands of refugees being prevented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from legally seeking asylum at a port of entry. We call on the Trump administration to immediately process all asylum seekers on the border, and to stop arresting and detaining refugees. No Wall! No Detentions! No Deportations!The Oculus is wheelchair accessible from the street at Church and Dey St. The E (WTC), #1 (Cortlandt St.) and R and W (Cortlandt St.) subway lines have wheelchair accessible exits that feed directly into the Oculus complex.”

On the way over the action, I was thinking about the article I read in the New Yorker by Alex Ross about the Frankfurt School theorists who wondered how they got National  Socialism when they aspired for socialism.  Several  of those who survived made way to the US,  where they saw continued indications that the defeat of Hitler did not mark the end of  fascism.  “[T]otalitarian mind lurked everywhere, and America was hardly free of its influence,” writes Ross.
One feels  it at the  Oculus at the World  Trade Center,  where  the  deaths of those murdered at ground zero are memorialized  by a white shape stretching  into the sky, one  part train station, another part shopping mall, earie and akin to the arcades Benjamin  fixed upon before  his suicide outside the Pyrenees in 1940. Strange  and amazing, full of contradictions, I had never  been inside.  This space memorializes a major turning point in the US toward fascism,  with the slaughter of one  group of people seemingly justifying  the destruction  of thousands and thousands of others from a place that had nothing to do with the killing, the adaption  of ‘enhanced interrogation,’  the  erosion  of ‘habeas corpus,’ and the growth of the U.S.-run global detention system that emerged after 9/11.”

Now kids are  being separated from their families, without being tracked by the government, possibly on their way to these detention centers.

My friends with Rise and Resist, were holding banners inside with photos youth locked up, with boots put on their feet, detained, tear gassed.

“Migration is a human right,” read the sign held by my friend Mel.
“Migrant kids  do not  belong  in cages.”
“Seeking asylum  is not  a crime.”

Walking around I snapped a few photos and started to miss my kids.
So I made my way out, past the armed guards and police lingering everywhere.
Outside, a group of  four police and security officers were applying a  bolt cutter to the lock on my bike.

“That’s my bike,” I told them.
“You can’t park it here!”
“Where does  it  say  that?”
“Right over  there.”  The officer pointed away.
 I could not see the sign.
I started to walk away with my bike.
“Stop,” the police ordered. “Give  us your id?”
“What am I being  charged with?”
“Land of  the free except here,” I replied looking  at the eerie other space, where city and state laws are superseded by national security apparatus, the Patriot Act, a law I have been held for. 
“Did we say you are being charged?  Park your bike on the bike rack.”
After a few minutes, they gave me back my id.
And I left, glad to be riding away, still hoping  for freedom, wondering about  the kids on  their way to detention centers.

I don’t plan to go back.

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