We share a sense of somber relief in response to yesterday’s guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin. George Floyd was a father, son, and brother whose life mattered. We pray this verdict brings some measure of healing and acknowledgement to the Floyd family, and is a first step of accountability for a tragic and preventable loss of life. We pray that this moment marks an end to the impunity of law enforcement, particularly with violence enacted towards Black people. We believe that our society must be one that treats Black lives as sacred and one that fosters care, compassion, and dignity.
We offer our prayers to the Floyd family and thousands of other families alike who have lost a loved one to police violence. We remember yesterday’s latest victim, Ma’Khia Bryant, along with Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and those here in California: Steven Taylor, Michael Thomas, Yanira Serrano, Angelo Quinto to only name a few.
Death at the hands of police killings is a trend that is increasing and disproportionately impacts the lives of Black people at three times the rate of other communities. So far this year over 260 civilians have been killed by police. LA County Sheriff’s and LAPD have killed over 1,000 people since 2000. It is not just a few bad apples. Police violence is an epidemic and threat to public health and safety.
We need radical change and transformation in order to realize an equitable and just world. The existing system which focuses solely on punishment, does not bring about restoration but continues the cycle of harm and violence. True transformation and change cannot be achieved through our current system of policing, punishment, and prisons. We need processes that center healing and transformation.
True justice will come through the eradication of structural racism and individual bias. True justice will come when public safety is reimagined and centers on violence prevention and investing resources for people to thrive. True justice will come when we create a society where every person is respected, valued and embraced in their full selves.
We invite you to join with us at the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity in our organizing efforts to reimagine public safety in our communities and along our border, where we are calling for a radical redirection of funds from harmful enforcement models into investing in affordable housing, good jobs, equitable health and education, programs and support for youth and elders.
As a nation, it is time for us to pass federal legislation like the Breathe Act which invests in a new vision of public safety, genuine security and liberation. Only restorative justice will get us out of this long pattern of collective trauma and move us towards collective healing. We hope you will join us.
As people of faith, we believe that people everywhere must have the fundamental human rights to land, economic security, health, education, and dignity. People should have the right to migrate and the right to stay home.
Recently the news has been filled with headlines stirring up familiar tropes and fears of an invasion of non-white immigrants at our southern border. Some are politically using vulnerable immigrants to create a “crisis” at the US-Mexico border. The real crisis is not at the border, but rather the global context that forces people to migrate. Inequality, climate change, neoliberal economic policies, and militarization are the root causes of poverty and migration in much of the world. In order to address any problem systemically, we must address the root causes, particularly as defined by indigenous people, women’s groups, and grassroots communities on the ground. We must acknowledge what has been the role of the US government and corporations in exacerbating the problem. We must address root causes with co-responsibility, collective action, and community care so people aren’t forced to migrate.
This Could Be Done Differently
As a country, we have enough resources to welcome new immigrants and respond in a humane, responsible, and compassionate manner. The Biden Administration promised to restore asylum rights and have a different approach to refugees and migrants. But in March, 17,345 people who came to the border as part of a family were expelled, a full third of all families. Although President Biden has ceased the Trump practice of expelling unaccompanied children which was blocked by the courts last November, he has failed to rescind Title 42, which was invoked by the Trump administration to use the pandemic as an excuse to expel anyone arriving and seeking asylum. The continued practice of Title 42 has forced some families to separate at the border leaving some to become “unaccompanied minors.” The label “unaccompanied minors” is misleading. In fact 90% of so-called unaccompanied minors have family members already in the US with whom they plan to reunite. The longstanding practices of Customs and Border Patrol, has led to making children “unaccompanied,” by failing to recognize other trusted family members with whom they are travelling as family.
We believe there is another way. The Biden Administration is seeking to create “influx centers,” another name for massive child detention facilities. Our countries’ history of separating families and warehousing children goes back to the genocidal policies towards indigenous and Black communities. Immigrant children have been subject to it since.
Detention in large scale influx facilities is not the solution now, not during a pandemic, and not ever.Health professionals and child welfare advocates are clear that such settings which deprive children of their freedom are inherently harmful to children for any amount of time. Evidence suggests that children housed in these situations face severe trauma and “will likely suffer acute, sustained, and even permanent impacts to their minds and bodies.” These “emergency influx shelters” are part of decades of policies under Republican and Democratic administration to criminalize versus humanize migrants. The top priority must be non-detention solutions which rapidly reunite children with their parents, trusted caregivers or family members must be the top priority. The Biden administration must rescind Title 42 and apply financial resources to more rapidly vet and process children to get them out of detention and reunite them with their families.
We Can Respond with Compassion
We have more than enough resources to approach this in a different way. The question is, “Do we have enough courage and heart?” If we are courageous we can do the right thing and respond with compassion. We can reimagine our current system of detention and deportation by responding with collective action and community care to welcome people in safe and dignified ways. We have organized and witnessed the ability of communities to come together to support and accompany newly arrived immigrants seeking safety in the US as an alternative to family separation and detention. With redirected government resources, this could meet the need and be even more impactful.
We need to commit to the core values of human dignity and freedom, that no one belongs in cages. But that everyone deserves communities of care and welcome and support that they need to fully thrive.
Support our campaigns that uphold the vision of a world without bars and borders.
Today at protests you might see signs like Abolish ICE, Abolish Police, Abolish Prisons. Abolition is a word that makes people uncomfortable. It is controversial, today and historically when it referred to the abolition of slavery, a movement that at its founding was anchored by faith inspired activists who felt that the very existence of the institution of slavery was antithetical to spiritual and moral integrity. They were up against powerful economic and political systems that still perpetuate white supremacy. But they were morally clear that every person was made in the image of God and that no one was born to be in bondage. They believed that slavery did not have to exist. It could end and people could be freed.
Perhaps there is a lesson in that for us too, as we consider modern day abolitionists who are seeking to eradicate systems that are cruel, brutal, and profit from anti-blackness and racism. Author of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Locking Up Our Own,” James Forman Jr. says, “What I love about abolition,…is the idea that you imagine a world without prisons, and then you work to try to build that world.” When we have lived with entrenched systems for so long, it can be hard to imagine a different way of organizing our society, a different way of relating and addressing issues. We invite you to envision with us what a world without prisons and ICE detention might look like and what could exist instead?
We have come to know Mario, age 43, who has been detained for 3 years in immigration detention. He was transferred into ICE custody after serving seven years in prison. Ten years ago, Mario got into a physical altercation while intoxicated which landed him in prison for a seven year sentence. Mario regrets this act and wishes that day had gone very differently. But let’s imagine how this whole situation could have been handled differently.
From a young age Mario experienced a lot of trauma and violence. He along with his family fled a violent Civil War in El Salvador, which was prolonged by US military intervention. As a refugee family, displaced by war, the family ended up in San Bernardino County in CA. The community offered little to no resources to help the family adjust to life in the US or process the trauma. Mario’s father was violent and abusive towards Mario and the family. Mario also experienced bipolar mental health disorder, but this went undiagnosed for years. Without access to resources that could have helped him, such as medical treatment, therapists, and community support, he learned to self medicate through alcohol and drugs.
With proper treatment, Mario was able to be a fuller version of himself. In prison, Mario helped create a faith support group where those incarcerated formed a brotherhood helping one another. Mario was able to take a faith-based recovery program and pursue his studies of theology. He developed a ministerial gift to counsel other men. Why did Mario have to wait to be incarcerated to receive the treatment and support he needed? Why are our systems set up in a way to be reactive, rather than proactive? How could Mario have received help instead of punishment?
After serving his seven year sentence and earning parole, Mario’s family was waiting for him to finally come home. But because he is a non-citizen, an immigrant and a refugee, Mario was instead taken directly by ICE to an immigration detention facility. Instead of being able to work through his immigration legal case in the care of his family, he was deemed “dangerous” because of his prison record, and has been locked indefinitely in immigration detention for 3 years. In an abolition society, Mario would have had access to a diagnosis, medication, therapy, community and been able to be home.
An abolition society sees the sacredness in each other, and finds ways to support and honor each individual’s needs. Abolition means envisioning a way we could address problems and treat people differently based on creating systems of care. Abolition means whole-heartedly addressing the root causes of oppression and impoverishment; investing in safety and security by fulfilling human needs such as housing, education, healthcare, a sustainable planet, meaningful employment, and beloved community.
Join us in realizing that beloved community through the work we are leading, like passing measures and budgets in Los Angeles and Oakland and other cities to redirect funding from policing towards community based programs that can help prevent problems and support people through mental health and preventative programs. We are also advocating to redirect funds from ICE used to unnecessarily detain immigrants and asylum seekers towards community case management and accompaniment.