Accompaniment IM4HI Vision

Accompaniment and Solidarity in Honduras

by Professor Amy Argenal

Seven years ago, I attended my first pilgrimage to Honduras as part of a group of faith leaders to explore the root causes of migration. I wanted to explore the root causes of migration so I could understand them and become a better advocate and solidarity partner.  Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, along with Share El Salvador, organized the pilgrimage to help us learn and understand more profoundly why so many families and children from Honduras were showing up at the U.S./Mexico border.  Many of us had our own assumptions, especially as the narrative of gang violence was running rampant in our media. But what we heard in Honduras was completely different and it changed me.  

During our first visit in 2015, we spent time with communities who were being pushed off their land for large scale development projects It was tourism causing displacement in the territory of the Garifuna peoples.  We later came to hear about Berta Caceres and the struggle of the Lencan people, who faced attacks by Honduran security forces for protecting their sacred river fromhydro-electric projects. We accompanied them on marches against the corruption of US-backed former President Juan Orlando Hernandez, commonly known as JOH, who had facilitated the theft of the public health system and privatization of the roads.  We returned to the US with their requests to withdraw support for former President JOH and to stop US military and security aid to Honduras that was being used to intimidate and criminalize communities who resisted.

Juana Zúñiga (L), community leader in Guapinol, with Professor Amy Argenal (R)

In 2018, we visited the community of Guapinol.  This community was resisting a large-scale mining project taking place in the Carlos Escalaras national park mountains that was the source of several rivers bringing water to communities in the Bajo Aguan region of the country.  When the mining company, Inversiones Pinares, began constructing the road to get to the mountain, it polluted the Guapinol River. In response,  the community engaged in nonviolent direct action to block the road.  The Guapinol encampment ended in violence between security forces and the community, and eight of the leaders were imprisoned without trial for nearly three years.  

We returned back home to the U.S. and Canada with a commitment to uphold international solidarity by freeing the Guapinol 8 and accompanying  Honduran communities seeking to defend their land and water. 

Reverend Deborah Lee shared with my students that Critical Migration Studies must  interrogate power. It must ask “who makes our immigration laws and policies and for whose benefit?” and “who decides what aid and development projects go where, and for whose benefit?”  Here in the United States, we are often the ones to benefit from large scale development projects that take place in locations far and unknown where we don’t have to see the cost and consequences of our consumption.  

Seven years later, I have continously returned  to Honduras. Sometimes I have gone twice in the same year  to accompany and walk in solidarity with communities struggling for the right to land, water, and the right to remain in their home, the right to not have to migrate. 

Interfaith Movement has deeply instilled in me the question of what does it mean to accompany.   Accompaniment with those suffering injustice takes many forms at Interfaith Movement for Human IntegrityWe accompany newly arrived families, those seeking freedom from immigration detention, and those fighting for the right to remain, who are dismantling oppression and tackling the roots of injustice.  

Accompaniment means to walk alongside, to hold up, to support, and also to follow with open hearts. To accompany must include understanding deeply and showing up when called for. This work is long term, and can take many forms. Relationships are important. The accompaniment of Guapinol over the years meant continual messages of solidarity, checking in, calling members of Congress, posting on social media, and organizing events.  For me it meant to be presente! To show up in court in Honduras as an international observer when the trial started, to carry a banner of the Guapinol 8 at the inauguration  of President Xiomara Castro, and to learn the Environmentalist Cumbia from amazing women leaders like Juana and Juana, like Esly, and Adelia! It meant to pray with Juan sitting outside the court house where the whole community gathered,slept, and strategized with our dear friend Reynaldo.

This Spring 2022, there is much to celebrate on the accompaniment journey with communities in Honduras.  In January, the regime of President Juan Orlando Hernandez came to an end. He is facing extradition to the US on charges for narcotrafficking.  Honduras’ first woman President, Xiomara Castro, was elected and inaugurated.  In the early part of February, local organizing and international pressure freed the Gupainol 8 and charges were dropped.  To see the videos of the leaders arriving back home to their community’s gathering place, the soccer field,  after three years, brought tears of joy to my eyes.   I know that, for the Guapinol community, this is just the start. They still have to fight to close down the mining company, and protect their water, livelihoods, and right to remain.  There is still continued work to pressure the US government to end military and security aid through the Berta Caceres Act and the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act.  Even though there is a new administration, the corrupt and problematic military apparatus that have criminalized and assassinated land and water defenders still remain.  

This is why I continue to walk, to accompany, to be in solidarity with, and to strive for a better world where borders do not exist to separate our families, and detain our peoples. Instead, I strive for a world where communities can make a choice about whether they migrate or remain, and where all communities can thrive.  

Professor Amy Argenal is a human rights educator at the University of San Francisco and a life-long learner with Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.

IM4HI Vision

Filipinx American History Month

Hinabing mga kasaysayan tungkol sa pananampalataya at katarungan
Weaving the stories of faith and justice 

Weaving our banig (woven mat)

Filipino American History Month (FAHM) is a time the Filipinx community in the U.S. diaspora lifts up and celebrates our legacy within the U.S., our stories of migration, our stories of contribution to this land.  In my role with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, I am blessed to be a weaver of sorts. Inspired by the banigs (woven mats) I often sit on at community picnics, or on the floor of the home of a family in Pampanga, Philippines. We weave together people of faith with those impacted by immigration and incarceration. We weave together movements of immigration justice and ending mass incarceration. We weave together our identities, for me as a Filipinx in diaspora with deep-rooted cultural, faith, and healing traditions, and a legacy of resistance and justice. 

This Filipino American History Month, I want to reflect on the stories we don’t often tell, the stories of resistance and resilience within our Filipinx community, stories of our bayan who are impacted by the twin systems of immigration and incarceration, and how our Filipinx cultural and faith traditions guide us to respond. 

Filipinx youth sitting on a banig (woven mat) learning about Estelito Adiova, a Filipinx community member detained in Imperial Regional Detention Facility. The youth are holding origami cranes folded by community members inside San Quentin, as a symbol of pagkakaisa (solidarity), July 2021.

Ating mga bayan (our people)

Our bayan are among the 1,140 people detained in immigrant detention centers across the state. Estelito Adiova, an immigrant from the Philippines, endured years of separation from his family, and battled a drug addiction. After serving a 32-month prison sentence related to his addiction, he was granted parole, but Estelito was directly transferred into ICE custody where he is currently fighting his deportation to the Philippines and hoping to be reunited with Bay Area family and community. If deported, Estelito would be at grave risk of being targeted given his drug-related conviction. In the Philippines, the epidemic of human rights abuses topping 30,000 people are targeting the poor, activists, people of LGBTQ identity, and anyone who criticizes the authoritarian President Duterte. 

Our bayan are also incarcerated at high rates.  In California, Filipinos are one of the largest subgroups of Asian American incarcerated adult males. In a ground-breaking survey conducted by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC), they interviewed 513 Asian Pacific Islanders currently and formerly incarcerated in California prisons. Among Southeast Asians (including Filipinx), they found that 82.9% experienced economic hardship, 80% experienced childhood violence , and 65% joined a gang.  Many faced the following difficulties in school: language barriers (48%), bullying (56%), lack of counseling (51%), and extreme poverty (35%).

The report also found that 36% of Southeast Asian respondents had an ICE hold, meaning that when they are found eligible for release from state prison, instead of being reunited with family/community like U.S. citizens would be, they will be directly transferred into ICE custody and face deportation. In California, it is estimated that 80% of interior ICE arrests (not including border arrests) are direct transfers from jails and prisons after being found eligible for release.

Maria Legarda, a community and faith leader, is one of those impacted by both systems. As a young adult, Maria immigrated from the Philippines, and faced many hardships that led to addiction and contributed to her serving 14 years in one of California’s largest women’s prisons. When Maria was found eligible for release, instead of being welcomed home by her community, she was transferred into ICE custody and detained for 11 months. Maria often shares that her faith is what gave her strength to survive these harsh systems. Today Maria is living in the Bay Area, fighting her immigration case so that she can remain with loved ones, and is active in the anti-deportation movement.

Building Beloved Bayanihan (Community)

This Filipino American History Month, let us also celebrate the ways we are replacing these punitive systems with beloved bayanihan, with our community-led organizing, strategies, and collectives of care. With the leadership of directly impacted Filipinx community members and allies, we created a space for us to center these stories, named Kasama ng Kalayaan collective (Together for Freedom). 

As one of the founding leaders, Shelly Clements, says, “Mga kaibigan siguro parang wala tayong makaya sa situation na ito pero kong marami tayo siguro mas tayong may maaaring maggawa.”  “Friends and family, it may seem that we can’t do anything about this situation, but if we come together, we will find a way to resolve this problem.”

Beloved bayanihan is demonstrated in the story of kasama (friend) “P”, who was detained by ICE in Yuba County Jail for over 4 years after being found eligible for release from prison. With the support of community advocates and lawyers, he was granted release from ICE after demonstrating that the mental health services in Yuba were inadequate. “P” was released into a community of care, where he was housed, provided an opportunity to volunteer, connected to culturally-relevant mental health services, and is now working in a Filipino supermarket immersed in his community. 

Filipinx faith leaders are essential to building beloved bayanihan, like Pastor Henry Pablo, currently serving as a United Methodist Church pastor for two congregations in the Central Valley. Pastor Pablo reminds us: “It’s important to explore the intersections of Filipinx identity, of faith identity, because we can truly empower and inform our social work and the way we engage in community with each other… our faith can be a source of resilience and hope, it can also be a source of struggle and solidarity.”

This Filipino American History Month I hope you join me in weaving Filipinx identity and faith, weaving together these stories of resistance, faith, and hope, so that we can all be a part of building beloved bayanihan 

Filipinx community and faith leaders gathering for a meal: Maria Legarda, Shelly Clements and family, and Gala King (author of this article).

Gala King is a 2nd generation pinay, raised in the midwest by a fierce Bisaya nanay, and Caucasian activist tatay. Currently, Gala resides in Huichin also known as Oakland, California, with her partner and two sons, and works as the Northern California Regional Director for Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. 

IM4HI Vision

Youth Voices Say: Stop ICE Transfers

Change will happen when everyone is aware of the injustice that exists within our immigrant communities and families. We have so much power, more than we even know. We can and will help change this country’s immigration system. We the youth are the future. We must stand together to help keep our families and communities together.

-Hulissa Aguilar, IM4HI Summer Youth Intern 2021

IM4HI walks alongside immigrants as they bravely navigate this country’s inhumane policies and practices. It is particularly challenging for those who have to navigate both systems of incarceration and immigrant detention, and the ongoing collaboration between.  

Children and youth are especially impacted. Not only are they harmed by the prolonged separation from their parents, the years of emotional toil as they navigate the confusing immigration system, and also the uncertainty that this tumultuous journey will never end. Stable environments are critical so that children can learn and grow.  The immigration and incarceration systems in this country do not take into consideration the devastating and traumatic impact on the youth and children of those they detain.

Youth are not passive victims of the immigration system but they are also agents of change.  Youth are stepping up and fighting back to create their own vision for justice and freedom.

With the leadership of our 2021 Summer Youth Intern, Hulissa Aguilar, beginning with her own journey advocating for her father after he was transferred into ICE custody, the youth voice is finally being heard. 

Hulissa Aguilar is joined by other youth outside of Senator Harris’ office calling for an end to family separation, during a foot washing ritual led by IM4HI, April 2018.

Youth are advocating to ensure their beloved fathers, mothers, and loved ones, can come home to their family and community, after earning release from prison and jail:  something that Hulissa’s father Hugo, was not able to experience.  The VISION Act (AB 937) authored by Assembly member Wendy Carillo and co-authored by 25 other State Assembly members and senators, is a bold, visionary policy that is on the brink of passing through the State Senate, and then on to Governor Newsom’s desk.

Add your voice to the voices of youth calling for the passage of the VISION Act and support their actions for freedom and wholeness for their families.

  • Watch and Retweet the Youth Video here.  We need State Senator Portantino, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to hear the youth voice who are calling to stop ICE transfers.  

Youth have a stake in the future of our immigration system. They are some of the most harshly impacted and are also one of the most powerful voices for change.

 Together, with us, you can help amplify their voice and witness their journey.  

–Galatea King and Hulissa Aguilar