Our immigration series continued on 8/25, hearing from local organization Immigration Justice Advocacy Movement (IJAM). While AIRR (who we heard from in our first gathering of the immigration series) works with rapid response in regards to ICE and protection of families, IJAM stands alongside families facing deportation during the court process, accompaniment to hearings, housing assistance, and legal assistance.
According to IJAM’s website, they are “Founded on a desire to see people of all national origins treated justly in our communities and country; since 2008 IJAM is an interfaith community organization engaging congregations; and solely focused on immigration issues in the Kansas City Metro (Kansas and Missouri). IJAM is part of the Nation-wide Sanctuary Movement.”
IJAM’s founder Laurie Anderson joined us for the evening, wearing fascinating apparel to demonstrate many of her speaking points for the evening: an emergency blanket; a suit jacket with tooth brushes and various other necessary hygienic products glued all about; and a white button down with famous hashtags around immigration. One couldn’t help but notice her interesting wardrobe and wonder “Why?”
Anderson did not leave us waiting, as she bundled up with the “warm” emergency blanket. The florescent orange and shiny silver blanket crinkled against her microphone, sounding more like tinfoil than any blanket you would want to warm yourself with. These are the exact blankets given to those who are held at our detention centers. Even the young children. Her suit jacket represents Congress’ lack of acknowledgement of necessary needs. Apparently to them, young children do not need basic needs, such as a toothbrush, soap, and menstrual products.
These are the many items young immigrant children are without for days and weeks, all the while, they are forced to sleep on small mats or even the ground, with large overhead florescent lights on all through the night. Anderson focused the evening on the young people our country is holding at our borders, in cages, specifically, reminding us this is not new. This has been happening for some time now, but it is only getting worse and is finally getting the media attention it deserved all along. We have only begun to normalize these atrocious acts of separating families.
During our time together, Anderson challenged us to read aloud direct quotes from young people held at our borders.
“They took us away from our grandmother. Now we are all alone… I have to take care of my little sister. She is very sad and misses our mother and grandmother very much. We sleep on a cement bench.There are 2 mats in the room, but the big kids take the mats. So we have to sleep on the cement bench.” Boy, age 8
We then reflected on the basic needs and hopes we desired for young people to experience, regardless of where they are from. Creativity. Abundance. Equity. Justice. These are only a few hopes mentioned for our young people, empowering us to be the voices for the children and families who have none right now through advocacy and change. By reminding ourselves what young people deserve, it focuses our attention and puts things into perspective how desperately we must seek change at our borders. To hear the full transcript of the evening, head on over to our podcasts for a listen!
If you are interested in learning more about IJAM and how you can get involved, head on over to IJAM’s website to learn how you can be a court advocate and other resources for families facing detention and deportation.