by Kathleen Mundle

What was it like to be a six-year-old child taken from her mother at the border?

What happens to Charlotte’s undocumented immigrants if they are stopped for a traffic violation?

Do we have valid statistics on Charlotte’s undocumented immigrants detained under Section 287(g)* and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

Can we influence immigrant policy in Charlotte?

These issues and others were the focus of Right(s) at Home ~ A Forum on Immigration, sponsored by the Charlotte Women’s March on April 24.

But one issue clearly stood out: If you want to change the way Charlotte treats its undocumented immigrants, you must vote in the May 8 primary elections and vote again in the mid-term elections November 6.

Love the Stranger

During the recent holiday of Passover, the Jewish community recounted the story of the exodus from Egypt, Rabbi Judith Schindler, Sklut Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University, told the assembly.

Seeking freedom and safety is not just a Jewish experience, she said. “Unless we are Native American, we all immigrated to this country.”

For Jewish people, the Hebrew Bible is a sacred text; for others it is a source of wisdom, Rabbi Schindler said. A prominent teaching known as the Golden Rule — love your neighbor as yourself — is found only one time in the five books of Moses. Yet that same text tells us 36 times to remember, and even love the stranger.

Why 36 times? Because, she reminded us, loving the stranger isn’t easy. “It requires active protection,” but our community today is doing the opposite of that.

While many of us are trying to nurture our students’ dreams and visions, she said, the country’s policies of terminating DACA** and threatening the undocumented with deportation, and our local 287(g) enforcement policy strike fear in our foreign born.

She has seen students at Queens University become overwhelmed with fear. While the Obama administration focused on arresting and deporting only the most serious criminals, the Trump administration has expanded the deportation rate, terminated DACA, and stripped away their rights, she said.

Today we are casting out the stranger, Rabbi Schindler said. Section 287(g) is shattering our neighbors’ dreams, preventing students from getting a higher education, and silencing the voices of students for whom speaking up now feels unsafe.

“I am in my comfort zone in speaking about the moral imperative of terminating section 287(g),” she said.

Taking Action

Organizations and their members can take a number of steps to help bring about change, Rabbi Schindler said, telling the audience members to climb any of the six-rungs of the “ladder of civic engagement.”

Build relationships: Volunteer with immigrants, make sure they are on non-profit boards, hire them, go to their restaurants, talk to them.

Educate yourself: Learn about the issues that affect immigrants.

Engage in philanthropy: Give to agencies that support the immigrant population, such as the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Advocate: Stand up for legislation that would keep immigrants safe and give them a path to citizenship, protect undocumented youth, and terminate section 287(g). Vote!

Organize: Join any of the many groups working on these issues, e.g., Action NC, the Latin American Coalition, Communidad Collectiva, or Queens University’s Sun Greenspon Center.

Become part of the movement: Connect with the national movement to support immigrant right and reform.

We are eternally going forth from Egypt, Rabbi Schindler said. “The freedom attained long ago did not miraculously happen — people had to band together and use their power to change the status quo.”

*Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to deputize selected state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law. Charlotte is an active participant in this activity.

**DACA is the Deferred Action for Arrivals program that gave temporary protections to young adults brought illegally into this country as children. In announcing that he would not renew the program, President Trump put those young people in jeopardy of being deported.

Thank you to Brent Bent and Revospect Productions for the photo.

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