“Institutions are just habits. They’re nothing. When they’re broken, they’re broken.”
Eva Kaye-Zwiebel is a co-founder of Small Stones. In June she attended a Voice of Witness oral history workshop, where she talked about the 2016 presidential election against the background of her grandmother’s life. She told this story in an interview, which we’ve edited to create a first person narrative.
My brother was at my house on Election Day, November 8, 2016, when a giant box arrived from my Cousin Nancy. I looked at it and thought, “What the heck is this?” As we were opening it, I remembered Nancy had told me she had the steamer trunk Manna used to move from Germany to the United States. I’d said Nancy could send it to me. Manna was my grandmother. Her name was Marianne, German for Mary Ann. When she was little she called herself ‘Manna’ because she couldn’t pronounce her own name, and that became the family variation on grandma.
Before the election my brother and I talked a little. My reputation is as the professional worrier in the family and I didn’t want to dump too much of that on him. He knew I was worried and that I had gone to Nevada to knock on doors because I didn’t have a good feeling about the election. I wanted to be able to say I’d done what I reasonably could.
The box was absolutely empty. It’s an empty wooden crate. I guess I expected a more finished trunk. The wood is raw, like, ‘be careful when you touch it, you might get a splinter.’ It has metal hinges and a place to put a lock on it. It’s maybe three feet by eighteen inches by twenty inches. It’s sturdy. It has Hamburg Line stickers on it and the address she was going to in Harrison, New York.
I laughed when we opened the box because it was too ‘neat’ for it to arrive the day of the election. Manna left Germany in 1935, and this is the trunk. If it happened in a story, you’d get mad and throw the book because it’s too neat.
Manna was a force of nature, and she was grumpy. I think she was like that before her country fell apart and the whole family left. But she left early; she was one of those people. She was in medical school in Switzerland and, if I remember my history right, the Nuremburg laws or some of Hitler’s legislation went into effect in Switzerland before it did in Germany. She had to leave school because she was Jewish. As a result, she looked around and said, “This is not the place for me. This is not going to go well.” And she up and left before the family. She ended up getting her US citizenship the week before Pearl Harbor. Of course then Germans couldn’t get it and my grandfather was an enemy alien in Los Angeles during World War II.
This is a personal post. Yesterday, I, Eva, participated in the first post-election event that made me feel potentially useful — beyond marching, phoning, or attending a meeting. I am sharing in case you want to look for similar opportunities. The event was a 2-hour training to be a witness to ICE immigration raids.
Community groups in Santa Clara County, California, are setting up a rapid response network that will have its soft launch this week: a hotline for undocumented immigrants, and their family and friends, to call if ICE shows up at the door. A dispatcher will answer the phone, guide the caller through his/her rights, and text a network of citizen-witnesses who will come to the site of the raid to document it.
Here’s how my event was advertised:
Come learn how you can be a rapid responder so that we can respond to calls from community members concerned about immediate ICE actions throughout Santa Clara County.
The Rapid Response Network aims to expand the community’s capacity to monitor and document ICE operations in real time. We will support the process of gathering evidence used to free someone from ICE custody. We will expose the intimidating and unconstitutional tactics ICE uses to detain immigrants.
Please invite others to attend to help us build the Rapid Response Network we will launch very soon with many partners and volunteers, like you!
I’ve now been trained to be a citizen-witness, with basic knowledge of how to comply with ICE directives while recording the encounter on my phone and documenting the unfolding events. How many agents? What did they say? From which agencies did they come? Badge numbers. Vehicle license plates. And more.
The attorney who helped train us recommends US citizens serve as witnesses because we’re at lower legal risk than immigrants. It’s also something white people can usefully do, with more possible roles if you speak Spanish (I don’t).
I was trained through an event organized by PACT-San José. If you live in Santa Clara County, you can go to their events calendar to sign up for a training. In the event of a raid within 2-5 miles of your address, you’ll receive a text asking if you can come document it. Even if it takes you a while to arrive, it’s helpful. We learned that raids in the Bay Area have been 3 to 6 hours long.
I’m told San Mateo, San Francisco, and Alameda Counties have similar networks. I did some online searching and found the San Francisco Rapid Response Network and another in Brooklyn, NY. The PICO website appears to be a place to hunt for more area networks (I started on their press release page).
Here’s a high-level update from the Washington Post about possible arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants by ICE, and the ways districts are trying to manage the uncertainty. The takeaway: many districts are trying to reassure students and parents, but they’re quite limited in what they can do.
On the number of students and parents who may be affected:
Millions of U.S. children face growing uncertainty at home because of shifts in immigration policy. The Pew Research Center estimates 3.9 million schoolchildren had an unauthorized immigrant parent in 2014 — or 7.3 percent of all schoolchildren. About 725,000 of those children were unauthorized immigrants themselves.
On whether arrests can happen at schools:
Historically, ICE agents have avoided schools. A 2011 memo says they are barred from arresting or interviewing people at schools, churches, hospitals and other “sensitive locations,” unless there is an imminent threat or they seek approval. Carissa Cuttrell, a spokeswoman for ICE, said the Department of Homeland Security “is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.” [Read the ICE memo that describes the agency’s “sensitive locations” policy]
Some actions districts have organized:
Many school officials say they want to allay the fears of families. They have hosted educational and legal seminars for immigrants, and in some cases assigned staff to support them. In Harrisonburg, Kizner assembled a crisis response team for immigrant students and their families. He also sent home forms to parents, asking in English and Spanish: “In the event of family separation (accident, arrest, emergency hospitalization, etc.) who will take care of your child temporarily?”
The Prince George’s County school system in Maryland has worked with the county government to place bilingual “community resource officers” in schools to support students dealing with immigration-related problems.
Parent-teacher associations in Alexandria have organized “know your rights” seminars, with the first held this month in an elementary school auditorium. At that event, an attorney from the Tahirih Justice Center urged undocumented parents to think about who would care for their children and what would happen to their property if they are detained.
On the limits to protections schools can provide:
Catherine E. Lhamon, a former assistant education secretary for civil rights in the Obama administration, said […] that schools can take many steps to help families. But ultimately, she said, they must also acknowledge that they can’t guarantee anything about the direction of federal immigration policy.
Image by David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images, copied from above-referenced article.
File this under “things we didn’t know we didn’t know”: there’s a fairly large population of undocumented Irish nationals living in the US.
What set us Googling was a series of Tweets referencing Irish Prime Minister Enda Kelly’s visit with Donald Trump yesterday, in which the PM brought up the status of the 50,000 or so undocumented Irish immigrants currently in the US. Kelly said to Trump,
“This is what I said to your predecessor [Barack Obama] on a number of occasions – we would like this to be sorted,” he told the president at a lunch event. “It would remove a burden off so many people that they can stand out in the light and say: ‘Now I am free to contribute to America, as I know I can.'”
Some additional searching brought up regular news stories about undocumented Irish immigrants, from a 2015 NPR report—
Gerry is one of an estimated 50,000 Irish who are not authorized to be in the U.S., according to the Irish embassy in Washington, D.C. Most of have stayed too long on their visas, and most live in the large Irish populations of New York City, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.
— to a New York Times story from 1989 detailing similar issues.
The interesting through line in the articles is the fact that Irish people generally look white — though in the 19th century, they were often viewed as an inferior “kind” of white — and therefore aren’t subject to the same profiling as people of color.
A 2007 LA Times article points out that being a white illegal immigrant can be useful:
Irish immigrant advocates are acutely aware that the American public doesn’t identify the Irish as alien, let alone illegal, and they consciously leverage this positive prejudice to their advantage. “The fact that they’re white Europeans agitating for immigration reform is helpful,” said Niall O’Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and publisher of the Irish Voice newspaper. “Bottom line is that every ethnic group brings their own strength to the debate. We can’t put a million people in the street, but we have positive political identification and a lot of access to Democrats and Republicans.”
Still, a CNN article this week notes that undocumented Irish are feeling scared under the Trump administration, too.
All in all, it’s food for thought about the relationship between skin color and anti-immigrant feeling, and a reminder that assumptions about who’s foreign have changed a lot over the decades.
The second executive action on immigration has created more uncertainty and fear, and students are in the thick of it. We’re hearing this loud and clear from our survey respondents. To that end, here are two resources for helping immigrant and refugee students.
Here are an article and video that speak to immigration and deportation and shed some light on the history of sanctuaries (past) and sanctuary cities (present).
“Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America” looks back to the arrival of Salvadorean and Guatemalan refugees during Reagan’s administration — and to the role of churches and other religious communities in sheltering them and opposing federal deportation orders. The story then considers policy under the Obama administration and the possible actions of the Trump administration.
We like the embedded video for adding the stories of a present-day father of three sheltering in a church, the pastor whose church he inhabits, and a Guatemalan woman who was sheltered by a church in the 1980s. Viewing today’s searing events through the lens of previous ones gives hope that we can find a kinder way.
The article and video are part of a New York Times series called Retro Report: Essays and Documentary Videos that Re-examine the Leading Stories of Decades Past.
(Photo of Reagan by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press from the NYT article referenced below.)
As we continue thinking about immigration in this new year, we thought you might like some resources about citizenship and naturalization around the world. Whether for your own information or your students’, it’s helpful to realize that rules about who “belongs” in a country vary a lot. For example, most of know babies born in U.S. territory are automatically entitled citizenship, but the same isn’t true in Germany, among other places.
The vast majority of nations in the Americas recognize jus soli [Latin for “Right of the Soil”, or right to citizenship based on location of birth]… Outside of the Americas, however, straightforward jus soli policies are rare. The norm in Europe, Asia and in much of Africa and elsewhere is some form of jus sanguinis (Latin for “right of blood”) citizenship, typically granted to children born to a national of that country.
Through the National Constitution Center’s website, you can read another article and link to the text of other countries’ laws pertaining to citizenship. To do so, click here, then select “birthright citizenship” from the upper right quadrant of the circle, then select the country whose laws you want to see.
Finally, National Geographic has a photo essay of new American immigrants, published in the wake of the Immigration Act of 1917 that (ahem) significantly restricted immigration to the US.
(Embedded image by Frederic C. Howe, captioned “A multinational group of immigrant children gather on a roof garden on Ellis Island, NY”).