This month's Community Circle (8/5/18) was about immigration, and it was a transformative experience to say the least! Our panel was comprised of three women who are leaders in the local community: Judge Sam Hamadani, immigration attorney Ana Nunez, and activist Zainab Baloch. Each brought insight, expertise, and their own story of emigration - whether themselves being immigrants, or children of immigrants.
We opened discussing the divisiveness of the issue when Ana posed the question, "Which border are we talking about?"
Our panel helped us see the complexity of the issue by addressing the key role poverty plays when crossing the border; for example, crossing on foot differs from crossing by air, and there is a difference between a refugee and an asylee. These distinctions have an impact on how one is received into the country. Some deal with Customs; others deal with Border Patrol. “This is why it’s difficult when people say, ‘If they just crossed the border the right way, there would be no trouble!’” Judge Hamadani said. There are myriad factors that influence how it must be done in each case.
"Fifteen minutes into our conversation, my mind is spinning!" said one of our attendees, capturing the feeling of the room.
The part of the discussion that had the greatest impact was when we turned our attention to Wake County. In an article from WRAL.com in 2007, Donnie Harrison, the Sheriff of Wake County since 2002, is quoted declaring "war" on illegal immigration.
Sheriff Harrison began collaborating with ICE in 2016 through a program that encourages racial profiling and civil rights abuses. The Wake County Sheriff's Office (WSCO) is reimbursed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for jailing *potentially* undocumented immigrants and transferring them to ICE. Even after a person is found not guilty of the crime they were arrested for, ICE can still hold them until their undocumented status is confirmed and then deport them. One does not have to be a political expert to gather that surveillance of our immigrant communities here in Wake County has intensified since the current administration took power.
Ana made it clear to us that "Immigration reform starts locally." Over 10 years ago, Sheriff Harrison was empowered to crack down on immigration, and the more recent decision to collaborate with ICE was unilateral. These decisions were made by people that were voted into power in our community.
Our brothers and sisters in local immigrant communities rarely feel empowered to speak up for themselves for fear of retaliation. Now it is up to us who have the privilege of an American birth certificate to engage our local government and speak on their behalf. The lives of thousands hang in the balance.
- Courtney Napier, Community Circle Facilitator
If you are interested in this topic, you can always still check out our inspiration/informative pieces for the event. We chose an article and TED talk that touch on this subject from two different lenses to use as jumping off points for our discussion.
“How Immigration Became So Controversial” by Derek Thompson, Feb 2018, The Atlantic
“The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2009, TEDtalk.