JFON Network Update
JFON NY and IA Host Made In LA Screenings
In partnership with JFON UMCOR, United Methodist Women, and the NYAC Immigration Task Force, JFON NY hosted two screenings of Made In LA at the Interchurch Center. Approximately 60 people attended the screenings and many expressed their intent to host screenings at their local churches or communities.
More than 50 people attended the screening of Made in LA hosted by JFON IA on August 24th at Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines, IA. The screening was followed by small discussion groups where everyone was encouraged to write letters in support of comprehensive immigration reform as well as the Reuniting Families and Dream acts.
These events were great venues for highlighting not only the work of JFON on behalf of immigrants and the need for comprehensive immigration reform but also the strength of immigrants in the face of injustice and difficulties.
Made In L.A is an Emmy award-winning feature documentary that follows the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops. A story about immigration, the power of unity, and the courage it takes to find your voice, Made In LA reveals the impact of the struggle on each woman’s life throughout their three year odyssey to win basic labor protections.
JFON N/C TX Plans Series of Advocacy Events
JFON Dallas / Fort Worth has planned a series of events in conjunction with “The Month of Action,” a nationwide effort led by people of faith calling on their elected officials to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Their month of action began on August 23rd when JFON Dallas / Fort Worth co-hosted “Moral Voices United for Immigration Reform: Tour of the Faithful,” an interfaith prayer vigil at Lovers Lane UMC in Dallas, Tx.
“Immigration and Faith” will be held on Saturday, September 19th, 2009, at Arapaho UMC in Richardson, TX. The symposium will provide attendees with an overview of current immigration laws and will feature workshops on the biblical mandate to welcome the sojourner, the social and economic contexts of unauthorized immigration, the principles of congregations in ministry among immigrants; and basic principles of advocacy. The symposium will be followed by an afternoon screening and discussion of the documentary “Made in L.A.”
On September 21st, Aledo United Methodist Church will host an Evening with Sonia Nazario, the author of UMW Reading Program book, Enrique’s Journey. Based on the Los Angeles Times newspaper series that won two Pulitzer Prizes, Enrique’s Journey is the timeless story of families torn apart and a boy who will risk his life to find the mother he loves.
Polytechnic UMC will host “An Evening of Compassion” on Sunday, September 27th, 2009. The evening will consist of a prayer vigil, a screening of Made in L.A., and a session about equipping advocates for action.
Follow-up to “Made in L.A.” – Exploitation of Immigrant Workers Continues….
The documentary ”Made in L.A.” depicts the exploitation of immigrant workers in a garment factory in L.A. a few years ago. In a similar story, a group of workers in Las Vegas filed a lawsuit against a cleaning contractor, Bravo Pro Maintenance, saying they were forced to work long hours for less than minimum wage and without permission for days off. Bravo Pro Maintenance has cleaning contracts with posh businesses such as Cathouse, Luxor, and Trader Vic’s at Planet Hollywood.
The workers’ attorney, Matthew Callister, says the company held its mostly-Mexican workforce in a form of “indentured servitude,” squeezing more labor out of frustrated workers by promising to make them whole one day. Many tired of waiting and quit. Others, undocumented and desperate for work, remain silent.
Can a Mother Lose Her Baby because She Does Not Speak English?
The answer appears to be “yes” in Mississippi. Cirila Baltazar Cruz, a migrant from Oaxaca, gave birth to her daughter, Rubi, at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS, last November. The hospital “called the state Department of Human Services (DHS), which ruled that Baltazar Cruz was an unfit mother in part because her lack of English ‘placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future.’”
Rubí was taken from Baltazar Cruz, who now faces deportation. In May, a Jackson County judge gave the infant to a couple (it is unclear if for foster care or adoptive purposes) who reportedly live in Ocean Springs. Baltazar Cruz is challenging the ruling in Jackson County Youth Court and hopes that if she is deported she can at least take Rubí back to Mexico with her.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform – Will It Happen without Sen. Kennedy?
With the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy, the country lost a leader not only for health care reform but also for immigration reform. While Democrats in Congress are busy pushing health care reform forward in honor of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, some believe that passing immigration reform would also be a fitting tribute to the stalwart liberal.
With Congress busy over the health care bill, the most optimistic view is that discussion of immigration reform may start in 2010.
- Emergency Response
- Immigration and Refugees
- Sager Brown Depot
- UMCOR Field Offices
Lucrecia Sanchez* is one of nine children of an indigenous family who lived on a farm in rural Guatemala. Her life was shaped by the longest civil war in Latin American history. It was a brutal war in which thousands (predominantly women) lost their lives.
When violence against women escalated, instead of passively accepting the status quo, Lucrecia decided to take a stand by joining an indigenous and women’s rights movement. Because of her work during the war, she was ostracized from her family and community and received numerous death threats.
In 1998, in fear of losing her life, Lucrecia fled to the US with the help of a coyote, whom she promised to pay upon her arrival. The coyote, however, sold her to a man who paid off her debt but then held her hostage in his apartment for several months, raping her and forcing her to work for him as his "woman." She escaped with the help of a neighbor who spoke her indigenous language but has continued to receive threats from the man who held her for the past decade.
Even after her escape, life as an undocumented immigrant in the US was little better than the one she lived in Guatemala. She lived a life of quite desperation and was repeatedly victimized by employers.
In April 2008, the poultry plant she worked at in Chattanooga, TN was raided by over 300 law enforcement agents. More than 100 workers were arrested and faced deportation. Lucrecia was arrested during the raid, but because she had a dependent child, she was immediately released with an ankle monitor.
Spring Miller and Katherine Dix-Esquivel, volunteer attorneys for the newly founded JFON Tennessee, were deeply moved when they heard Lucrecia’s story at a community meeting. They were struck by her strength and grace in the face of decades of abuse and were determined to help her remain in the US in light of her fear of returning to Guatemala. In response to their persistence and since JFON TN did not have a Regional Attorney at the time, Panravee Vongjaroenrat supervised Spring and Katherine on this case.
Based on Lucrecia’s experience as a sex slave upon her arrival in the US, Spring and Katherine immediately went to work gathering the necessary proof that she had been subjected to human trafficking. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, defines human trafficking as the "recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
After much perseverance, JFON TN was able to apply for a T-Visa (victims of trafficking) on Lucrecia’s behalf. The petition was granted in July 2009 – fifteen months after the initial raid. As of today, Lucrecia is still in deportation & removal proceedings. Once JFON proves to the court that she has a T-Visa, her case will be closed and deportation proceedings will cease.
As a certified victim of trafficking, Lucrecia is actively seeking other employment with her work permit. She is also eligible for government benefits and services for a limited period of time.
Lucrecia remains committed to protecting the rights of those who were affected by the raid and is a strong organizer and community leader. JFON TN has been honored to work with Lucrecia who showed grace and dignity in the midst of life’s challenges.
*not her real name.