Last week, the Biden Administration announced immigration policies that would make it virtually impossible for migrants at the southern border to seek asylum in the United States. Among the new — and unlawful — policies is the requirement that asylum-seekers show they have applied for asylum in one of the countries they have traveled through. But, according to international law, applying for asylum in one country disqualifies a refugee from seeking asylum in a second country, such as the United States. Places like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua are not safe for refugees, and processing asylum claims can take years. The Administration’s cruel Catch 22 will cost many lives and require Central America and Mexico to assume even more responsibility for problems created by the United States itself.
I’ve heard it so many times. “At least he’s not Trump.” It’s true that President Biden has better manners and more experience. But his presidency so far has relied on the kind of governance and economic assumptions that are the source of many of our worst problems. In nine months, Biden has made inexplicable foreign policy blunders, watered down or abandoned his commitments to social justice and the planet, and retained many of Trump’s worst policies. For example….
Today, Americans observe the terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of 2,996 Americans on September 11, 2001. We will read news articles. Politicians will give speeches. Everyone has an opinion and a story. In a very American way of doing things, we’ve even created a marketing term for this tragedy. It’s “9/11.”
The drama unfolding in Afghanistan is a humanitarian crisis and it’s not going to get better. There is little doubt that the execution of the withdrawal after 20 years of war and corruption has been a disaster. Politicians talk about getting our “friends” out. But, even if that’s possible, our “friends” apparently don’t include the tens of thousands of people who aligned themselves with the US in unofficial ways. The families of my refugee friends in Europe have relatives in Kabul who have almost no chance of getting help from the US, even those who worked for US contractors or government agencies. Like so many others, they are in grave danger.
About ten years ago, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I’m not here anymore. Like a bucket list. It included living long enough to hug my grandchildren. It also included “saving a life.” At the time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to save a life since I’m not a medical professional and I’m not very strong. But I now realize that “saving a life” doesn’t require a dramatic gesture to prevent someone’s imminent death. It’s also helping people feel hope, easing their pain, and supporting their path with dignity. This isn’t very hard to do.
When I say “rural Louisiana,” I know what y’all are thinking out there in California. But it’s not like that equally everywhere or with everyone here. Just as there are swamps and republicans in the Bay Area, there are Unitarians and three varieties of kale here.
In 1980, an aging Yemeni woman living in a Palestinian village was involuntarily relocated to a bland immigrant camp. She was an artist and felt stifled by the white walls of her new house, so she bought cans of paint and, over several years, covered her white walls with the rich motifs of Yemei embroidery. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/afias-house-shlomi-israel Her project got her through a difficult time, and it is wondrous.
I have been listening to the Senate hearings to confirm a judge who seems to agree that the Voting Rights Act represents “the perpetuation of racial entitlement.” The conversation reminded me of the “racial entitlement” I observed during the 2004 presidential election. I went to Reno, Nevada, as a poll watcher for a national nonprofit organization. I went with a group of friends not expecting much. Here is what I saw in only six hours in a city where the polls were managed by the local GOP: