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 Electronic Newsletter!

March 2018

We cannot be silent while our neighbors are under attack.  Let's talk about IMMIGRATION. 

(note: many weblinks are included in this issue. If clicking on them does not take you to the website, please copy/paste into your web browser.) 

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   The Immigrant story is multi-faceted.  There are many similarities between experiences people have, and of course many differences.  If one thing is certain in today's United States, it is that everything is uncertain, and therefore frightening. Especially frightening is the constant anxiety faced by families--children wondering if their parents will be there when they return from school; parents afraid to leave the house, afraid to go to work for fear that they will be taken without warning from their families. There is some similarity to the anguish faced by slave families in the U..S., never knowing if or when parents and children would be separated from each other.  Certainly the circumstances were vastly different but the pain of separation and loss is very similar. 
This issue of Peace Pieces contains ideas about growing in our knowledge about immigrants and immigration,as well as ideas about action possibilities.  Action is imperative if things are going to change.
The next issue of PEACE PIECES will focus on SLAVERY, JIM CROW AND THE NEW JIM CROW.
   The following Myths about immigration come from Teaching Tolerance: A program of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The myths are phrased to be shared in educational settings.  Imagine discussing these myths during religious learning hours.  For some, the myths will be eye-opening and an opportunity to shed old and inaccurate ideas.  For others, these myths and their explanations will help shape response for when folks come across inaccurate information in their personal and professional lives.  For religious educators, we are called to teach truth.  Debunking such harmful and erroneous myths does just that. 
Undocumented immigrants bring crime.
Ask students where they heard this. 
   Nationally, from 1990 to 2010, the violent crime rate declined almost 45 percent and the property crime rate fell 42 percent, even as the number of undocumented immigrants more than tripled.  According to the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates from 1999 to 2006 were lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. During that period, the total crime rate fell 14 percent in the 19 top immigration states, compared to only 7 percent in the other 31.  Truth is, foreign-born people in America-whether they are naturalized citizens, permanent residents or undocumented-are incarcerated at a much lower rate than native-born Americans, according to the National Institute of Corrections.
Undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes but still get benefits.
   Ask students what are some ways Americans pay taxes, as in income tax and sales tax. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes every time they buy gas, clothes or new appliances.  They also contribute to property taxes-a main source of school funding-when they buy or rent a house, or rent an apartment.  The U.S. Social Security Administration estimated that in 2013 undocumented immigrants-and their employers-paid $13 billion in payroll taxes alone for benefits they will never get.  They can receive schooling and emergency medical care, but not welfare or food stamps.
The United States is being overrun by immigrants like never before.
   Ask students why they think this. As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic high actually came in 1890, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 15 percent of the population. By 2012, about 13 percent of the population was foreign-born. At the start of the recession in 2008, the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the country actually dropped, and in more recent years, that number is stabilizing with little change. 
   Many people also accuse immigrants of having "anchor babies"-children who allow the whole family to stay. According to the U.S. Constitution, a child born on U.S. soil is automatically an American citizen. That is true. But immigration judges will not keep immigrant parents in the United States just because their children are U.S. citizens. In 2013, the federal government deported about 72, 410 foreign-born parents whose children had been born here. These children must wait until they are 21 before they can petition to allow their parents to join them in the United States. That process is long and difficult. In reality, there is no such thing as an "anchor baby."
Anyone who enters the country illegally is a criminal.
   Ask students whether someone who jaywalks or who doesn't feed a parking meter is a criminal.  Explain that only very serious misbehavior is generally considered "criminal" in our legal system.  Violations of less serious laws are usually "civil" matters and are tried in civil courts.  People accused of crimes are tried in criminal courts and can be imprisoned. Federal immigration law says that unlawful presence in the country is a civil offense and is, therefore, not a crime.  The punishment is deportation.  However, some states-like Arizona-have criminalized an immigrant's mere presence.
To view all Ten Myths About Immigration shared by Teaching Tolerance, please click here.
Religious Education with Adults and Older Youth
   The Sanctuary Movement among churches is once again gaining momentum as faith communities react to the recent changes in immigration policy and political climate.  This movement began in the American Southwest during the 1980's when churches and synagogues organized to open their doors and house individuals and families escaping the conditions of war that was present in Central America.
   The following video, shared by PBS, overviews the topic of Sanctuary in just 10 minutes. This short format lends itself to an Education Hour offering, leaving time for group discussion, and Bible study. Recommended scripture passages include: Hebrews 13:1-2, Ephesians 2:11-22, Matthew 2:13-15.(For a comprehensive list of Biblical references on immigration and refugees, please click here.
Click here to play the video.
 Religious Education with Children
Interfaith Testimony by Kelly Archer, Intern at the Institute for Peace and Justice. 
   "Once a month my children have a sacred play date. They look forward to seeing their friends and I look forward to talking with the other parents while our children play. In so many ways, it is just another Saturday with friends and games and snacks. And yet in its own way, it is entirely special. 
    One third of the children gathered are from our Christian church, one-third are from a neighboring Synagogue and one-third from an Islamic center. The program is called Sprouts of Peace, and its premise is simple and radical. Though there are interfaith experiences and opportunities for teenagers, there weren't similar programs for young children. Sprouts of Peace welcomes children in preschool through 4th grade. We parents are also split among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and our conversations over coffee are distinct and important in this age we live in. 
    As children of Abraham, the children gathered learn about the similarities among their faith traditions.  And as each house of worship takes turns hosting, the children also learn about what is unique about each of these world religions.  This has been so important to me as a parent because it supports the lessons we teach in our home. In our home we teach equality among all of God's people, regardless of their path, or lack thereof, to God. And as significant as that lesson is, it falls short when our children see a disconnect between our words and the realities of their world.  For what is equality, if there is absence?  In school and Sunday school and karate and swim lessons, the vast majority of the children look and worship in a similar fashion to us. Because of Sprouts of Peace, my children have real friendships, real relationships with people who worship differently than them. And I give thanks for that. 
   So much of the anti-immigration rhetoric is shaped by an attitude of religious intolerance, especially Islamophobia. And in that way, starting a program like Sprouts of Peace in your community sows the seeds for a better world yet to come. A world in which God's dream for justice and shalom can be found on Earth as it is in heaven". 
To learn more about Sprouts of Peace, pleaseclick here. 
Peace and Justice Committees
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  As people of faith, we are familiar with the call set forth in the 25th chapter of Matthew and parodied above.  Of course in Jesus' version of the teaching we are instructed to welcome the stranger in our midst.  And reminded, that as we do, we are indeed welcoming Christ himself.  This is why immigration and the refugee experience needs to be discussed in our churches and among our Peace and Justice Committees.  Today's climate of suspicion and hostility toward immigrants and refugees that saturates our current affairs is not merely a social or political issue.  It is very much a faith issue, and our work begins as we discern how we may partner with God to bring forth God's dream of justice and shalom on earth.   
Where to begin:
Stand in Solidarity
Churches and other institutions across the United States are bearing witness to the extravagant welcome of the Gospel by placing yard signs on their church lawns.  Click here to read about how these signs came to be.
 Join Community Efforts Already in Place
It is important to know what resources and coalitions are already in place and working in your community, especially organization led by immigrants and refugees.  Because this newsletter is distributed widely, we are unable to provide an accurate resource guide, however, we encourage you to build relationships with those groups already working toward widening the welcome for immigrants and their families.  If you happen to be in St. Louis area, the location of the Institute of Peace and Justice, we encourage you to connect with these local organizations:
Think Big!
   There is strength in numbers and power in organization.  How can we think beyond our church walls anddioceses and energize our conferences, denominations and dioceses into actions.  Recently the Episcopal Church filed a law suit in response to President Trumps executive order travel ban.
Click here  to read more. 
Parenting and Grandparenting at Home
   Picture books are a great way for parents to tackle complex topics like the refugee crisis or the immigrant experience with children.  The books in this list can help kids - and the adults reading to them - better understand, and empathize with, the immigrant experience.  For children who know first hand the experience of immigration or the refugee experience, these books can be life giving as they encourage children to identify and share their feelings.  Click here  for a list of multicultural children's books about immigration and positive attitudes towards all religions. 
Inspired but looking to do more? 
Why not consider donating a collection of the books suggested above to a local school or church school.  Better yet, volunteer to come and read the books to the children too.  Most schools and churches welcome community readers and you will likely find that the experience will touch and teach you even more that the children with whom you are working.
Additional Suggestions for Families:
Tell You Family's Story
Most of us do not trace our ancestral roots to the same geographical land in which we live today.  And yet our government's policies and attitudes towards immigration do not reflect this commonality.  Help the children in your life make the connections between the immigrants we seen on the news today and their family's unique story of coming to America.  Encourage school age children to interview their oldest living relatives and teens to explore the many web based genealogy programs available. 
Celebrate Multicultural, International  Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events
Lift up for yourselves and your children the lives of immigrants, past and present, for their unique journey and contributions to our society.  Enjoy the learning by surrounding it with a party or other enjoyable event.  Many communities have cultural events (dance, theater, art) that provide information as well as real insights into the culture, history, and life of different racial groups.  Holidays (e.g., Cinco de Mayo, Eid-Al-Adha) can also be times to learn more about the values of other people. 
Seek Out Racially Diverse Role Models/Professionals
Children's attitudes are affected by the people they relate to in a variety of capacities (doctors, dentists, teachers, ministers, counselors).  Make cultural diversity one of the criteria for choosing such professionals for yourself and your children.
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