History of Hate

My grandfather Francesco, left his dirt poor village in Sicily for America at the age of 16, after his father was murdered by gangsters. He worked in the cement yards in Chicago and augmented his income with bootlegging. One at a time, he brought his brothers and sisters to share the opportunities that could be found only in the United States.

At that time in the U.S., Italians had replaced the Irish as the “Asians” who didn’t deserve to be here. Even the other Italians looked down on the Sicilians. After establishing his family in Chicago, Francesco saved his money and bought a 20 acre apricot ranch in Palo Alto. He worked tirelessly on the orchard and put his 3 sons through Stanford. Nonetheless, even though he was doing better than many “Americans,” it was not enough to prove himself worthy to be here.

His insecurity was validated in 1941 when the U.S. government started detaining or displacing thousands of Italian-born Americans, as state enemies. When the Japanese Americans were more aggressively rounded up and interned in 1942, it only increased his fears. The government backed off the campaign against Italians after a year, when it was realized they were needed for the invasion of Italy. But it was still clear to my grandfather that strangers who knew nothing about him other than his ethnicity, could declare him to be a threat and take everything he had worked so hard to acquire.

As any father would, he passed on to his children information they needed to be safe – the importance of being accepted by America. All 3 of his sons served in the military during the war, but after defending American values in Europe, they did not defend them when they returned home. They did not stand up for Asians and Latinos when they were shunned, bullied, robbed and even murdered only for their ethnicities. They accepted the legacy of cruelty and greed, possibly feeling safer to no longer be the primary targets. They were not secure enough within the “American caste system” to challenge injustice.

I was a little girl in the early 1950’s when a young Chinese couple bought a house on the corner of our street in Mt. View. We lived in a new neighborhood – only 12 houses in what had recently been a prune orchard. It was the American dream in post-WWII to buy a house, and the couple probably shared that dream. Our neighborhood was quite friendly, but they kept to themselves. I think that generally, people assumed it was a Chinese cultural thing. After a few years, the husband died and his wife, Nancy, lived there alone until recently. I never saw any visitors. Every day I would see her walking alone, in a long trench coat and large floppy hat, no matter what the weather. I was unaware of my possible connection to Nancy’s self-imposed isolation.

About 10 years ago, we were forming a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) for disaster preparedness in our neighborhood. One of the goals was to identify the potentially vulnerable people, so that someone would be sure to check on them if there was an emergency. We identified 3 elderly ladies who lived alone, and set out to explain the neighborhood plan. We were offering to have someone look in on them if there was any reason to think they might need help.

I spoke with Nancy and she wanted nothing to do with it. I was surprised at how adamant she was. I imagined that if I were over 80 years old and living alone, I would find it comforting to have someone checking in on me. I thought I must have unwittingly done or said something to offend her. Later, when I commented on her response to my mother and she shared information that gave me a whole new perspective.

My father was an unsuccessful Real Estate Broker at the time Nancy and her husband bought the house. He had circulated a petition around the neighborhood to protest the purchase, on the basis that everyone’s property would lose value due to this demographic change.

My mother said she had been really angry and tried to stop him, but my father insisted that it was just business and there was nothing racist about it. As a Real Estate professional, it was his duty to let the neighbors know that everyone’s property was being devalued by the presence of the Chinese couple. Mother didn’t think that anyone had signed his letter, and in any event, the deal had closed. They moved in, having zero effect on property values.

Of course it made sense! Nancy and her husband must have known about the petition. I could imagine the sadness and disappointment experienced by the young couple. They must have been happy to be purchasing a house (perhaps their first) in a new neighborhood, until they found out that before they even moved in, a stranger had invited all of the neighbors to resent them. For the 60+ years Nancy lived in that house, she never made friends or participated in any neighborhood gatherings. It must have seemed ironic when the daughter of the person who had been instrumental in her isolation tried to include her in the neighborhood disaster plan.

A couple of years ago, Nancy fell down and was unable to get to a phone. She laid on the floor for 4 days until her sister in Seattle got worried and had the police do a wellness check. She was almost dead from dehydration. When she got out of the hospital, she was moved to a rest home close to her sister. The house has been empty ever since.

This is just a small example of the insidious and lasting damage of the racism permeating our society. Had I not accidently discovered it, no one would have ever been aware of the 60 year old hate incident and how it altered the lives of 2 innocent people. I don’t know what Nancy was like, but she might not have chosen to be a recluse all those years if she had known that my father’s letter did not reflect the feelings of the neighborhood. It was just one alcoholic man with self-esteem issues and too much time on his hands. The neighborhood was denied the presence of the young Chinese couple who might have brought a welcome diverse energy to our block. Everybody lost something, but no one lost as much as the young couple, who felt the need to distance themselves from the people around them in the place where they lived.

I have since mentally apologized to Nancy and anyone else who was harmed by my father’s misguided attempts to achieve a sense of belonging. He would insist that he was not trying to hurt anyone, but the feelings of Nancy and her husband were never a consideration for him. If he was alive today, he would probably defend his actions, saying he was just doing what was best and besides, “no harm was done.”

Even though I didn’t agree with my father, I have benefited from the system he defended. For much of my life, I have recognized suffering and done what I could to help the victims, but I have not known how to stop the attacks. In some ways, I have been an unwitting silent partner in this indefensible situation, perpetuated across generations. I can’t expect those who are being attacked to be grateful for my first aid.

I am currently attending meetings for the development of an anti-hate crime effort in Santa Clara County. I have listened to stories about verbal or physical attacks and how they have impacted people in ways that have long been ignored. Some people still seem to feel entitled to act out their resentments, with no concern to the effects on the lives of others. These assaults are not going to improve the lives of the attackers. Their anxiety and frustrations are not the fault of the Asians or Muslims or whoever is the target of the moment.

These are difficult times for everyone. I can only imagine the additional stress that would come from knowing that some of the people around me wished me and my family harm, only for our ethnicity. If we did nothing to deserve it, how can we change it? It would only be worse if I asked for help and no one believed me.

The perpetrators of this current wave of hate crimes believe that they have been cheated and no one cares. Finally someone said he cared, but instead of addressing their problems, he told them to take back what was theirs by attacking immigrants. While they were distracted, he took even more from them. The attacks must be stopped, but punishment alone will only increase their sense of victimhood. And this misguided cruelty is a distraction from other real dangers, such as climate change, that we all must face.

My father often began sentences with “I’m not a racist, but…” Offering him an alternate perspective was not a rewarding experience. I could not understand his need to force my agreement with concepts that made no sense. But he was just trying to pass on the teachings that he had received from his father. I think he was concerned that if I didn’t accept his prejudices, I would not be safe. It was his way of showing love. Other people may have believed the messages from their fathers and might feel that renouncing the passed down prejudices would be an act of betrayal to their tribes. I understand, but I cannot accept a personal choice that threatens the well being of others. Racism is not a family tradition that must be honored. It’s a bad habit that needs to be broken.
In the last years of my father’s life, our conversations were carefully orchestrated to avoid certain minefields. The events of the past few years have made it clear that we can’t avoid the minefields created by our ancestors. We are living in them and devices planted decades ago are exploding all around us. It is impossible to ignore the injustice and the active or passive roles that we all play. I do not accept the guilt for what my father did, but I do accept responsibility for the outcome that I inhabit. I am breaking my ancestral chain of judgement and separation and working with others to secure safety, equity and respect for all involved.

Treating generational wounds requires patience and love, and is best done in community. I’m all in. I know that selfishness is not sustainable, even if it is legal.

Love will set us free.

Together We Do Better

 

Each of CADRE’s partners brings value to our group and in December we highlight the Asian American Center of SCC (AACSCC), as the perfect example of the power of collaboration. AACSCC is a relatively small non-profit that has been working with Sacred Heart and Destination Home, providing emergency assistance to SCC’s vulnerable Asian population. MyLinh Pham, the CEO, also hosts a live Vietnamese Radio Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where community issues are discussed and PSA’s can reach thousands of people in the Vietnamese Community.

Last week, CADRE received a request for assistance that demonstrates the beauty of partnership. A 78 year old Vietnamese couple both became ill with COVID-19 and were taken to the hospital. The wife recovered and returned to the home they had shared with their daughter and her 4 small children (youngest 3 months). The father grew weaker and after 31 days in the hospital he died alone, as so many must do in this pandemic. His last communication before he was intubated was a phone conversation with his daughter, asking her to bring him a vegetarian meal – a final wish that she was unable to fulfill.

After 5 days his body was still in the hospital, because the family did not have the money for cremation. The family did not even know where to get food, because the father had always picked it up at donation sites. The Vietnamese speaking mother was still frail, and the daughter was feeling depressed, alone and overwhelmed, not knowing how she would be able to take care of the needs of the family.

Minutes after the CADRE leadership team saw the request, offers of help started rolling in.

MyLinh immediately called the family and spoke to the daughter, and has since talked with her every night, offering grief counseling, encouragement and guidance. The daughter was grateful, but shocked that a stranger would call and spend so much time listening to her concerns. She was also surprised to learn that the community was reaching out to her, and she wasn’t as alone as she thought. MyLinh’s team prepared and delivered a vegetarian meal for the family, so no one would have to cook.

After 3 days of conversation, MyLinh was surprised to learn that the couple had 6 children. The other 5 were scattered around the country, and had not been home in years. At MyLinh’s suggestion, the daughter called her siblings and all immediately said they would come home to see their father one more time before he was cremated. They arrived just before the latest shut down, when Santa Clara County moved back into the purple tier. We do not know if the family will be able to see their father under the new restrictions, but they are together.

Even though 2 organizations had offered to pay the cremation expenses, the elderly wife had been distraught, crying for hours every day. She believed that if the family accepted this help from the community, it would incur a debt for her deceased husband and prevent him from ever going to heaven. What a horrible dilemma for a grieving woman. Even with her understanding of the Vietnamese culture and language, MyLinh could not convince her that this was not a loan and there would be no debt. But when the family came together and learned the situation, the siblings decided to share the cost, and told Catholic Charities and AACSCC that they should use the $1000 for another family.

MyLinh is giving the family a few days to reconnect before she checks in to see what needs to happen next. She wants to assure that the mother, daughter and 4 small children are all connected to the service providers that can help them get vegetarian food, healthcare, childcare and longer term counseling.

Through one call to CADRE, many good things emerged from a very sad situation. A family has come together after years of separation. We can hope that after they return to their respective homes, the siblings will remember the things they have in common and stay in touch. An elderly widow can rest more easily, knowing that her family has taken care of their father and his spirit is free to leave for heaven. A young mother has a new understanding of the community she has been living in and how to look for help when she needs it. She is not as alone as she thought.

And CADRE partners gained new understanding of each other’s services through the spontaneous collaboration. In the next few months, we can expect to encounter this situation more frequently as the number of COVID-19 deaths grows daily. We are more aware of the needs of grieving families and the need to reach out and offer culturally sensitive assistance. Visit CADRESV.org to find links to emergency assistance, food, emotional and spiritual support, and multi-language information. These are difficult times, but everything is easier when we don’t have to do it alone.

This article is also posted in the November CADRE Newsletter.

Guide for Navigating the Current Crisis as a New Immigrant to US

 

This is the first time I have published a “Guest Blog” and I am happy to share the following helpful 1st hand information on the refugee experience that I will never have.

 

– authored by Senait Abraha

Moving to a new country and integrating to a new culture has always been challenging even under the best conditions. New Immigrants need to learn English quickly, so they can communicate, look for a job, housing, and to settle down. The need to master a tremendous range of skills from communication to building a support system from scratch, along with their confidence can be challenging, all while figuring out the norms and values of the US culture.

Rebuilding your life from scratch can be a lonely endeavor, one that may force new immigrants to make difficult decisions every day with limited information. While sorting through these challenges, eventually every new immigrant runs headfirst into a problem they haven’t encountered before; the kind that leaves them unsure of where to start.

Today, we can all agree we are not living our lives in the best of conditions. With an administration which is changing immigration laws these past few years, the world turning upside down with COVID spread and restrictions, with huge, angry, political discussions around us, riots, and talk and debate about racism. With so much going on it feels like someone pulled the rug out from under our feet, leaving us with a sense of uncertainty and chaos. These unprecedented times are particularly challenging for any immigrant.

For new immigrants trying to settle down, and to culturally integrate into US culture with a future that is more cloudy than clear, it is an ultimate test of resilience. The dynamics new immigrants face are magnified many times over. And if you are new to this country and you are reading this, I really empathize with you.

In my experience the best safety net is the wisdom of our community around us. For a few months now, I have witnessed different community leaders trying and continuing to navigate this crisis while supporting their communities. As with many others, I have also been working on navigating this crisis in relationship to my newborn baby, my work, my business, my nonprofit, my children’s school, my friendships, my family and my relatives abroad. I have learned a lot and continue to learn to surf this wave, which is why I decided to weave and put together these helpful guides to help new immigrants look past this cloudy uncertainty in order to focus on what is important.

1. Don’t take anything personally

Everyone in America is impacted by this crisis. In fact, the whole world is in chaos. Everyone is trying to figure out how to adjust their life to the uncertainty and when doing so, they might not be their own best self to support you, to be the rock that you need. You will see people complaining about their jobs, money, housing and everything else. This might discourage you from getting those things you need for yourself from scratch.

Since people are not in their best place, they might not realize how frightening the experience might be for you.  Just know if others were in their best place and if it wasn’t for everything that is going on in this world, they might have been mindful in their interaction with you. So, don’t take it personally. They are not trying to make you unwelcome, or undermine your problems. So, don’t be afraid to remind them.

2. Remind people you are new

Like I said, most people might be panicking over everything right now and might not even be present to your feelings and confusions. So, remind people that you are new. Ask questions when you don’t understand, ask how things were for them when they first moved to the US, how they felt and dealt with issues. This may help bring them out of the current panic and might put them in the path of compassion for your circumstances.

3. Reach out to multiple community centers

This crisis is new for everyone, including companies, community centers, and government offices. Try reaching out to your community center, and see if they can support you in getting a job, housing, or any services that you need. Don’t get discouraged if your community might not be able to help, or might be able to help only partially. Perhaps they can refer you. Know that everyone is trying to do their best in this time of trial. So, reach out to other community centers and organizations that are involved in helping newcomers. Use Google to help you find the organizations that can help you. Or ask someone to help you find those resources. There is nothing wrong in finding resources from different organizations to maximize your chance to settle faster, but rather, it is smart.

4. Learn the language

I know, I know. With everything that is going on in these trying times, learning the language may be the last thing on your mind. However, the situation isn’t going to stay the same, and what you learn right now is going to pay off in the near future. Besides, it will take your mind off the current situation and your circumstances, which sometimes feels like too much.

One good thing about COVID is that most classes are offered online. So, find an online English class and learn from the comfort of your home or wherever you may be staying. While you are at it, if you don’t know how to use a computer or internet, now would be a good time to invest in a good computer that you can find for a reasonable price, and ask someone to help you enroll in computer class as well.

The Immigrantinfo.org ESL Class Listing has a searchable database classes currently offered by Santa Clara County Community Colleges, Adult Education, Community and Faith Based Organizations, most of which are free. Some of them might be able to help out with a loan of a laptop or tablet, or free internet connection. The Virtual ESL Programs in Immigrantinfo Resource Database contains over 60 additional links to free ESL programs.

5. Benefit from Government Assistance

There are many types of government assistance, and benefits from them. I know that President Trump said something about receiving benefits would disqualify you from getting your citizenship and that I can imagine will be very scary. However, this crisis is a unique situation where so many people in the USA are receiving government assistance. Proactively look for what you qualify for, and take advantage of the benefits you qualify for to alleviate your circumstances.

In actuality, the Public Charge Rule, as it is known, has no effect on the majority of immigrants, and refugees and asylees are specifically excluded.  Also excluded are any COVID-19 related assistance or any other Disaster Relief in a declared emergency.  Not everyone is eligible for every benefit, but if you are eligible, you should not be afraid to accept what you need for you and your family.

6. Seek mental health services

You might resist this tip. You might even say, “What? I am not crazy! I don’t need to go to a mental health professional.” No, you are not crazy and this is what I have heard from every immigrant when I talk to them about mental health. And yes, I have said this myself when I first heard it when I moved to live in China more than a decade and half ago.

Being new here, you will at one point or another feel overwhelmed, anxious, angry, helpless, sad, fearful and all these feelings are so normal considering what you are going though in settling down in a new country. And to make matters worse, the crisis makes things more complicated and magnifies the situation. So seeking a mental health service is to your advantage. These professionals will help you gain skills that you will need to cope with your current situation. I know for a fact this could be the best gift you could give to yourself.

One blessing of the pandemic has been the formation the CADRE Spiritual and Emotional Support Team – a collaboration of community and faith based organizations that can provide an array of guidance and support. So many people have been suffering extreme stress for months. You will not be the first one to find that you are more resilient when you accept the resources that are available. You can access this team through the website www.CADRESV.org.

7. Stay away from negativity

It is so hard to stay positive when everything around is crumbling and you need to start building from scratch. It might even feel unfair. However, stay away from any negative thoughts that tell you, I can’t do it; I made a mistake coming here; Why do things like this always happen to me; My situation is helpless and it’s never going to get better. People entertain those thoughts when faced with challenging situations, however all those thoughts are simply not true.

Yes, your circumstances are difficult, no doubt about that, but nothing stays forever. Just keep working toward your goals, and before you know it things will fall into place.

While you are at it, stay away from people who always talk negatively about things, and who don’t usually seem to be happy.

Also, stay away from the media as much as possible. Its good to keep yourself informed. Just limit that to once a day, as the media can frighten any one with all the negative reports. Instead, go out in nature and relax when you get a chance, go visit new places you haven’t seen. I am sure finding new places to see wouldn’t be a problem for you since you are new here. Call a good friend that is willing to encourage you, watch a funny movie and have a good laugh, and pray to whatever God or higher power you believe in. All these activities will put you in a positive mind set. When you are positive, the hard work you are doing will not feel as daunting  and you are much more likely to succeed.

8. Voice your opinion

When you are new, it’s natural to stay quiet and keep everything to yourself in fear of making a mistake. However, I know it is hard to believe, but you are smarter than you think, wiser than you know, and braver than you imagine. I know this because it’s something we all go thorough in the beginning of adjusting to a new environment, in a new country.

So, speak about the crisis, the politics around you, all the things that bother you and how you think things should be. Hey, the reason US opens to immigrants is because we bring fresh, organic ideas to the table. Who knows? What you say and your ideas might solve a problem or two in our crisis. Don’t forget all great immigrant inventors have started where you are today. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Just voice your opinion. Recall that the US is a country of immigrants, so own it!!!  And as soon as you can, register to vote!

Just know, these 8 tools are to help you navigate the crisis, and are just a few ideas. There are many other ways for you to find your way. If you have found any tools that are helping you, please share below so others can benefit from them.

Together we can overcome anything! Remember nothing stays forever. There is a saying in the US: “There is always a rainbow after the rain” and I say it’s also true that you can see the rainbow while it is raining.

https://www.anchoringthenewyou.com/single-post/2020/09/08/Guide-for-Navigating-the-Current-Crisis-as-a-New-Immigrant-to-US

World Refugee Day 2020 – Virtual Celebration


For the past 27 years, the Refugee & Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County has celebrated World Refugee Day on the 20th of June, to bring awareness to the courage, perseverance, and resilience of refugees and the difficulties they still face.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not enjoy each other’s company, food, music and stories in person. We have created this video to share the experience through scenes from previous celebrations. We hope that it will inspire more people to focus on the ongoing difficulties of refugees around the world.

According to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), at the end of 2019 almost 80 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes. 40% are children. Millions are stateless, with no country willing to recognize them as citizens or accept responsibility for their fates. They are at the mercy of politicians, economic trends, and the kindness of strangers. Only 15% are being hosted by the wealthier countries and due to increasingly tight restrictions, the wealthiest country – the U.S. – has virtually closed its doors to refugees and asylees.

It is more important than ever that we find ways to recognize and remember the humanity of these people, who are living in unimaginable conditions. The numbers are so large and the obstacles to solutions so abundant that it is tempting to turn our attention to one of the other many issues that we are facing on the planet. But we must remember that each one of those statistics represents an individual life, which contains the seeds to all the wisdom, contributions and creativity that can develop when nurtured. Each one contains the same potential for development as we do. We may or may not recognize the loss when we do not develop our own potential. That loss is magnified millions of times when we allow these people to languish in refugee camps or worse, while politicians argue over a solution.

We may not know the solution, or feel we have the power to make a change today. But the first and most important step is to encourage as many people as possible to recognize and remember the intrinsic value and beauty of displaced people, who are often viewed as a burden. When no country feels an obligation or responsibility to provide for them, they are left to survive on fickle charity in an unstable world.

Please share this virtual celebration, which demonstrates the wonderful enhancement that refugees from previous years have brought to the Santa Clara County community. They have helped us to broaden our understanding and open our hearts. They may have arrived with problems, but many also brought solutions – for themselves and for others.

Even in these difficult times, we can allow ourselves to celebrate the beauty of diversity. We look forward to the day when we can again welcome our brothers and sisters who are feeling displaced and abandoned. They are not forgotten.

Please share the resources on www.Immigrantinfo.org and visit the SCC Refugee & Immigrant Forum’s Facebook page to stay informed on what’s happening. Awareness is the first step to solutions.

Let’s hope we will be able to celebrate the World Refugee Day in person and together in 2021.

October 17th, 2019 – 30 Years Later

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, I am sharing my experience of that event as a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer. There are many things we can’t control in life, but with some preparation, we can have a positive effect on the experience we have. On the Disaster page (https://immigrantinfo.org/…), you can find links to multi-language information, apps and tools in many languages that can help you to consider your options in the event of the unexpected. 

I will always remember where I was at 5:04pm on October 17th, 1989. I had just walked into the Red Cross building on Hedding Street in San Jose. I was teaching an Earthquake Preparedness class that night and I wanted to get there before everyone left at 5:00pm, to make sure that all the equipment was there and working.

The slide projector was on a table right inside the door and I had just turned it on and off, when the ground started shaking. I am happy to say that years of training paid off and I immediately ducked under the table and held on. The shaking went on for a very long time and I imagined the slide projector being slowly shaken towards the edge the table. I decided that if it fell off, I would stay where I was and not try to save it.

When the shaking finally stopped, those who were in the building stepped out into the hallway and wordlessly looked at each other. We were all “disaster people” (the Health and Safety staff had left at exactly 5:00). We didn’t know where the epicenter was, but this one felt different. Since I was going to teach that night, I had “earthquake response” in the front of my brain, and I asked if we had any water stored. We did not. I suggested that someone find some containers and fill them, in case we would be there for a while. We couldn’t be sure if we would have water or plumbing. The lights had gone out but it wasn’t dark yet.

The phone started ringing and Rex Painter, the Director of Disaster Services, told me to handle the phone calls. The first call I answered was from Scotland. A man had been watching the World Series baseball game on TV and had seen the earthquake in San Francisco.

“My Aunt Madeline lives in San Francisco and I can’t get a hold of her. Can you send someone over to check on her and call me back?” I explained to him that San Jose was 45 miles from SF and I had no way to check on his aunt right now. I told him that later the SF Red Cross chapter might be able to help with personal inquiries, but not for a few days at least.

After I hung up, I realized the significance of the call. I’m not a baseball fan, but apparently people all over the world were, and they had all just witnessed a California earthquake in real time. It also meant that it was big enough to look impressive all the way to San Francisco. Was this was the big one that we always talked about?.

The second call was from someone who wanted to know where they could donate used clothing for the earthquake victims. This was reminiscent of my first experience as a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer after the Alviso Flood in 1982. I realized that all over the country people who had been watching the game on TV were already heading for their closets to prepare donations of used clothing. As the night wore on, I received numerous calls with the same question. Fortunately, a few years before, we had established a collaboration of local service providers (VOAD) and I had several referral numbers to offer these good hearted people who were frantic to help.

All calls were coming through the after-hours phone, and as soon as I put it down it was ringing again. It was a while before I was able to phone my mother and tell her that I would not be coming home any time soon. She was also a Red Cross volunteer and she asked if she should try to get to the chapter. We did not know the condition of the roads – traffic lights, overpasses, etc.- and it was not a good idea for her to try to drive from Mt. View. In any event, only Mass Care and Communications were activating immediately. The generator had kicked in and the lights had come back on. We needed to know the scope of the event and whether and where we should be opening shelters.

Rex and a couple of the guys brought in a small antenna TV set and we set it up in the disaster office. Amazingly, we got decent reception and we began to see what was happening around us. The initial focus of the media was on the drama unfolding in San Francisco and the East Bay – the disrupted World Series game, freeway collapses, the Marina District burning.

While everyone was focused on the TV, someone came in from outside and said, “Your generator’s on fire.”

Without looking up, Bill, a long time volunteer, said “It just smokes a lot when it kicks in.”

A couple of minutes later someone else came in and said, “Do you know that your generator’s on fire?”

All eyes still glued to the screen, someone reassured the helpful neighbor, “It just smokes when it starts up.”

Being the only female present, I was reluctant to make suggestions regarding machinery or equipment (not an area where people normally sought my input). I couldn’t leave the phone, but when the third person came in and told us about the generator, I asked, “Shouldn’t someone at least go out and look at the generator?”

No one wanted to leave the TV, but finally someone went out and returned almost immediately, saying “The generator’s on fire.”

Just then the lights went out again. Everyone ran to the back and put the fire out with the buckets of water that had just been filled.

Fortunately, the electricity was restored a few minutes later. We never lost phone service, our water continued to run and toilets continued to flush. This was very fortunate, because we were not prepared. The Red Cross had not done any of the things that we had been teaching people to do for years.

I continued to answer the phone, while Rex made calls to other chapters, the local government emergency services, etc. Someone else was calling volunteers for availability and a few people started reporting in. A couple of hours later I was able to reach my husband and make sure he was home. He had been at a seminar in San Jose and he had just gotten into a car on the third floor of a multi-story cement parking lot when the shaking started. He sat helplessly as the car vibrated towards the outside ledge. He considered jumping out, but other cars were also moving around and that didn’t feel either. Thankfully, the shaking stopped and the exit ramps were still intact, so he was able to drive home. It took him over 3 hours to get from San Jose to Fremont, because traffic lights were out and the entire Bay Area was a giant gridlock.

Throughout the night people arrived at the chapter to see if we needed help, or to ask where they could leave the in-kind donations they had in their cars. We had no capability to use untrained volunteers, and told everyone that the Red Cross couldn’t accept in-kind donations. I had taped a note on the front door with the addresses of several alternative organizations that were set up to deal with unsolicited, random stuff, but people were understandably reluctant to do any more driving. There were general traffic reports on the radio, but the only way for the average person to know if a specific road was jammed up, was to go there and possibly get stuck for an indeterminate amount of time.

We worked all night and at around 6:00am, I realized that I was very tired. Fresh volunteers were arriving and I was anxious to get home. My mother had told me that her house was OK, but I was anxious to see my husband and cat in Fremont. Rex told me to get some rest and come back in a few hours. I had just enough energy to get home and I was hoping it wouldn’t take too long. I was the first person to leave the building.

When I walked around back to my car, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could barely see my car (or any cars) under the piles of stuff. The entire parking lot was full of bags and boxes of “donations” left by frustrated people who had been turned away at the door. The old Red Cross chapter was a strange building with no windows in most of the rooms, so we had been unaware of the overnight activity in the parking lot. (To be fair, after a while, people probably saw the pile and assumed that was where they were supposed to leave things.)

Incredulously, I looked into some of the bags to see what they had been so eager to give us. I saw a case of nail polish, a bag of Halloween costumes, a box of comic books and board games. There was a bag with open bottles of shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, and other personal hygiene items, as though someone had hurriedly grabbed everything out of their bathroom and brought it down to share with the earthquake victims. Something was leaking. Peeking in other bags, I could see Leggos, used underwear, high heeled shoes, romance novels, silly putty.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. I started to clear a path to get my car out of the parking lot, but realized that I was just putting more stuff in the path of other cars. I went back inside and got help to clear an exit route from the parking lot. Since we had no place to put all these things, several random boxes ended up being loaded into my car and I took them home, just to get it out of there. Everyone who wanted to leave would just have to take their share.

I was so busy over the next month, I forgot about the boxes sitting in my garage. I was between jobs, so I agreed to be the Site Manager at the Redwood Estates Fire Station in the Santa Cruz mountains. No one had a map of the ancient water system that had been pieced together over decades. It had shattered and it would be weeks before all the leaks could be located and fixed. Concerned with sanitation and fire hazard, the Red Cross continued feeding operations for weeks, out of the Redwood Estates Community Center.

Because it was necessary to have Red Cross oversight, I sat at the Redwood Estates for 10 hours every day. People were already bogged down in the forms and applications, or waiting for inspections from FEMA and insurance agents. They would come in to pick up the hot meals that were delivered twice a day by the Red Cross ERV’s (Emergency Relief Vehicles), and also to hang out and exchange information. It was hard on everyone, but especially on the teens. They needed a project.

One day as I was leaving home, I remembered the boxes of impulsive gifts that had been offered on that first night. I saw that some of the random boxes I had brought home contained what looked like the stock from a beauty supply store. There was nail polish of every color, lipstick, spray cans of neon hair color, mascara, and costume jewelry – just the kind of stuff that teenagers liked. I loaded them back into my car and took them to the summit. I called the chapter and asked for a case of the plastic bags that we used for shelter comfort kits to be delivered with lunch. That day, as teens and kids showed up, I invited them to take what they liked and help pack gift bags for the teens in Watsonville, who were much worse off than they were. By the end of the day, The boxes were full of gift bags and everyone in the area under 20 years old was much more colorful than they had been that morning.

This assignment lasted far longer than I anticipated, and the Red Cross had wrapped up much of their initial emergency response. Most people were in the recovery phase and trying to figure out how to get their needs met through the maze of disconnected state and federal disaster relief programs. This was before the days of personal cell phones and many people still did not have phone lines connected. They would be forced to go down the hill to a service center if they needed help and this was not an easy trip. I had one of the original cell phones, which was the size of a shoe box and weighed several pounds. But it was a line of communication, so I offered to help some people try to make calls. That was when I learned that nothing was working the way we had been told it would.

What looked on paper like a seamless set of programs, designed to fill in the gaps, was actually a patchwork of uncoordinated bureaucracies that had no knowledge or understanding of anything outside of their own programs. Although there were several avenues of resources, each had their own application process and they did not work together. None wanted duplicate payments of the others, so no one wanted to be the first to pay. They each wanted to know exactly what would be received from other grants, loans or insurance and everything depended on site visits by inspectors who were in very short supply.

I learned a lot in the weeks and months after October 17th, 1989. I learned that everyone involved in a disaster will be making life changing choices in unfamiliar territory, and nothing will ever be the same. I decided to learn how the relief system works and help people to understand their options and make the best choices in difficult situations. I am still a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer and I have been to major disasters all over the country. I have learned that a group of trained and dedicated people can begin to bring order out of chaos after much bigger events than the Loma Prieta Earthquake. But I have not learned how to convince a different group of dedicated people to find a way to contribute without delivering truckloads of amazingly random and mostly useless stuff to the scene of every disaster. To my knowledge, even after 30 years, no one has figured this out.

2020 Census – Everyone Counts

 

The SC County Refugee and Immigrant Forum is making plans to support the 2020 Census by letting people know that EVERYBODY who is in the U.S. on April 1st should be counted.

There has been plenty of seemingly orchestrated confusion over the purpose, confidentiality, and use of the U.S. Census information that will be gathered in 2020. By federal law, Census information cannot be shared with any other agency or used for anything other than statistics and planning. The Federal Census Office has guaranteed the confidentiality of submitted information.

The number and demographics of participants will directly impact our level of representation in the state and federal legislatures and the re-drawing of political districts for elections. In other words, it will influence who will make the laws and control spending and for the next 10 years. In particular, the numbers will determine the allocation of federal funding for public programs such as housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and safety net services.

Every person living in the U.S. on April 1st should be included, no matter where they came from, how they got here, or their current immigration status, After a long legal battle, it was determined by the Supreme Court that a question asking about citizenship status will not be on the form. However, 480,000 “test” Census forms were sent out across the country and half of them included the citizenship question. This will only add to the public’s confusion. The unfortunate timing and format of this “test” appears to be another conscious attempt to reduce the count of ethnic groups and non-citizens. People who are included in this early sampling may not understand that this is not the real Census form. Many may think they have completed the Census and spread mis-information that it includes the Citizenship question. They might not understand they still must complete it again in April in order to be counted in the actual Census.

Ethnic service providers, faith based organizations, and advocates can help by learning more about Census 2020, correcting misinformation, and encouraging their clients, members and friends to participate. Help can be requested from the San Jose City Census Office  and Santa Clara County Census Office  to answer questions, translate, or to fill out the forms. Staff from both offices will be happy to offer on-site presentations to address any any questions or issues.  People will also need to be warned about the scams that are sure to appear once the outreach gets underway. No one should ever be asked for bank account or credit card information, political affiliation, or to make a contribution for the census.

The United Way and Silicon Valley Community Foundation grant application periods are closed, but funding remains available for San Jose organizations that want to partner at some level with the Census effort. Email census2020@sanjoseca.gov to be notified when information is released. The Santa Clara County Census Office will also be offering funding for direct outreach. E-mail census@ceo.sccgov.org to indicate interest. There are still many temporary positions open for individual job seekers. (Spanish link)

Funding for the 2020 Census has been capped at the level of the 2010 Census (which was assessed to be at least 10% underfunded at the time). This was justified in part by the untested assumption that the ratio of internet responses will increase, thus reducing the need for in-person follow-up. (Those who do not respond to mail or internet outreach will be contacted by telephone or home visit.) Even if there is an increase in on-line participation, it will not be the same across all populations. Vulnerable populations such as elderly, low income, disabled, and limited English speaking are less likely to respond on-line. This is one more factor that will potentially contribute to an undercount of those most in need of funding for services.

Internet Self-Response and Census Questionnaire Assistance, will be available in 12 non-English languages, spoken by at least 60,000 limited-English-speaking households. In descending order, these include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

The Census Bureau will also provide language guides, language glossaries, and a language identification card in 59 languages that were determined to have at least 2,000 speakers nationwide (including: Spanish, Haitian, Creole, Bengali, Romanian, Tamil, Tigrinya, Igbo, Chinese, Portuguese, Greek, Telugu, Navajo, Ilocano, Marathi, Vietnamese, Japanese, Amharic, Burmese, Hungarian, Dutch, Sinhala, Korean, Italian, Somali, Punjabi, Hebrew, Croatian, Slovak, Russian, Farsi, Thai, Lao, Malayalam, Bulgarian, American Sign Language, Arabic, German, Gjurati, Hmong, Swahili, Twi, Tagalog, Armenian, Khmer, Albanian, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Polish, Hindi, Nepali, Turkish, Indonesia, Yoruba, French, Ukrainian, Urdu, Bosnian Serbian and Czech).

Community and Faith Based Organizations, as well as ethnic clubs and social groups with members or clients needing assistance in these languages can request assistance from the San Jose City Census Office or the SCC Census Office.

Why should service providers support the 2020 Census effort?
It is estimated that each person who doesn’t participate will cost Santa Clara County $2,000 in funding each year for 10 years ($20,000 total per non-participant during this cycle). This includes children and babies (estimated undercount of 5% in 2010).

There has been a well-documented long term, coordinated campaign of fear directed at the non-citizen communities. It is understandable that under these conditions, people are reluctant to call any attention to themselves. Some of us might feel it would be insensitive to increase their anxiety by inviting people to share their personal information. Pressuring people to override well-founded concerns will not likely achieve a positive outcome. It could cause immigrant and refugee communities to feel even more isolated and misunderstood. However, conversations can still be invited, while acknowledging and respecting the justified reluctance. People might want to understand the full impact of the choice they are making.

If the Head of Household for a family of 4 decides not to participate in the Census because it is “better safe than sorry,” it will cost the community an estimated $80,000 in lost federal funding for services. A recent study by the Urban Institute projects an overall average undercount of between -0.98% (-380,000 people) and -1.98% (-792,000 people) for California.  This translates into an annual funding loss of between $762,000 and $1,584,000 every year for 10 years.  Broken down into ethnic groups, the numbers are even more dramatic,  For instance, the projected undercount for the Latinx population is between -2.18% and -3.65%.

Because of the uniquely high ratio of foreign born in SCC, our undercount ratio is likely to be higher than other counties. Transferring the CA estimates to the 2017 Census numbers for Santa Clara County, a 3.65% undercount for the Latinx population alone would result in an annual funding loss (rounded) of over $36,000,000.

Many undocumented immigrants have been here for years and have previously shared personal information to get medical care, cash a check, enroll a child in school, apply for a driver’s license, etc. While there may be additional concerns for mixed status households, for many, participation in the Census should not feel like an additional risk.  They may not be aware that their non-participation will result in a reduction of services and benefits for their families and community.

None of us are in a position to judge the choice that another person makes in such a difficult situation, but the stakes are high and people should have the necessary information to make an informed decision.Community leaders, service providers, advocates, and others who have already developed trusted relationships within ethnic communities, will be in the best position to address mis-information and clarify the impact of non-participation. It is in the best interest of these individuals and organizations, to have a proper understanding of the risks and benefits (for the entire community), associated with achieving an accurate Census count. The ideal of democracy is based on representation. All of our voices are weakened when any segment of the population is silenced.

Immigrantinfo.org will continue to post updates on opportunities, funding and events as they become available.

Resources:

U.S. Census Office Official Page inviting Community Partners

Santa Clara County Census Office

San Jose City Census Office (408) 535-5602

NPR Article – 2020 Census Could Lead To Worst Undercount Of Black, Latinx People In 30 Years

NPR Article – What You Need To Know About The 2020 Census

SCC Service Providers Learning Stress Reduction Techniques

 

On February 23rd, 25 people from 13 different agencies attended a workshop at the American Red Cross in San Jose. Participants included Counselors, Social Workers, Teachers, and other Service Providers who work with immigrants, refugees, asylees and others living with chronic stress and anxiety. They learned about how trauma is passed on in communities, places of work, and families resulting in loss of energy and hope. They were able to practice several simple Energy Psychology Techniques including Trauma Tapping Technique. They experienced the capabilities that they and others have to release the accumulated tension they carried. They left with renewed enthusiasm and the knowledge that they would be able to do their jobs in a new way and share this information with their clients, patients and students. Other agencies are inquiring about how to bring this resource to their staff and clients. These techniques and more can be found at the Blog, Self Care in Difficult Times.

Día de los Muertos / Day of the Dead

I have always loved the Day of the Dead. At first I was attracted to the surface “bling” of this popular Mexican holiday. I love the colors, the beautifully decorated altars, paisley skulls, stylishly dressed skeletons, and people of all ages in costumes and face paint. Gradually, as my understanding expanded, my appreciation for this ancient tradition has deepened. In the Aztec and Toltec cultures, the dead were still part of the family and community, and once a year they were invited back to a party in their honor.

Families prepare altars in their homes, where the ancestors can “hang out” throughout the holiday period, which is technically 2 days, but can last for a couple of weeks. The altars are decorated with photos, flowers, candles, and favorite foods of the dearly departed. Across Mexico, on the night of Día de los Muertos, much of the population goes to graveyards for a get-together with the extremely extended family. On that night, many cemeteries appear to be quite festive. In preparation for an all-night vigil, table cloths are spread over graves, candles are lit and food laid out. Small children play until they fall asleep. The adults invite memories to come alive through stories, songs, poems and prayers.

I recently added a new layer to my understanding by attending the “Day of Remembrance Celebration” in the Martin Luther King, Jr Library. It was the first of several Day of the Dead celebrations that take place annually in Santa Clara County.

A space was set aside in the Cultural Heritage section on the 5th floor. Members of the community were invited to create altars and share their experiences. They described the offerings, their meanings, and the people they were honoring (see the slide show above). Here are some of my impressions:

  • Many immigrants are a long way from home and unable to return to the place where their ancestors are buried. But there is faith that no matter where the altar is built, the souls will respond to the invitation. Where there is love, time and distance are not obstacles.
  • Each altar was unique, but with some common threads: COLOR! Paper or fresh flowers (usually marigolds), food, photos, works of art, candles, symbolic articles, religious icons and messages. Many of the altars also included water. Apparently it’s thirsty work, traveling between the worlds of the living and the dead.
  • The belief is that, “the dead live on in the memories of the living,” and many altars contained a special candle for those souls who have no one to remember them. I find this inclusion to be very sweet. No soul left behind….
  • Two women created a beautiful altar for a local Latino artist who had been a friend and mentor to aspiring artists in San Jose. It contained many of his works, as well as a painting one of them had done in his honor.
  • San Jose State teachers and students created an altar in reverence of a professor who died unexpectedly in September. She truly was a champion of diversity and inclusion. It was fitting that she have a place of honor at this event. Working on the altar gave them a space to comfort each other while sending a unified message of love to their departed friend and peer.
  • Altars included not just family members, but others worthy of respect and honor, such as Cesar Chavez. A local community activist created an altar in remembrance of both his ancestors and some of the street people he has worked with. He included a section for those who have been killed by police. It also contained a haunting portrait of a woman who had been a member of the Toltec dancing group, in her magnificent feathered headdress.
  • A Lincoln High School teacher organized her students to create an altar honoring Frida Khalo.
  • Friends created an altar for a woman who was an animal lover and advocate. It included artistic representations of many species, and of course the mandatory “soul snacks” – a dog dish with kibbles.
  • A woman of Mexican decent and her son built an altar for her niece who had tragically died 10 years ago, at the age of 13. Her family has been in the U.S. for 100 years and she was not raised with this tradition. She was introduced to the Day of the Dead in the ‘70’s by Galeria de la Raza. She has created altars in the past, but this was the first time she had felt drawn to create an altar for her niece. As she was working with her teenage son, she found herself crying and realized that she had been holding grief for years. She experienced the truth in the saying, “La cultura cura” (culture heals).
  • Some of the altars invited community participation with baskets and note paper. People were invited to write the names of their beloved dead and let them know they are remembered. I wrote the name of my cousin, who died 4 years ago of colon cancer. As I dropped it into the basket, I felt a rush of love for her. La cultura cura
  • We heard a presentation by Mary Andrade, who is an internationally known photo-journalist. She has spent much of her career documenting the unique Day of the Dead traditions across Mexico. Her bi-lingual website: DayoftheDead.com is one of the most viewed sites on this subject in the world.

Even though the Day of the Dead is not connected to the American Halloween holiday, comparison is unavoidable. They are the same time of year and both focus on the departed, but the theme of Halloween is fear of the dead. If they do return for a night, it’s to terrorize the living – not to party with them. The dead are usually rotting corpses draped in black or grey rags – not festively dressed skeletons. Cemeteries are to be avoided at all costs – not sites of communal celebration. What happened to the Halloween dead people to make them so angry and mean? It’s a completely different crowd.

The Día de los Muertos model is more appealing to me. Whether we are in the Land of the Living or the Land of the Dead, we are not so different. We all came from the same place and we are all returning to the same place. The Day of the Dead is an annual reminder, strengthening the love and connections that sustain us all, no matter where we are on the journey.

The Art of Remembrance Altar and Visual Art Exhibit will remain on display through November 2nd at San Jose State University. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 150 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose. There will also be additional Day of the Dead events and they can be found on the Immigrantinfo.org Community Calendar and also a link to a San Jose listing from the San Jose MultiCultural Artists Guild in the Announcements on the Home Page. If you know of an event not listed here that is free and open to the public, please send details to administrator@immigrantinfo.org.

Families Belong Together

On June 30th, at rallies all over the country, people gathered together to send a message. I was able to participate in two of the Santa Clara County events. I was again inspired by the beauty, cleverness, humor and passion expressed on the signs and T-shirts. Some of the sentiments deserve to be shared with those who could not make it (this time). It feels like we are in an existential battle for the soul of our country and it will not end quickly. There will be other opportunities.

The unifying factor is the public tsunami of emotion that was inspired by the increasingly cruel treatment of immigrants and refugees – most recently the separation of children from their families combined with the arrogant insensitivity to their trauma. In fact, we were told that the suffering was intentional, meant to send a message to others who might be hoping for asylum in “the land of the free”.

Clearly, the people who think this is a good plan are not concerned with our opinion about their abuse of children, vulnerable people, and international humanitarian law. If anything, our shock, fear and anger seems to invigorate them. Clever signs and T-shirts won’t inspire anyone in Washington to rethink their plan. The overwhelming backlash has caused them to act as if they are responding to public opinion, but the basic agenda hasn’t changed. They are resisting efforts of advocates and service providers and show no attempt to create a viable plan or allocate sufficient resources. More resources are still dedicated to arresting legal asylum seekers at the border – adding to the number of traumatized parents and children.

To date, the reunification is being done in such a way as to maintain a level of fear and insecurity. Detainees are being told to renounce their asylum claims and agree to deportation in order to have a chance at finding their children. They are thrown back into the violent world they were trying to escape, with another layer of trauma, minus the assets they sacrificed for the trip, and sometimes without the children who were pulled from them on their arrival. Suffering is still being utilized to manipulate behavior.

Under extreme public outcry, our leaders have offered to jail the children with their parents, while still refusing to accept applications for asylum. Concurrently they are implementing policy changes that will make virtually all of these people ineligible. The official US policy is that these people do not deserve asylum or even sympathy or respect. Lawsuits and protests may slow the process, but have not altered the government agenda of punishment and deportation.

For many in the crowd, this was their first rally. Some signs expressed disbelief that it’s come to this in our country.

  • It’s wrong to traumatize helpless children. I can’t believe I have to make a sign that says this. or
  • State sponsored kidnapping is wrong.How is this controversial?

One person held a sign that said,

  • Thanks Trump for turning me into an Activist.

Even if people in charge are not listening, one of the most important messages is the one that we sent to ourselves on Saturday. Father Jon Pedigo asked everyone to look around at the huge crowd at the people who had shown up at San Jose City Hall, standing in 90+ degree heat. He emphasized that we were not alone. We had all come to demonstrate our dedication and express our support for a group of desperate people. This vulnerable group of immigrants and their children has united people of compassion all over the country. They have reminded us of things much deeper than our personal or political differences. We can no longer be distracted from the intolerable actions that are being done in our name and paid for with our taxes. People of all ages, colors, backgrounds and beliefs took time to reconnect and appreciate others who care. Father Jon then invited all the sweaty people to hug those around them, and we did.

A lot of people showed up, but a lot of people did not. Now that people are aware of what’s happening, how can it be allowed to continue? Fear overrides compassion and many people have been convinced that kindness makes us weak and unsafe.They have effectively built a wall around their hearts and sacrificed their humanity for the illusion of safety.

One rationale for this inhumanity is, “We are a nation of laws. The bottom line is that these people broke the law.”

Jumping right to the bottom line eliminates the need to acknowledge the circumstances that have transformed terrorized parents (and children) into “criminals.” The implication is that if the law is not blindly enforced, no matter the cost, we will lose everything. But laws are made (and interpreted) by men with their own agendas. One lady’s sign said it best,

  • Slavery was legal.The holocaust was legal. Segregation was legal. Legality is not a guide for morality.

Laws have their place, but it is connection, collaboration and compassion that keep a society strong and sustainable. If we do not value them, these qualities will be systematically eroded.

Clearly this will be a long confrontation with a dedicated force on both sides, but the other side has positions of authority, a well defined agenda, a long term plan, and the motivation of fear. If our only goal is to make them stop hurting people, and by chance we were even moderately successful, we would lose our unifying force. We need to both maintain focus on the immediate issues and agree on long term goals that will keep us connected. For instance, a society where compassion is the norm and there are no circumstances under which it is acceptable to intentionally traumatize small children (or anyone). To do this we need to seek solutions that acknowledge the existence and value of everyone involved, even when it is inconvenient. Saturday at the rally we took a step in that direction, reminding ourselves that we are all part of the same large family and Families Belong Together. The words of Martin Luther King Jr still ring true:

“We will live together as brother and sister or perish together as fools.

Please enjoy my YouTube slideshow (above) of the San Jose and Mt. View rallies, and the following messages I was able to document. (Note: I may not be in complete alignment with all of the messages. But I have listed all that I could, to offer a complete picture of the diversity and creativity of people who are uniting to stand in solidarity with immigrants and families.)

  • A little kindness can change everything.
  • A woman’s place is in the House (and the Senate)
  • Abolish ICE
  • All are welcome!South Bay Jewish Voices for Peace
  • All parents want a better life for their children.
  • America has been infested by Trump.
  • American Nightmare
  • Asylum Not Cages
  • Borders are kind of fake anyway.
  • Brutality is not a Soul-ution.
  • Bridges Not Walls
  • Cage Racists. Deport Xenophobic A******s.
  • Caging Children and Inciting Hate is no way to make America Great
  • Can’t spell detestable without DT
  • Caseworkers – not Prison Guards
  • Children are Sacred
  • Children in Jail – Sex Offender in the White House. What’s wrong with this picture.
  • C***** la Migra
  • Compassion is not weakness. Cruelty is not strength.
  • Compassion – not fascism.
  • Come on. WTF?
  • Criminalizing Immigrants does not make us safer.
  • Deport Jeff Sessions
  • Disgrace!
  • Do Unto Others….
  • Due Process for All
  • Dump Trump
  • Educate – Engage – Empower SIREN
  • Education Not Deportation
  • Elections have consequences – Vote on November 6th.
  • Empathy Makes America Great
  • End Government Sponsored Child Abuse
  • End Indefinite Detention
  • Estoy aqui con mis padres.
  • Even my dog is against Trump (sign on a dog carrier)
  • Everything Hitler did was legal.
  • Familias Unidas
  • Families Belong Together (and not in camps). Why am I making posters that point this out?
  • Families Belong Together.How is this controversial?
  • Family Separation is Terrorism
  • Family Values = Value Families
  • Fear Nativists – Not Immigrants
  • Fight ignorance – not immigrants.
  • Fighting for our future.
  • Find the babies
  • Free the children – Cage the Nazi’s
  • Free the immigrants – Lock up the Tyrant.
  • Free the kids (sign held by a kid).
  • Get some boundaries and leave ours alone.
  • Give a s**t about others.
  • Give the Children Back.
  • Gospel of Matthew 25:35 – “For I was hungry and you gave me food.I was thirsty and you gave me drink – a stranger and you welcomed me.”
  • Got Compassion?
  • Had Enough Yet?
  • Heartless Incompetence
  • Hello neighbor. I’m here to borrow a cup of hope.
  • Hey Dems Lead or Leave
  • History has its eyes on you.
  • How did we get great? Immigration!
  • Human need – not corporate greed.
  • Human Rights for All
  • I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
  • I can’t believe I have to make a sign to remind us that it’s cruel to rip children from their parents.
  • I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re supposed to care about other people.
  • I prefer crushed ICE!
  • I really do care and you should too.
  • I will stand with the most vulnerable. If not now, when?
  • If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
  • I’m here with my parents (held by a toddler)
  • Immigrants belong here. Racism does not.
  • Inhumane laws must be changed
  • Intolerable cruelty! End Family Detention
  • ICE – Incarcerating Children Everywhere
  • If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?
  • Impeach Cheeto Voldemort
  • Impeach Hate – Vote!
  • In this house we believe, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Love is Love, Science is Real, Black Lives Matter, Kindness is Everything
  • Individually we are one drop of water.Together we are a Big Blue Wave.
  • It’s wrong to traumatize helpless children. I can’t believe I have to make a sign that says this
  • Jesus was a refugee child.
  • Justice is what love looks like in public.
  • Karma’s a Bitch “Donald” and she’s coming for you.
  • Keep Families Safe
  • Keep loved ones together.
  • Keeping Families and Children Together is a Family Value.
  • Kidnapping is not a family value.
  • Kids belong with their families (held by a toddler).
  • Kids need their parents (Held by little girl)
  • Know your history.The Pilgrims were uncodumented.
  • Leviticus 19:33
  • Lock Him Up!
  • Los Altos United Methodist Church Stands with Immigrants
  • Love Can Win
  • Love Trumps Hate
  • Love unleashes Unstoppable Force
  • Make America Decent Again
  • Make America Humane Again
  • Make America Kind Again
  • Make America Moral Again
  • Make America Smart Again
  • Make it Right – Reunite!
  • May all bigots be reincarnated as helpless immigrant children.
  • Migration is a human right.
  • Moms Rising for Immigrants www.Momsrising.org
  • Mt. View stands in solidarity with immigrants.
  • Mt. View Voices for Peace and Justice
  • No cages – No camps.
  • No foil will replace the love of a parent. Return all children now.
  • No human is illegal on stolen land.
  • No KKK. No Fascist USA
  • No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.
  • No Muslim Ban
  • No Nuremburg Defense
  • No one chooses to be a refugee but you can choose not to be a dick.
  • None of us is free unless all of us are free.
  • Not on our watch.
  • Not by fighting what we hate, but by defending what we love.That’s how we will win.
  • Not a time for civility when children are in cages.
  • Not OK USA
  • Now you’ve pissed off Grandma.
  • November is coming – VOTE!
  • Of course I f****** care.
  • Of course we care. Why don’t you?
  • Only cowards lock up children.
  • Only monsters put children in cages.
  • Our Humanity will not be broken
  • Our lives begin and end the moment we become silent about things that matter. MLK
  • Pick on someone your own damn size.
  • Protecting your family is not a crime.
  • Proud daughter of an immigrant.
  • Put an end to structural violence.
  • Rather than a wall, America needs to build a giant mirror to reflect on what we’ve become.
  • Refugees need to be treated nicely (held by a young boy).
  • Resist Hate
  • Reunite Children
  • Rispecta me existencia o espera resistencia
  • Scapegoating immigrants will not make America great again.
  • Seeking asylum is not a crime.
  • Sending Love
  • Slavery was legal.The holocaust was legal.Segregation was legal. Legality is not a guide for morality.
  • Standing on the side of Love
  • State sponsored kidnapping is wrong and I can’t believe I even have to say it.
  • Still not my President
  • Stop being mean.
  • Stop POTUS Trauma
  • Stop pretending your racism is patriotism.
  • Stop Torturing Families.
  • Stronger together
  • Swedenbourgain Church says #Families Belong Together
  • Swingleft.org
  • Tech Immigration Allies
  • Thanks Trump for turning me into an Activist.
  • The only families that belong in jail are the Mansons and Trumps.
  • The world does not need more trauma. Keep Families Together.
  • Then they came for the children and I said, “Hell No!”
  • They are Children. You are monsters.
  • This is not the America that my grandfather escaped the Nazi’s to come to raise his family in. We can do better.
  • Thou shall love thy neighbors.That includes immigrants.
  • Toddlers aren’t lawyers. Provide representation.
  • Together we will stand against hate. www.Twwsanjose.org
  • Treasonous – Racist – Un-American – Monstrous -Pervert
  • Trump holds thousands of immigrant children hostage – SHAME!
  • Trump is a child abuser.
  • Trump keep your tiny hands off other people’s kids.
  • Trump, the only kids who belong in jail are yours.
  • Trump leave the tantrums to me (taped to a baby carriage)
  • Trump’s policies are UnAmerican
  • Trump’s swamp is drowning the US.
  • Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. The Lorax. Dr. Zuess
  • Vote for Decency
  • We are one race – the human race.
  • We are supposed to be the home of the BRAVE and the land of the FREE. Let these BRAVE immigrants be FREE in this land – their new home.
  • We are the moral compass of this great nation.
  • We should all care.
  • We the people are not afraid of foreigners. We were all foreigners once.
  • “We the people” means everyone.
  • We will live together as brother and sister or perish together as fools. MLK
  • We will not be ignored.
  • We will vote.
  • We’re all immigrants – even you Donald.
  • We’re humans – not animals.
  • What kind of monsters put children in cages?
  • What if they were your children?
  • What would Mr. Rogers say?
  • When Corporations are more important than individuals, children become cattle.
  • When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.
  • Where are the Kids?
  • Where are the babies? Where are the girls?
  • Women Resist White Supremacy
  • Wrong is Wrong is Wrong
  • Yes to Refugees. No to Regime change wars that create them.
  • You know what they say… Small Hands – Small Heart
  • Zero tolerance for family separation.
  • 3000+ children taken from their parents. Welcome to Trump’s America.
  • 5th Amendment: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Refugees are people.
  • 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act – 1942 Japanese Internment – 2018 Muslim Exclusion Act

Self-Care in Difficult Times

 

These are difficult times for immigrants and refugees. Since January 2016, there have been a steady stream of Executive Orders removing protections and rights for a population that was already vulnerable. The good news: Just as fear, depression and anger can be contagious, so are compassion, courage and creativity.When we make a conscious choice to practice remaining calm, connected and focused even in the middle of chaos, we remind ourselves and our community that we are more than the experience we are having.

I encourage you to try anything on this page that feels interesting or appealing, and let me know your experience. I also invite you to share information about your own methods for relaxation and self-empowerment. We spend a lot of time discussing the things that drain or discourage us, giving them even more of our personal power. We can create a space where we help each other to remember who we really are – Powerful People with Purpose.

I have gathered together a few options for anyone who would like relief from the negative energy that seems to be all around us. I have chosen these techniques because:

  • They are simple and effective
  • They are free and do not require the assistance of a Therapist
  • They are not language intensive, although for some there are multi-language handouts.

Chakra Tuning Nature Slide Show
What we focus on gets bigger. It is not helpful to give all of our consciousness to negative situations.The resulting frustration and anxiety depletes our energy and does not create solutions. So take a short break. Watch this 12 minute video, breathing deeply, focusing on the colors and appreciating the beauty that can still be found if we look for it. Set aside anything that is unresolved and any thoughts that have been weighing on you. (If you are afraid to let go of them, you can put them in a box for safekeeping during your break.) Your mind has been working so hard, looking for solutions. If your mind tries to resist a break, gently remind yourself that a little relaxation can make your mind even more efficient. Nothing is so important that we can’t allow ourselves 12 minutes to breathe and re-balance.

Inhale the colors and exhale tension and stress. At the end, you will feel refreshed and lighter. With a rested mind and spirit, the issues that you set aside earlier also seem lighter when you return to them with a new perspective.

Set your intention to offer your mind and spirit 12 minutes of restful beauty every day. Over time you will create space for new ideas and hope for new possibilities.

Guided Visualizations

Say Yes to Life!
A 45 minute guided visualization that visits each of your chakras (main energy centers), using breath and intention to lovingly release limiting beliefs and revisit past conclusions about your life and your potential. An opportunity to expand self-awareness, compassion and forgiveness – essential qualities in difficult times.

Success Script
A gentle 30 minute guided visualization that will help you to expand your perception of who you are and what you are capable of. Originally created to assist CalWorks recipients attending San Jose City College to see themselves as successful students, study and take tests with confidence.

Self Help for Trauma with TTT – Trauma Tapping Technique

There are many similar tapping techniques, and its value has been demonstrated for many years around the world. These techniques seem to enable your mind/body/spirit system’s own natural healing capabilities to regain their power. You have had (or are having) a traumatic experience but you are more than that experience. You can choose to shift your focus and move on.

TTT is so simple that anyone (even children) can quickly learn it. It does not require a lot of explanation or discussion.It does not have to be done perfectly.Each time you practice, the trauma loses some of its grip on you. I contacted the Peaceful Heart Network and they are happy to share all of their materials and encourage people to learn and share the technique. They have been teaching TTT in Africa, to people who have lived with years of war and strife. They have been able to regain their spirits and even find joy in life.

TTT Video Demonstration
If you are experiencing the symptoms of emotional or post-traumatic stress, this is a tool to free yourself from the place you have been stuck. You can watch the video link above or use a walk-through of the steps available below (in multiple languages). You cannot do this wrong. The effects may be immediate or a little delayed, but each time you do this tapping routine with the intention of taking your life back, you loosen the grip of the past. You no longer feel trapped in a small dark room with no hope. You have the ability to open the door and step out into the light again.
English | Arabic | Dari | Farsi | French | German | Somali | Spanish | Tigrinya |

Two Finger Song
Video Demo. There is no reason you can’t have fun with this TTT song written by Ulf Sandström, tapping led by Gunilla Hamne and performed by Future Vision Acrobats in Gisenyi for the Peaceful Heart Network. Follow the instructions to learn the treatment.

For the Children – Care, Cope, Connect
The Care, Cope, Connect resource, was created by Sesame Street in collaboration with the First 5 Association of CA, to help parents cope with stress and provide safety and security for their children. In CA, nearly half of all children under the age of 17 have immigrant parents and 46 percent of households with children report a significant traumatic experience. First 5’s are committed to helping parents weather these stressful situations and mitigate impacts on young children’s development, health, and learning. Activity books for parents and children:
English | Spanish | Arabic | Korean |

EFT For Kids (With CJ): Why We Tap
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is another tapping technique like TTT, that is commonly used with children.

Helping Immigrant Children Heal
Psychologists are working to help undocumented immigrant children recover from trauma and deal with the uncertainties of their lives.

Active Minds is a nonprofit organization advocating for mental health awareness and education for students aged 14 to 25.  AM has supported the creation of over 450 student led chapters in high schools and colleges across the country promoting young adult mental health advocacy and suicide prevention. AM provides information and resources to help students encourage their peers and networks to learn about, talk about, and seek help for mental health issues just as they would for a physical issue, without shame or silence. This student-to-student approach is unique and brings the voice of young people who are disproportionately affected by mental illnesses and the way mental health is addressed on campuses and in society at large. Spanish Resources

 

New Additions:

UNDOCU-IMMIGRANT MENTAL HEALTH GROUNDING & SELF-CARE TOOLKIT from Immigrants Rising

September 5th – A Day of Sadness and Support for Dreamers


When DOJ Director, Jeff Sessions, announced the closeout of the DACA program, it was not a surprise. But it still sent a shock wave through the Dreamers’ community, that had been hoping until the last minute that facts, common sense, or compassion would win a reprieve.

Response was immediate in Santa Clara County, with a late morning Press Conference at the Martin Luther King Library in downtown San Jose, and followed by an afternoon march and a Candlelight Protest in Mt. View. Even with the short notice, an amazing array of people of different ages, nationalities and ethnic groups gathered together to comfort and support the Dreamers and each other,



There were declarations of resistance and re-commitments of solidarity, mixed with confusion and sadness. This decision was made in spite of overwhelming documentation that the DACA program had benefited everyone. 800,000 Dreamers had come out of the shadows and were living lives with opportunities to gain education, better jobs and higher wages (which were in turn spent in their home communities). But just as important, they were granted the privilege that native born Americans have without earning it – the freedom to live without the constant threat of separation from their families, friends and everything they have built.

The majority of Americans can only wonder at the logic of excluding 800,000 young and motivated people from an aging society – one that already sees its workforce declining as baby-boomers age out. If this intention is carried out, the future will be diminished for everyone. The misconception that immigrants (particularly the Dreamers), are a drain on society, will show as DACA authorizations begin to expire. Each month, thousands of workers, students, parents, and members of faith based institutions will disappear, taking with them their energy, creativity and enthusiasm.

When the fate of DACA was announced. local politicians were joined by Dreamers and their advocates (long term as well as newly created) to prepare for a long battle. These photo slide shows from September 5th convey the diversity and determination of the Dreamers and the people who gathered to remind them that they are seen, they are valued and they are not alone.

SCC Supports Immigrants with Expanding Rapid Response Network

On Wednesday, August 30th, a press conference was held to announce that the Rapid Response Network (RRN) will now cover the entire county. It has been active for 2 months in San Jose, and now enough volunteers have taken the ICE Observer training to respond to requests for assistance in any zip code.

Call (408) 290-1144 to report ICE activity.

The Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations and the San Jose Office of Immigrant Affairs have been working with Community Based Organizations to establish the RRN. It’s based on a model that is spreading across the country as the national campaign of detainment and deportation has mushroomed. A telephone dispatcher is available 24/7 to receive information about ICE activities and notify the closest volunteers to verify the report and witness the event. Volunteers learn how to do this without interfering with ICE officers, but documenting whether or not they are following their own guidelines and the respecting the constitutional rights that everyone has, regardless of immigration status.

If someone is detained, the dispatcher is alerted with the details, and legal assistance is immediately contacted. There is also a component to support the families with information, advocacy, transportation to attend proceedings, and sometimes cash assistance. Frequently it is the working member (and sole support) of the family who is picked up.

Federal immigration officials have been authorized to detain anyone who is in the U.S. illegally, but they are supposed to follow the law while doing it. This RRN model has already demonstrated that people behave better when they know they might be witnessed and recorded.

These are times when political interests frequently override basic humanitarian concerns. On Wednesday we were reminded that in Santa Clara County, there are still some adults in charge. Some of the messages for the press included:

Dave Cortese, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors shared that Santa Clara County has already allocated millions of dollars to fund supportive programs, such as multi-language “Know Your Rights” workshops, legal fees to defend undocumented immigrants, and the creation of the Rapid Response Network. The commitment will continue for the County because, “This is not just something we are doing. It’s how we are.”

Mt. View Police Chief, Max Bosel pointed out that a community cannot be safe when half of its members are afraid to request help, report crimes, appear in court as witnesses, or speak with government authorities. The police can’t do their jobs unless people believe that everyone will receive the same respect and protection regardless of immigration status.

Mt. View Mayor, Ken Rosenberg said all members of the Mt. View community should feel safe to live here and know that they are valued members of the community.

District 5 Supervisor, Joe Simitian expressed sympathy for those who go through every day with a shadow over them, wondering if this will be the day….

The President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce stated the obvious need of businesses for a stable workforce and the entrepreneurial spirit of Latino immigrants.

In addition to local government support, we heard from some service providers, such as Sacred Heart Community Center, SIREN, PACT (People Acting in Communities Together), LUNA (Latinos United for a New America) and the Dayworker Center of Mt. View. Many are themselves, members of the immigrant and refugee communities that they work with every day. They are experiencing first-hand the unrelenting stress of families who live in fear, knowing that they could be separated at any time. They are unable to tell their clients that they are safe – only to share the resources developed to protect them.

Two “elementary school moms” started Mt. View Listo – a group of parents helping undocumented parents to make a plan and take steps to assure that their children will be cared for if they are detained. They receive assistance filling in forms and then free review by a lawyer. It helps to alleviate some of the stress, knowing that they have done what they can to make arrangements for their families in the worst case scenario.

Even though a dire situation had brought us together, Father Jon Pedigo of Catholic Charities kept energy and spirits high with some chants and songs, reminding us that we are much stronger than we imagine when we stand together.

One blessing of challenging times is the courage and creativity that is brought out in community members who recognize a need and step forward to help. The expansion of the Rapid Response Network would not be possible without the volunteers who are signing up to learn more about the situation and how they can help. Upcoming Rapid Response Training

It is a good time for all of us to ask ourselves,

“What kind of community do we want to live in?”
and
“What are we willing to do to create that community?”

65 Great Messages of Love at the Unity Rally in San Jose

 

Hundreds of people changed their plans and gathered in San Jose on Saturday, June 10 to show their support to the Muslim-American community. This was all on short notice after hearing that an anti-Muslim demonstration was planned in Santa Clara County (as part of a nationally coordinated demonstration). Sidewalks at the intersection of Winchester and Stevens Creek were filled, with the crowd expanding several blocks. Participants shared flowers, cookies, smiles and some very creative signs.

The issue that brought us together is extremely serious. Fear is trying to put down roots in our County. Nonetheless, the atmosphere was friendly and light. Families with small children chatted with students, activists and religious leaders of all faiths. Some people just came by to say, “Not in my back yard!” to intolerance. Passing cars honked their support (I assume). Reports were that the anti-Muslim crowd down the street was quite limited, and it is unlikely they were having as much fun as we were. Some people wanted to invite them over to see how good it feels to relax and accept other people as they are, with the assumption of good intentions, instead of suspicion.

Fear is not our natural state and it can’t grow if it isn’t fed and nurtured. When we are brought together for events like the Unity Rally, we are reminded that we are more alike than different. Most people want a safe and peaceful place to live and raise children, have enough food to eat, comfort, acceptance, connection, and a way to express ourselves. Skin color, birthplace and/or lifestyle does not increase or decrease our attraction or entitlement to these things. If safety is really our goal, we would do well to take the needs of others as seriously as we take our own.

The citizens of Santa Clara County are blessed to live in a place where people of all ages, colors, religions, ethnic groups, and ways of life will come together when called and reaffirm our commitment to stand up for each other.

Some of the loving messages of support are listed below. I’m sure we are all free to share the ones we like, the next time we are called together to just say ‘NO’ to fear. See the people who carried these expressions of support and friendship in this photo slide show.

  • 1st Amendment – Religious Freedom since 1791
  • A Nation of Immigrants – E Pluribus Unum
  • Abandon Anger and Fear – Embrace Love and Understanding
  • #Against Hate
  • All Races, All Religions, All Countries of Origin, All Sexual Orientations, All Genders – We Stand with you. You are Safe Here.
  • All You Need is Love
  • America Belongs to All People of Good Will of Any Faith or No Faith
  • Amnesty Now! Stop Raids and Deportations
  • Another Jew for Love
  • Asian Americans Stand with Muslim Americans
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers
  • Brothers & Sisters United
  • But the Greatest of These is Love
  • Christians Stand Up for Muslim Americans
  • Darkness can’t drive out Darkness – Only light can do that.
  • Diversity is Beautiful
  • Diversity not Hate is what Makes Us Great
  • End Terrorism by not participating in it
  • FAITH Makes America Great – HOPE Makes America Great – LOVE Makes America Great
  • First they came for the Muslims and I said STOP RIGHT THERE!
  • First they came for the Muslims and we said NOT HERE YOU DON’T!
  • Hate can’t drive out hate – Only love can do that.
  • Hate Destroys Us All
  • Human Rights for All
  • I love my Muslim Neighbor
  • I Stand for Compassion
  • I stand with love for all Muslims
  • Indivisible San Jose
  • Japanese Americans Say – No Muslim Registry! No Deportations!
  • Jews stand with Muslims
  • #KYN – Join the Know Your Neighbor Campaign www.ING.org/KYN
  • Live and Let Live
  • #Love Army – www.LoveArmy.org
  • Love and Peace for All
  • Love & Unity
  • Love Now!
  • Love Prevails
  • Love Your Neighbor
  • Make America Kind Again
  • Muslims are Marvelous
  • Muslims for Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights, Civil Rights, Immigrant Rights, Human Rights
  • My People are Immigrants
  • No Ban – No Wall
  • No Hate – No Fear – Refugees are Welcome Here
  • No Human Being is Illegal
  • No Matter Where You’re From We’re Glad You’re our Neighbor
  • No One Gets Crushed When We Lift Each Other Up
  • RESPECT Makes America Great – COMPASSION Makes America Great – KINDNESS Makes America Great
  • Santa Clara County Peace and Freedom Party
  • Stand Against Hate
  • Standing on the side of Love www.StandingontheSideofLove.org
  • Stop the Hatred – Muslims Welcome
  • Unite and Fight Against Racism
  • United Methodists in Support of Muslim Americans
  • U.S. for all of US
  • We All Belong Here – We will defend each other
  • #We Choose Welcome
  • We are all Immigrants
  • We are all one people.
  • We Believe in Peace
  • We Need to Take Care of Everybody
  • We the People are better than Fear
  • We Say No to Bigotry
  • With Liberty & Justice for All
  • You Cannot Shake Hands with a Clenched Fist