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Dare to Dream: A Day of Justice, Art, and Empowerment

The Monarch Project will be hosting a public art and advocacy event at the Reunited Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa CA on May 2nd!

Dare to Dream is an event centered around promoting the protection of immigrant worker rights in Sonoma County through community art, film, and advocacy. The event will be composed of several central parts including a poster sale and exhibition of artwork created by The Monarch Project, and other local artists and art organizations discussing immigration. The funds will be donated to immigrant families in Sonoma County.

To submit pieces for the exhibition and the poster sale check out our page on Creative Sonoma which outlines the details and all the necessary steps. Everyone is welcome to submit their art!

We will also have a monarch butterfly painting workshop for all ages and skill levels lead by local artists. You can also stop by our photo booth and snap a picture with your own pair of butterfly wings!

The conclusion of the event will be a collection of speakers that represent the workers and Dreamers of Sonoma County who will share their stories and experiences and offer opportunities to further support the cause. 

Following the events taking place outdoors at the Reunited Courthouse Square, we will be showing a series of short films that tell the stories of immigrants in Sonoma County created by My American Dreams at the Glaser Center Auditorium.

Please help support our very first public event and join us on May 2nd at the Reunited Courthouse Square!


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A‌ ‌Measure‌ ‌of‌ ‌Failure:‌ ‌Maternal‌ ‌Mortality‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌US‌ ‌ by‌ ‌Paige‌ ‌Kelleher‌

In order to measure a system as large and multi-faceted as the American healthcare system, it takes a multitude of indicators asking essentially the same question: in this area, are we failing or are we succeeding? Maternal mortality rate, or the rate of women dying in childbirth or from pregnancy-related causes, is an example of one such indicator. It’s also an example of a question where the answer is clear that not only are we failing, but also, that our failure is only getting worse. In order to address this problem in its entirety, we must first evaluate it, both for white women and also for the women of color who are disproportionately affected by it. Then we will examine the system-wide pitfalls that have become the causes for maternal mortalities, and finally see what it takes to rebuild the system to achieve its end success: benefitting and saving the lives of mothers of all races. 

According to the World Health Organization, Maternal mortality is defined as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy…but not from accidental or incidental causes.” Maternal mortality rate is normally measured within 100,000 live births. So, when it comes to maternal mortality rate, how does America stack up? Among western countries, not well. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System, nearly 18 in every 100,000 live births resulted in a maternal mortality; that’s 658 women in 2018 alone. Internationally, the United States is ranked 55th. Out of 10 similarly wealthy and developed countries, the US is ranked 10th. And out of those, America is the only developed country in which maternal mortality rate is actively rising. 

The chart shown, published by the Lancet, records unofficial data from 1990, 2000, and 2015 in the number of deaths per 100,000 live births.

But are these rates the same for women of all races? The same statistics from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System found that “the maternal death rate for black women was more than double that of white women: 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 14.7.” These statistics prove that this isn’t just a health crisis; it’s also one of the widest racial disparities in the United States. According to the CDC, “a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes” (Martin, ProPublica). 

But why is this? Why is infant mortality the lowest it’s been in fifty years, and maternal mortality rate the highest? And why is it so much worse for women of color? The answer is as complicated and multifaceted as the American healthcare system itself. 

First, there’s an unfortunate lack of understanding of the indicators for common pregnancy related complications. While infant death is on the steady decline due to nationwide narrowed, specific care, maternal mortality is on the up: “in the last decade or so, at least 20 hospitals have established multidisciplinary fetal care centers for babies at high risk for a variety of problems. So far, only one hospital in the U.S. — NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia — has a similar program for high-risk moms-to-be” (Martin, NPR). And the lack of these programs have lasting effects; researchers at the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, who spent years studying preeclampsia, a very common complication in maternal mortality, found that “despite triggers that clearly indicated a serious deterioration in the patient’s condition, health care providers failed to recognize and respond to these signs in a timely manner, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.” (Martin, NPR) 

But complications like preeclampsia are not widely known due to the second issue with maternal mortality rate in the US: lack of reporting. The statistics mentioned before from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System are the first since 2007, and are still yet purported to be majorly conservative. The system for keeping track is left to a single checkbox on the death certificate, and even then, it’s handled by states who didn’t adopt the checkbox all at once. 2018 was the first year that all states reported and required a comparable check box. In England, where preeclampsia deaths are less than one a year, “maternal deaths are regarded as systems failures. A national committee of experts scrutinizes every death of a woman from pregnancy or childbirth complications, collecting medical records and assessments from caregivers, conducting rigorous analyses of the data, and publishing reports that help set policy for hospitals throughout the country” (Martin, NPR). In the US, this is settled on a state basis, if at all.

The third reason is perhaps the most problematic – and human – of them all. It is also the most deadly for women of color: implicit bias. According to the American Bar Association, “there is little reason to believe that physicians have not been exposed to the negative narratives about racial minorities that circulate in society—discourses that become the stuff of unconscious negative attitudes about racial groups.” So much so that “providers are less likely to deliver effective treatments to people of color when compared to their white counterparts—even after controlling for characteristics like class, health behaviors, comorbidities, and access to health insurance and health care services.” (American Bar Association) Serena Williams, world famous tennis player, winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, and black woman, dealt with this firsthand with the birth of her daughter Alexis in 2017. The day after giving birth, she noticed a peculiar shortness of breath. Due to her known history of blood clots, she requested a CT scan with contrast and blood thinner right away. However, the nurse “thought her pain medicine might be making her confused…‘I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip’…The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs” (Haskell). For Black, Latino, and Indigenous women, these incidents aren’t as rare as they should be, and often with fatal consequences.

So where do we go from here? The CDC Foundation of Maternal Mortality Data used data from four states to find more than 20 “critical factors” that contributed to pregnancy-related deaths. According to this, “the average maternal death had 3.7 critical factors.” It would be foolish to put blame on any one of these problems as the sole cause for such a high maternal mortality rate in America. Instead, it’s imperative we attack these issues across all fronts. Approaching maternal mortality as the systematic health crisis that it is might open doors and opportunities for better research, identification, and diagnosis of common fatal pregnancy related complications. Comprehensive and accurate reporting with thorough investigations will make it easier to recognize the common factors of maternal mortality and diminish them. And finally, attacking the personal and systematic implicit biases in our entire health care system, such as “policies that make public health insurance unavailable to undocumented immigrants as well as documented immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years” will fully equip our systems to serve, protect, and save women of all races. (American Bar Association)

In a time when women’s reproductive health is on the ballot year after year, it’s important to recognize our goals. If it is true that we are actually concerned about saving human lives, then it is important that we redirect our attention to the crisis: admitting to American mothers that we are failing them, and admitting to ourselves that it’s time to do better. Then, doing better. 

Author: Paige Kelleher

Citations

Belluz, Julia. “We Finally Have a New US Maternal Mortality Estimate. It’s Still Terrible.” Vox, Vox, 30 Jan. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/1/30/21113782/pregnancy-deaths-us-maternal-mortality-rate.

Haskell, Rob, and Photography by Mario Testino. “Serena Williams on Motherhood, Marriage, and Making Her Comeback.” Vogue, www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018.

“Implicit Bias and Racial Disparities in Health Care.” American Bar Association, www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/the-state-of-healthcare-in-the-united-states/racial-disparities-in-health-care/.

“Maternal Mortality Ratio (per 100 000 Live Births).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 11 Mar. 2014, www.who.int/healthinfo/statistics/indmaternalmortality/en/.

Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne. “The Last Person You’d Expect To Die In Childbirth.” NPR, NPR, 12 May 2017, www.npr.org/2017/05/12/527806002/focus-on-infants-during-childbirth-leaves-u-s-moms-in-danger.

Nina Martin, ProPublica. “Nothing Protects Black Women From Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth.” ProPublica, www.propublica.org/article/nothing-protects-black-women-from-dying-in-pregnancy-and-childbirth.

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Police and ICE: Systems of Oppression

The ultimate system of oppression is a fully legal one that is embraced and normalized by the culture and society it resides in. It hides behind the notion of fear from other human beings standing behind imaginary borders and marked by superficial differences. It hides behind billions of dollars and the name of “progress” and enterprise. It hides in imposed ignorance, in the pretentious elevation of politics, complex terminology, and convoluted levels of bureaucracies that belittle the average individual and make them feel and believe that the major decisions being made in the world are beyond their understanding and reach. 

We have taken these systems to be what is “best for us” when they are in truth compromises on our moral values and betrayals of our basic notions on what it means to be a good human being. Essentially, we are saying “it is what it is” (a particularly useless and unproductive phrase by the way) and moving on with our lives. While I could make this argument with many USFG (United States Federal Government) programs, I’d like to focus on a few particular systems that are just begging to be exposed. 

First, I want to discuss the police. The notions of decreasing police power or abolishing it all together have existed relatively quietly for some time, but now due to the murder of George Floyd and the revived Black Lives Matter movement, it has taken its place on the forefront of politics and social media, resulting in actual, tangible changes. Before this had taken place, I would have honestly laughed in the face of anyone who said that police could be banned or replaced. As someone who firmly believes that no one should be exclusively defined by a single part of their identity, the “All Cops Are Bastards” mantra seemed off-putting and radical to me. And it’s easy to grab onto an all-encompassing slogan and roll with it: they are short and sweet and offer magical and immediate solutions. I had my doubts because most cops are fundamentally here to protect our communities, right? So, over the course of the week, I did research and tried to understand where I should place myself on the spectrum, and ultimately the reason that the police force should be dissolved is that its flaws are too intertwined with its very existence, its structure, and its history to be fixed through reform. 

Dismantling the police system is like breaking up from a very long-term, dysfunctional relationship. You’ve grown so used to someone that you see them as your only future, and you’ve taken all the things that are wrong with them and called them normal. You’ve ignored the red flags, the drinking problem, the fact that they hate your friends, their obsession over every part of your life, etc., etc. In case I’ve gone too far, I’d like to remind you that these are all metaphors for the police and not at all about my own dysfunctional relationships. 

Point being, there are other options and other fish in the sea. We don’t need to hang on to a system that mostly protects rich people and puts poor ones in prison. We don’t need to protect a group notorious for disproportionately targeting people of color with countless cases and reports of white supremacy. We don’t need to depend on something so flawed that it requires an entire article of its own. For a nice comprehensive list of replacements for the police, check out this article from the Rolling Stone, but here are just some of the ideas currently circulating: Social workers can replace the cops in high schools and many other settings where vulnerable individuals need help to reform their lives, not to be placed in the hands of someone that can muddy their record and leave a scar on their life forever. CHP can remain to be a separate system, just with fewer guns and more negotiation tactics. Neighborhoods can install independent community patrols based on the notions of local direct democracies. The good cops people love to talk about can continue to do good work in a good, not racist, and truly impartial system.

If we need to stick with the police, (which might be the way to go judging by the pace at which our government works, and its reluctance to accept “radical” change), then we need to seriously reform it. Why not require officers to earn degrees in criminal justice, or create a pre-law enforcement degree? We make doctors go through at least 10 years of schooling and training after high school because we entrust them with our lives, why not do the same for people who walk around with guns in hand and immense freedom to use them?

We must also shrink the size of the police and reallocate funds to low-income neighborhoods, which also tend to have the highest crime rates (and are often communities of color) because they are over-policed and vulnerable to falling into crime. This would allow us to eradicate part of the problem instead of trying to treat the symptoms. (Quick side note, how come the petty crimes of poor people are always placed at such priority when corporation owners have been using our immensely capitalistic system as a justification to steal money from everyone and buy up the entire United States government?)

I’m sure you’ve already heard plenty about these reforms so I won’t bore you, but one note that tends to be missed often is that this change will most effectively and efficiently take place at city and county levels. The bottom line is that the present form of law enforcement is not some kind of eternal, god-given, and end all be all system. It can change. We can change it. 

Second, I want to dive into the not so distant cousin of the police: ICE. Trump’s booty call and the latest addition to the arsenal of the land of the free, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was only founded in 2003, the same year as the release of Finding Nemo! (Turns out Nemo wasn’t the only one fated to be ripped away from his father) Despite being very young, ICE has already worked up a reputation and again, seems completely necessary; even I can’t deny that drug cartels should not be able to bring meth across the border.

The discussion about ICE is not complete without a background on immigration in the US in general, which I’ll try to summarize, but I suggest doing some research of your own. In summary, there are millions of undocumented immigrants in the US predominantly from Mexico and the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). They have immigrated here because of economic hardship, immense violence and gang activity, and political unrest (for which the US is largely responsible due to its political and economic exploitation of those countries, especially in the Northern Triangle). Due to the huge influx of those immigrants and the circumstances under which they leave those countries, the legal methods of coming to the US, which involve decade long waits in some cases and a very small number of spaces, are oftentimes cast aside. 

A majority of undocumented immigrants tend to keep a low profile to stay out of crime and out of ICE’s radar and have very low unemployment rates. Of course, there are lazy, criminal, and dangerous immigrants too, but not disproportionately more than the all-American, pure-white, couch-surfing bums and school shooters. And while I would love to argue for that exact reason that all humanity is fundamentally the same and that borders are simply constructs imposed to keep a sense of identity and incentive for nationalism, and thus no one should be deported, I understand that people that pose a real threat to the US can be kindly escorted back to their country of origin. That, however, is not what ICE is spending most of its time and $7.6 billion annual budget doing. 

There are problems in the system that is supposed to let people in in the first place, but I’ll leave that for another time and instead discuss the treatment of undocumented immigrants that are already in the US. ICE treats all undocumented immigrants like they are dangerous criminals while being present in the US without papers is only a civil offense. ICE agents take advantage of the fact the undocumented immigrants have little to no protection in the US to do whatever they like. This means terrorizing and mistreating them, violating their constitutionally ensured rights as human beings by Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, and the 4th Amendment, and disregarding basic human rights that I incorrectly assumed everyone understood and protected. This means barging into people’s homes, cars, and workplaces even though they need a warrant. It means overcrowded detention centers even amidst a pandemic and sexually abused detainees with no proper reporting system in place to find help. It means working with the police to create an attitude of rightfully placed distrust and fear towards law enforcement. 

To summarize, we as a nation have decided that the existence of a human being on the other side of a largely imaginary line is so horrid that they must be subjected to relentless fear, human rights abuses, and the undying risk of being uprooted from your life as you know it. Immigrants are not going to stop coming to the US as ocean levels begin to rise and climate change destroys already vulnerable areas of the world. We have to be ready for an influx of new migrants searching for safety, and as of now, we don’t appear to be very accommodating hosts.  

How do we fix this? ICE as it stands must be dismantled and reconstructed to focus on predominantly, or nearly entirely, on actual criminal immigrants. Detention centers cannot continue to have these conditions, they cannot have little to no oversight and run as for-profit prisons. ICE agents should be required to read detainees their Miranda rights and stop raiding neighborhoods and workplaces. And finally, there must be a way for undocumented immigrants already in the US to have a pathway to legal citizenship. 

We have come to terms with the fact that people in need on another part of our little wet pebble floating through space are not welcome into our designated zone that we stole from other people in the first place. Is this an oversimplification? Perhaps to an extent, but it does highlight the fact that we have taken the existence of borders and divisions, and internalized and ingrained them into our understanding of the world so deeply, that we fail to recognize just how petty it all is to divide human beings like that. 

What blows my mind is that the insurance of basic human rights and plain old decency is a very partisan, political, and highly controversial issue. At the end of the day, police and ICE are systems that we have accepted into our culture without questioning their shortcomings. We have compromised our moral standings and thrown our hands up in weak defeat. We have hidden behind legalities and claimed that these individuals are simply rightfully enforcing the law of the land, while history has proven legality has never equated to morality. We must stop normalizing systems of oppression and relinquishing our power to the fear of each other and defying tradition. No more hiding, it’s time to seek change.

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Immigration and the 2020 Presidential Election by Idan Kashani

As the 2020 presidential election edges closer, the question of immigration is more decisive than ever. Since his inauguration in 2017, Donald Trump has proven to the American people and to the world that he does not care about human rights, especially those of immigrants coming to the United States of America. He has consistently disrespected and dehumanized the undocumented immigrant community, calling them rapists, drug dealers, and criminals. Trump fails to recognize the contributions all immigrants, documented and undocumented, make to the American economy and society every day. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, undocumented immigrants pay an estimated 7 billion dollars into the social security fund annually, money that they will never benefit from due to the administration’s discriminatory immigration policy that is harmful to the economy and society of the United States.

At the border, refugees from Central American countries fleeing gang violence, poverty, corruption, and threats to their lives are having their children stripped from them and are being held in inhuman conditions that have no place in a developed country. ICE has been given the power to mentally and physically torture refugees, and is not being held accountable for sexual crimes committed by its employees. From 2014 to 2018, a total of 4556 allegations were made by immigrant children put in concentration camps of sexual harassment by ICE agents and employees in the camps. President Trump has refused to take action against ICE over their gross abuses of authority.

Beyond the border, ICE has transformed from an agency responsible for tracing and capturing dangerous foreign individuals and harmful goods that entered the country to a secret police that uses fear, intimidation, violence, and profiling to oppress immigrant communities and tear families apart. ICE raids target neighborhoods based on racial and socioeconomic profiling, and as a result lower income neighborhoods with significant nonwhite populations routinely deal with ICE agents knocking on their doors demanding to be let in despite not having any form of warrant nor probable cause. Immigrants are also targeted at work, while shopping, and in their cars. The judicial system in the United States has always operated on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, but ICE regularly detains US citizens and legal residents on the basis of their race or occupation and forces them to prove that they are, in fact, in the United States legally. This goes against everything we, as Americans, stand for, and everything that the founders of the country fought for over 244 years ago when we declared our independence from British tyranny.

Through his actions against immigrants in the United States and his white supremacist rhetoric, incumbent President Donald Trump has clearly communicated to us his dislike for immigrants and his love of Neo-fascism. Unfortunately, the Democratic establishment sabotaged Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign in order to preserve their corruption and the interests of the American oligarchy. Bernie Sanders was championing a breakthrough immigration plan that would humanize immigrants in the USA and recognize our need for immigration in our country. His plan was the most progressive of all the democratic candidates and was our preferred immigration plan here at the Monarch Project. However, Joe Biden’s immigration plan, the full text of which is available at his website, includes a reversal of Trump’s restrictive asylum policies, provision of aid to those stuck at the border, the end of excessively long detention and investment in an efficient case management system, reversal of the public charge policy, protection of dreamers, and the termination of the Muslim Ban. In November, we must stand up and vote Donald Trump out of office to protect the immigrants in our communities and at the border. While we do not agree with Joe Biden on many matters, the consensus on immigration is a clear one.

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COVID-19 & its socio-economic & racial consequences by Aarav Dubey

Originating in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken the world by storm. The respiratory virus spreads through highly infectious droplets, having caused more than 1.4 million cases world-wide in 185 countries as of today 7th April 2020. The Johns Hopkins COVID -19 page provides updated data regarding infections, deaths, and recoveries.

Labelled a global pandemic by the World Health organization (WHO), the virus unfortunately also gave rise to severe socio-economic problems in economically weaker communities. The 2018 income and poverty data from the Census Bureau around 12% of the US population are living in poverty– clearly suggesting that poverty clusters are concentrated in the communities of color, people with disabilities, and the elderly. Since the elderly are at a great risk from the disease, a person’s economic wellbeing is directly proportional to their capability to access essential items and survive the severe medical conditions. 

This is observed in the USA and all across the world as low-income individuals and families face significant challenges that prevent them from protecting themselves and others from COVID-19. This is solely because they are not in a position to stay put at home and provide basic amenities for their families. Low-income workers do not have liberty to work from home and keep their jobs as most of them are hired for blue-collar jobs, reports CNBC. An added consequence of this is the lack of disposable income these households have: leaving their housing security at risk and them jobless  reports Washington post. Facing this unprecedented situation, they are forced to choose between paying for food, health care, and other necessities or keeping up with rent; this puts their housing situation in great jeopardy, resulting in either homelessness or without necessities, putting them in a position of vulnerability during this pandemic.

Coronavirus, however, is not responsible for all the damage dealt in this situation, for we are letting the threat of this virus divide us. The pandemic is affecting certain individuals more than others, stirring up a mix of fear and hatred within the populous. “The virus is not doing the dividing,” said Professor Jason Beckfield, sociology department at Harvard University. “The dividing is a function of what people are choosing to do with the virus. People are able to shift blame away from themselves or shift blame onto people they dislike.” Coronavirus has been used to scapegoat people of Chinese origin around the world. Phrases like ‘Chinese Virus’ and ‘Kung Flu’ have become trending on Twitter. This pandemic has also escalated tensions between generations, with some younger people referring to the deadly virus as “#BoomerRemover” since it impacts them the greatest.

The aggression towards Asian individuals has been noticed around the globe through countless reported incidents of aggression. From refusing to sit next to Asian individuals on public transport, to incidents of verbal and physical attacks, the fear of the virus has consumed people around the world with hatred. One such scenario follows a Japanese singer in Italy, who was “evaded in Milan, made terrible gestures on the train, and directly ranted at.” In another incident, Jonathan Mok reported pictures of his bruises from being assaulted in London. He reports having been kicked in the head and told “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.” In a few places across Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and Italy signs have been put up forbidding Chinese people from entering restaurants and shops.

To combat the stigma and xenophobia surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s now more important than ever for us to collectively take responsibility to combat and raise our voice against such discrimination. Institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center of Disease Control (CDC) have put out accurate information through pamphlets and articles with the intent of fighting the stigma against people of Asian descent. The CDC website even states that “diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity.” The WHO writes that “stigmatization could contribute to more severe health problems, ongoing transmission, and difficulties controlling infectious diseases during an epidemic.”

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The Morality and Legality of DACA

(Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)

The question of DACA can be discussed in two spheres. 

There, of course, begs the question of morality, what is just based on our own understanding of what is just and unjust. And then, there are the legal aspects of the fate of DACA which in our world is what will ultimately decide the final verdict. In this article, I’d like to tackle both of those perspectives and perhaps demonstrate the connections between the two. 

In its most glorious and elevated condition, the law is meant to be solid, unbreakable, fair, and unbiased. The tradition of precedent aims for consistency and the US Constitution aims for timelessness. However, in many aspects the constitution is outdated, and this isn’t simply anti-traditionalist banter, it’s based upon the fact politics itself has completely changed since the time the ancient document, that we worship like the bible, was created. A primary, and very relevant example, is the growth of presidential power over centuries. As Benjamin Ginsberg, a Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University argues, “talented and ambitious presidents have pushed the boundaries of the office adding new powers that were seldom surrendered by their successors”. 

Not to mention, that every administration, and I mean every administration, and every party will interpret the constitution and other laws to their advantage. 

Now let’s place that in the context of DACA and talk about how this policy was first enacted. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)  is a policy that gives individuals with unlawful presence in the US after being brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S These are individuals who (in summary):

  1. Are at least 15 when they apply and have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012. 
  2. Are in school, a high school graduate or holder of a high school completion certificate or GED, or an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard. 
  3. Are not convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors are ineligible for the program. 

Former President Barack Obama brought DACA into existence through an executive order in 2012 after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act. Since then, over 700,000 received DACA and another million are eligible. Now, Trump and other Republicans are arguing that this was an overreach of power on behalf of the executive branch and used it in their justification to get rid of DACA. What I find amusing, and perhaps it is a simplistic perspective, is that presidents in past have waged wars (unofficially, of course, the Vietnam war is a prime example) that have resulted in the death of thousands, but legislation designed to provide a chance of a normal life without the fear of deportation, is a disgraceful overreach of power. Many argue that per Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, complete authority is given to Congress to determine our nation’s immigration rules. However, if something was so blatantly unconstitutional, it wouldn’t have been enacted in the first place. Quite simply, “DACA is within the scope of presidential authority because it does not change the law, and does not legalize anything that would otherwise be illegal” as Ilya Somin argues in several articles

In their attempts to challenge DACA, Trump and his Republicans have been successful in stopping new applicants from receiving DACA, however, older recipients can still renew it thanks to many lower court challenges. Why didn’t Trump simply get rid of DACA? Because after all, if one president can place an executive order in place, then the next one can simply remove it. However, Trump hid behind the argument of unconstitutionality instead to avoid even more backlash from politicians and the public because a direct stance against DACA, based on moral disagreements is not a smart political stance, even for Trump. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the lower courts were able to challenge his decision: he didn’t provide an adequate reason as to why it was a bad policy. Simply put, the Trump Administration cannot provide a moral argument as to why DACA should be destroyed. 

However, the fate of DACA is no longer in the hands of the executive branch and will be moving on to the Supreme Court in June by the request of Donald Trump. This court hearing will not be deciding the constitutionality of DACA, but instead, the validity of the lower courts challenges to Trump’s decision. And, this decision is going to outlast any presidential executive order. Here are the possible outcomes of this hearing summarized from Vox’s coverage

1st: The Court could affirm the lower court decisions, meaning that handing a narrow victory to the Dreamers. This outcome is unlikely, given the Court’s Republican majority and the views expressed by several members of that majority in a similar 2016 case.

2nd: It could affirm Trump’s decision and deem the Trump administration’s reasoning regarding its decision to wind down DACA are adequate, and thus the administration can move forward in shutting it down while leaving the door open for future administrations to potentially revive it with good enough reasoning.  

3rd: The Court could decide that the DACA program is, itself, unlawful. In this last scenario, the Court would not just allow DACA to be wound down under Trump — it would forbid any future president from reviving it. 

The court is presently more right wing, so a victory for Trump is more likely and a fully revived DACA is nearly impossible.  In the crossfire of legal battle after legal battle are the lives of Dreamers themselves. 

While the political world is having a shouting match over who is right and who is wrong, the 700,000 individuals who have built their lives in the US, who have made deep impacts in their community, and who are now fighting on the frontlines of the COVID 19 outbreak are waiting to see if their safety is in jeopardy, for a choice that they did not make. The USFD could never deport the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the US, it only has the resources to deport 400,000 per year. What I find baffling, from a moral standpoint, is that from all the battles the Trump administration could choose to fight in immigration it chose a group of young, working, educated individuals who have no criminal background and cause absolutely no harm. Dreamers had placed their trust in the US Federal Government, giving them personal information that, if in the wrong hands, could lead ICE right to their doorstep.

To forget the people behind the policy, to justify jeopardizing the lives of thousands of people, is simply a consequence of the trend of dehumanization of immigrants in the US. If this concerned any other group of people there would be public outrage across the country.

Because the ball is now in the Supreme Court (no pun intended) there is very little the rest of the country can do. One can only hope that whatever the outcome, Dreamers can continue to dream.

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ICE Raids in Sonoma County – A National Threat Localized

Ever since his inauguration in 2017, president Donald Trump has routinely targeted innocent, hardworking undocumented immigrants in communities around the United States with ICE raids, arresting members of our communities and putting their families in danger. While Sonoma County’s sheriff does not cooperate with ICE, they can still sweep in unannounced at any time and start knocking on doors.

What can we do as a community, and what is already being done to protect our people from ICE raids?

In 2017, the North Bay Organizing Project launched the North Bay Rapid Response 24 hour hotline at (707) 800-4544, a hotline dedicated to providing legal assistance to immigrants in the North Bay and protecting our communities from ICE tyranny (Click here for their website). If you or someone you know believe(s) that ICE is in the area or have information about a potential raid, follow this procedure.

  1. Call the hotline at (707) 800-4544. When notified of a potential or current ICE raid, North Bay OP will send members of their 700-strong legal team to investigate the threat. If the threat is deemed credible, they will notify those who may be affected, send legal observers to hold ICE accountable and connect those arrested to immigration lawyers dedicated to stopping ICE, and make ICE’s presence known to everyone in the county. It is critical to call the aforementioned hotline, as it is the most effective way to make your voice heard
  2. If and ONLY IF the threat is confirmed as credible, make as much noise as possible. Post about the impending raid on social media, message friends who may be in danger, and encourage others to do so. If you see something, say something. ICE has repeatedly violated the rights of detainees simply because they could. When people are watching, filming, and gathering evidence, they must be held accountable.
  3. If targeted by ICE, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
  4. Assist with evacuation. ICE has been known to strategically target neighborhoods with large immigrant populations, often knocking on doors with a list of names and addresses. If you know someone in danger of being arrested, help get them and their family out of their home and to a safe location to hide from ICE during the raid. Raids are done en masse, and if a person is not home consistently they often will not be hunted down.

Together we can protect our community from Donald Trump’s racist, destructive agenda to make America white again.

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Impeachment and the Travel Ban – Impact on Sonoma County

On the 18th of December, 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, was impeached by a vote in the House of Representatives. Contrary to popular belief, a president being impeached is NOT the same as them being removed from office. Donald Trump will face trial in the Senate, who will determine whether he is unfit enough to be removed from office. Since 2017, citizens of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya have been banned from entering the United States. While the ban officially exempts those who are visiting immediate relatives as well as international students, large amounts of international students from Iran were recently denied boarding to their flights because their visas were cancelled. If Trump is removed from office, the travel ban will remain, and Mike Pence will most definitely uphold it. However, with the 2020 election coming up, it is up to us, the American people, to ask our democratic candidates the following question: Will you unconditionally repeal the un-American Muslim Ban?

Currently, congress is preparing a bill called the National Origin Based Anti-discrimination for Nonimmigrants Act, whose sponsors include candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Said act will prevent any type of nationality based refusal of entry to the US.

While the ban is aimed at Muslim majority nations, the impact of the ban can be felt in our own community here in Sonoma County. The county is home to a sizable population of Iranians, the group hit the hardest by the ban. Local resident Aida Dargahi helped her brother in law apply for a B-2 visa to visit her family in Petaluma in 2017, and he came very close to receiving his visa to travel to California. However, the travel ban hit the Tehran based engineer, who neither received a visa nor a refund of his $160, a significant sum for someone living in Iran. At Sonoma State University, a similar narrative exists. The electrical engineering department is run by Fareed Farahmand, an immigrant from Iran, and employs multiple hardworking Iranian professors who work hard every day to make this country a better, smarter place. Farahmand himself expressed his frustration at the travel ban, claiming that it has greatly reduced the arrival of Iranian international students, who are known for being hardworking scholars. My own father arrived in the United States in 1978 from Iran as an international student, completing high school and going on to graduate from San Francisco State University. He currently holds a PhD and works as a professor, educating and enlightening the youth of our county. Had there been a travel ban in place in 1978, he would not be here today, making a contribution to the society of the United States, a nation founded and advanced by immigrants.

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Compiling a list of CVA violators

With the current policy of the Trump administration, ICE is pressuring local sheriffs to provide information to ICE to support their attack on immigrants and their communities in the USA. In 2017, former governor of California Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act, intended to prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE. Despite this, numerous sheriffs in northern and southern California are continuing to cooperate with ICE in defiance of California law. While the Sonoma County Sheriff doesn’t cooperate with ICE, neighboring Marin County passionately cooperates with ICE to oppress immigrant communities. At socoIMM, we believe that immigrants have the right to be safe in their homes and their communities, which is why we are actively working to create a list on our website where we document all the sheriffs departments that violate the CVA and cooperate with ICE. If you are aware of a local sheriff that cooperates with ICE, please contact us at socoimmigrants@gmail.com so we can list said county on our active list. Together we have the power to hold these violators accountable.

The following list is under construction and constantly being updated thanks to YOUR input!

Marin County Sheriff – http://iceoutofmarin.org/marin-sheriff/ (information about the sheriff’s countless violations of human rights, including but not limited to deporting immigrants based on charges and not convictions, separation of families, dismissal of allegations, and creation of a pipeline from jail to deportation)

Sheriff Robert T. Doyle
E rdoyle@marinsheriff.org

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Why Art and Activism?

Art is not the first thing that is associated with activism, but its value in social justice movements, revolutions, uprisings,  and in any other social change, is priceless. Perhaps the most obvious example is propaganda: compelling images blending and bending the truth with lies in just the right manner so the lines are blurred and all we see is what they want us to see. Its charm is its repeatability, over and over we can be bombarded with a message on every wall, pole, website, and magazine so that it imprints in our brain forever. Take Mao’s bright god-like depiction on countless posters, or “Grandpa Lenin” holding children and promising people “Peace, Land, and Bread.” Not to mention the Office of War Information, created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to create and spread propaganda across the nation in support of World War II.

Long live the victory of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line (1968).

This demonstrates that art has in fact been hugely involved and influential in some of the most major events in the history of mankind. However, these examples do render art to be sinister- full of dark powers that blind us from reality. I believe that it does not have to be, and should not be. But The Monarch Project uses art for the exact same reason: its power to tell stories unlike anything else. Divisive times like ours are full of interpretations and regurgitation of information that is designed to draw deep and dark lines between people. We are flooded with sound bites, entire crises and histories are stuffed into a fifteen-second video splattered across the media. We have forgotten to think for ourselves and have lost any slivers of our attention span, craving quick and effortless understanding and action. This does not leave enough room for nuance and detail. For multi-layered problems and multiple perspectives, it can be tragic. One story, easily understood and spread, comes to represent an entire population of people. This is especially convenient if one is trying to demonize a group, and use one intimidating narrative that deems all individuals in that group criminals, aliens, rapists, and dangers to America. This is what the actions and rhetoric used by the current administration have and continue to create with regard to the immigration crisis.

It would be naive of me to say that “art is above it all” or that it is the remedy to this problem, but if used correctly, it can change perceptions, optics, and narratives by providing perspective in a nonjudgemental, non-accusatory, and open manner. Its simplicity and beauty can even become almost disarming. It allows everyone, regardless of their preconceived notions, beliefs, and backgrounds to better understand others and their stories. Of course, there is no guarantee as to who will truly be changed or moved by artwork, that is part of the very nature of art after all, however it most certainly is more effective than repeating the same heated arguments over and over.

Artist: Shepard Fairey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ability to connect and reach out is vital to the success of any movement, especially to one as polarizing and controversial as the immigrants’ rights movement. So, we have placed art as the root of our project, using its beautiful powers to use to redefine conversations about immigrants by reminding everyone of that at the root of the debate, the political games, and ICE raids, are humans.

Thus, art and activism can go hand in hand, and when they do, innovative and powerful projects like The Monarch Project are born, with the potential to create real and beautiful change in the world.