The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine organized:
"Family Separations: From Herstories of Violence to Building Belonging"
In October, the Haas Institute and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine co-organized a five-person panel discussion on family separations prompted by the federal government’s separations of immigrant children from their caregivers along the US-Mexico border this past summer.
The event also came during the journey of migrants in a caravan who were fleeing violence and repression in Central America headed for the US border to apply for asylum. Seth Holmes, member of the Haas Institute’s Health Disparities cluster and one of the event moderators, said the moment presented “an urgent call for us to figure out how we're gonna respond” to the asylum seekers, who were later tear gassed by US border officers.
In opening the discussion, Patricia Baquedano-López, an Associate Professor at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education and the other moderator of the panel, described the policy of family separations under the Trump administration as “a new level of violence towards immigrants” in the United States.
“It's a type of violence that is particularly pernicious because it is using as its main target babies, toddlers, children, and families crossing the United States-Mexico border,” she added.
Heide Castañeda, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida and member of the panel, reminded the audience that family separation policies long preceded Trump, and that authorities use different strategies in carrying out separations including by what legal documents, such as birth certificates, they provide immigrants. She also said there is a 100-mile-long zone on the US side of the border where laws do not apply in terms of how people suspected of being undocumented are stopped, questioned, searched, and swiftly deported “under the cover of night.”
Angie Junck, a Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center who was the next panelist to speak, said immigrants had a legal right to request asylum at the border, but that the Trump administration was circumventing that law and arresting families and separating them with the intent to stir an outrage. The outrage, she argued, was needed to get critics of the administration to agree to a proposed family detention policy which would allow for immigrant families to stay together, but to be detained much longer and under much looser regulations than is accepted under the current law.
“It's in some ways a brilliant strategy on their part. One, to ensure as many people as possible are deterred from coming to United States. And two, to ensure that everyone would be locked out,” Junck said.
The final panelist was Ericka Huggins, human rights activist, and former Black Panther Party leader and political prisoner, who shared a story of her own separation from her baby when she was jailed for two years starting in 1969. She was allowed to see her baby just one hour a week during which she feared she was traumatizing her daughter by crying through the visits. Huggins said she and her daughter are still healing from the experience of that separation. “I didn't intend to be separate from her…It's the system that allows for that kind of abandonment to occur,” she said.
Check below for a transcript of this talk.
If you are interested in getting involved, or continuing the conversation, here is a list of community-based organizations in California and other parts of the country, along with other resources and publications, that address the impacts of family separations and US immigration and incarceration systems.
Angie Junck is a Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center who will discuss collaboration and education with immigrants to promote a democratic society that values diversity. She will also discuss opportunities with the Defending Immigrant Rights project and Immigrant Justice Network available for people to advocate for/support humane and compassionate immigration policy.
Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator. A former Black Panther party leader and political prisoner, Ericka will lend her life experiences and insight on issues related to the physical and emotional well-being of women and youth, the role of spiritual practice in sustaining social change, and alternatives to incarceration.
Heide Castañeda is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida where she specializes in political and legal anthropology, medical anthropology, mixed-status families, migration, citizenship. She will present key concepts and stories from her upcoming book, BORDERS OF BELONGING, to more fully convey the impact of family separations.
Associate Professor at Graduate School of Education, UC Berkeley and member of Haas Institute Race, Diversity, & Educational Policy cluster
Associate Professor of Society and Environment and Medical Anthropology, Co-Chair, Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, and member of Haas Institute Health Disparities cluster
Denise Herd: Good afternoon. I heard that automatic hush, so it sounds like it's time for us to get going. My name is Denise Herd. I'm a Professor of Public Health, but I'm also the Associate Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. I'd like to welcome all of you here. It's really great to see you come out. We're just very thankful for your presence here.
Denise Herd: Today's event is co-sponsored by the Haas Institute and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine. I want to shout out to the organizers who helped make this possible. Takiyah Franklin, Erica Brown and Deborah Lustig were very, very important for planning, and organizing, and helping us have this event. So, to talk a little bit about why we decided that it was urgent to have an event like this now.
Denise Herd: So, many of us know that forced family separation for people of color, it's not a new problem in American history. From the slave auction blocks to the children that were stolen from indigenous families and put in boarding schools, to the current crisis of the atrocious acts, the separating families from children at US-Mexico border and a lot of other instances, both domestically and globally. This is a part of a really shameful past, and unfortunately is present in our country today.
Denise Herd: I had the pleasure of speaking with one of our speakers, Professor Huggins, and she said, "It's an old problem, but we need to start thinking about it in new and different ways." So, I think that's what's going to happen here today. And both the mission of HIFIS and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine is to promote, engage scholarship, activism, and policy to promote human rights. And prevent health and social injuries to people of color and vulnerable populations. So we felt that given the current landscape, it was very important for a university to take a stand, to deal with these kinds of issues and problems. To bring new thinking, to increase the activism and policy work to deal with this horrendous problem.
Denise Herd: So we have an incredible panel, and we have two of our professors that Patricia Baquedano-López, somebody didn't get the name right. She is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Education here at Berkeley, and she's a member of the Haas Institute Race Diversity and Educational Policy Cluster. The other moderator is Associate Professor Seth Holmes. He's an environmental science policy management and medical anthropology. He's the co-chair of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, and a longtime member of a Haas Institutes Health Disparities Cluster.
Denise Herd: So I'm going to now turn the program over to our moderators, and we'd love to welcome you to the stage. Thank you so much.
Seth Holmes: I have the honor of introducing two members of the panel, and then Patricia Baquedano-López will introduce another member. We'll say a couple words, and we'll invite the panelists up.
Seth Holmes: The first member of the panel is Heide Castañeda, who is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. Her research and community engagement focuses on political and legal and medical anthropology, immigrant health and citizenship, especially in the United States, Mexico in Germany. She's received the Peter K. New Award and the Counsel for the Anthropology of Reproduction Award, a Fulbright Faculty Award, among others.
Seth Holmes: She grew up in a family between multiple borders, spending part of each year in West Germany with family members across a physical and militarized wall in East Germany, and part of each year in South Texas with family members across another border in Mexico. Her own experiences bring compassion and poignancy to her work. She's author of a forthcoming book with Stanford University Press, Borders of Belonging: Struggle in Solidarity and Mixed Status Immigrant Families. And co-editor of Unequal Coverage, The Experience of Healthcare Reform in the United States. As well as a forthcoming book with Rutledge Migrant Health, Cross-Disciplinary and Critical Perspectives.
Seth Holmes: I was lucky to be a reviewer of Borders of Belonging before it came out, and I wanted to say a little bit about it. So, I think this is a brilliant, powerful and unprecedented book. It's critical to read not only for anyone who's interested in immigration in the US and around the world, but also for anyone who cares about families, children, and parents. Castañeda skillfully portrays real families in the Rio Grande Valley, who are navigating the unintended harmful consequences of immigration and social policies, displaying their deep compassion and care for one another.
Seth Holmes: As they experienced powerful discrimination and racism, these families display resilience and solidarity across lines of difference, actively resisting inequality in their midst. The families and individuals, immigrants and citizens whom the reader comes to know in these pages, offer us all models for a more healthy and equal society, and teach us important lessons for our communities, schools, healthcare systems and public policies. And I happen to have a 20% off coupon that you can take a photo of for Stanford University Press.
Seth Holmes: Our next member of the panel is Ericka Huggins, a human rights activist, poet and educator. Professor Huggins is a former Black Panther party leader and political prisoner. Her personal life experiences enable extraordinary insight on issues related to family's wellbeing and social change. She attended Cheyney State College and studied sociology at Lincoln University. She's been Professor of Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University and CSU East Bay, as well as Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Laney College and Berkeley City College.
Seth Holmes: For the past 37 years, Professor Huggins has lectured across the country and internationally on issues related to the wellbeing of women, children and youth, restorative justice as an antidote to punitive justice, hold being education and the role of spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting social change. She spent 14 years in the Black Panther party, including in Los Angeles and here in Oakland. Eight of those years as director of the world renowned Oakland Community School.
Seth Holmes: In May of 1969 Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins were targeted and arrested on conspiracy charges, sparking Free Bobby, Free Erica rallies across the country. During her time in the Black Panther party, she became both the first black person, and the first woman appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education. 10 years after her release from prison. Professor Huggins returned to California State County and Federal prisons and jails to share her experiences in mindfulness. She's focused much of her work with incarcerated youth, as well as foster and adopted children and teens.
Seth Holmes: In 1990 at the height of public awareness of HIV aids, Professor Huggins was the first woman coordinator of the world renowned Shanti Project, developing volunteer support for women and children of color, as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth and adults living with HIV in the Tenderloin and Mission district of San Francisco.
Seth Holmes: Thank you for coming.
Patricia Baquedano-López: I'm going to introduce Angie Junck, the supervising attorney in the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, based in San Francisco. With more than a decade of nonprofit experience, Counselor Junck manages several of ILRCs program areas, including those responding to immigration enforcement and immigrant youth. She helps coordinate two national collaboratives that address the intersection of immigration and criminal legal systems.
Patricia Baquedano-López: The Defending Immigrants Project is a collaborative devoted to protecting the rights of immigrants accused of crimes, by providing advocacy and support within the criminal legal system. The Immigrant Justice Network Project works to eliminate unjust immigration penalties for immigrants and end the criminalization of immigrant communities.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Counselor Junck has co-authored a number of publications including Defending Immigrants in the Ninth Circuit: The Impact of Crimes Under California and Other State Laws. Another publication is Motions to Suppress: Protecting the Constitutional Rights of Immigrants in Removal Proceedings. Another one, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Other Immigration Options for Children and Youth. And, The Guide to Juvenile Detention Reform: Noncitizen Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Prior to joining the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Counselor Junk worked on post-conviction relief for immigrants, and advocated on behalf of incarcerated survivors of domestic violence as the court coordinator of Free Battered Women, and a member of the Habeas Project. She's commissioner with the American Bar Association, Immigration Commission, and Co-chair of the Immigration Committee of the Bars Criminal Justice Section. She's also an advisory board member and attorney consultant with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Counselor Junck earned her law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley, where she majored in rhetoric and Spanish- go Bears. Thank you. Please welcome her.
Seth Holmes: Shall we have them come up now?
Patricia Baquedano-López: Hmm?
Seth Holmes: Shall we have them come up now?
Patricia Baquedano-López: I think we should.
Seth Holmes: Why don't we have the three panelists come up, and we'll say a couple words as we get ready for the panel.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Thank you. Goodness. I want to also invite Seth to say a couple of words about your own work as we get started.
Seth Holmes: So I'm a physician and a medical anthropologist here on faculty, in the College of Natural Resources and the medical anthropology program. I've been working collaboratively with indigenous Mexican families, both in Mexico and when they've been displaced from their homes due to political and economic situations and pushed across the border into the US. Especially this past few years, have been working with the youth in those families, developing a documentary film and a research project, looking at the ways in which families are separated by nation state borders, and the active work they do to stay together and care for each other in the midst of that.
Seth Holmes: I also wanted to bring up a couple things. As you have seen in the news, many of the topics that we're talking about today related to family separations across international borders within nation states, continues today. Over 7,000 people are crossing borders and met with police force in Mexico, and the threat of military and police force from the United States, in caravans from Central America. This is an urgent call for us to figure out how we're gonna respond, opens up questions for us that we need to think about today, and we have a few people to help us think through that.
Seth Holmes: I also want to mention that there's been a strike this past week of workers from AFSCME, the patient care and service union, in economic strike and solidarity with UPTE, the custodial staff and food service workers at the University of California. One of the things they've brought up in their research is that, part of what UC has done is outsourced certain jobs to contractors, who do the same work as full-time workers, but without the benefits. One of the things they brought up specifically is that, the outsourced workers are by and large people of color, and that this needs to be looked at and questioned, so everyone is not separated from their families without health insurance ending up in the hospital, etc. So it's a timely moment for us to have this panel in multiple ways.
Patricia Baquedano-López: I'm Patricia Baquedano-López, and I am a professor at the School of Education. In my work. I've been looking at Latina ex-immigrant students in schools. In my most recent work, I've been working with families of indigenous background who come from Yucatan, Mexico. I am from Yucatan, Mexico too. And these families have been displaced, and I would say for over 500 years. But most recently because of US intervention in terms of policies, and ways in which communal land has been privatized. So being able to sell that land to third parties and corporations that make a lot of profit from it, while leaving some of these families without home and land to work. So those numbers are growing in schools, in San Francisco in particular.
Patricia Baquedano-López: So, let's talk the immigration issues that are happening today are also related to my work. We have been asked, and Seth already started to talk a little bit about the context for this panel. I'm just going to say a few words about the, trying to contextualize a little bit more, the family separation activities that have been taking place over the past few months. We have reached in the United States a new level of violence towards immigrants. It's a type of violence that is particularly pernicious, because it is using as its main target babies, toddlers, children and families crossing the United States-Mexico border.
Patricia Baquedano-López: The Trump administration enforced the zero tolerance policy under the Family Separation Policy, who's new guidelines were made known to the world, and were violently implemented under the cover of night in April of this year. Children were separated ... no, they were snatched from their parents or family members who crossed the border with them. Who had accompanied them from a journey starting, in many cases from Central America's northern triangle, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. How was this operation carried out?
Patricia Baquedano-López: Despite being at a port of entry and at the ports of entry, adults and children were separated without a spelled out plan for reunification. Many were indigenous families, speakers of indigenous languages who were unable to be understood, or made it to be understood, by the rural system that was in place at detention centers. These were forced separations, the likes which we have seen on their colonial expansion. Some of that Denise mentioned, boarding school, slavery and other totalitarian governments of previous periods of history and current periods of history.
Patricia Baquedano-López: The rationale offered by the US government was to be serving in the interest of the children and to protect them from human trafficking, and that was not entirely convincing. The adults, the parents, the family members were detained and prosecuted, in many cases they were sent to federal jails and where the deported to their country of origin. The children, babies and toddlers under the age of five, became the fact unaccompanied and placed under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services, which activated a network of services to support them.
Patricia Baquedano-López: We are talking about over 3,000 children who were kept in detention facilities, so were transported, relocated to cities, bussed to cities without knowing when they would see their parents again. So, the world was watching, we were watching. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional organizations condemned the policy, pointing to the long lasting damage, harm to these children under the separation of family policy, and suffering the detention center conditions that were minimally publicized in the media.
Patricia Baquedano-López: There was increasing international criticism and pressure for the US to be held accountable for these acts. Cases of physical and sexual abuse began to be reported and supportive groups mobilize to assist the detention centers, but it wasn't until two months later that the separations were stopped, and still the government stalled. Following the class action suit by the ACLU, a federal judge ordered that all of the separated children under the age of five be reunited with their parents within 30 days.
Patricia Baquedano-López: By the end of July of this year, one thousand and some children had been reunited with their parents, but there are still a few children that have remained in shelters that will happen not being reunited yet. We also know that some of these parents have already been deported without their children. As as Seth mentioned, the situation continues because any short term policy, any kind of zero tolerance policy is not taken into account the ways in which us, this country and other countries are coalescing in a way to produce these mass journeys and people leaving their countries.
Patricia Baquedano-López: So, we're hopeful and excited to hear our panelists address some of these issues. What we're going to do is that we're going to moderate with a set of questions, and ask the panelists to respond to those set. Are we ready to start?
Seth Holmes: Yes.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Okay.
Seth Holmes: So maybe we could start with opening comments from each of you, a little bit about your own experience, and work, and thoughts about famIly separations and counteractions to those separations. Do you want to start?
Heide Castañeda: Sure. All right, I'll begin.
Heide Castañeda: I think one thing that you'll hear today is that family separations are nothing new. I think all of us here on the panel will agree that this is a larger pattern in US society, and it serves certain purposes. So I've just, from my work, let me just highlight a couple of themes and kind of why I'm here. A couple of major themes that relate to family separation and forced removals. First of all, my work is on the US-Mexico border, and historically families have straddled that boundary.
Heide Castañeda: Families are sharply separated because of a man-made boundary, that in some places coincides with a geographic one. In the field side of Texas where I work, for example, the river actually serves as a natural boundary that reinforces a political boundary. But it's important to know that people have been forcibly separated on either side of that boundary going on close to 200 years at this point. That's created many legal and economic difficulties for families.
Heide Castañeda: Second, working in the border region, you find quickly that there's about a hundred miles zone of exception in which certain laws that apply in the rest of the country do not apply. For example, is much easier to search people, to ask for documents. It's much easier to quickly and under the cover of night deport people in an expedited manner. So this process has affected people along the US-Mexico border in about a 100 mile strip along the border on the interior side of the US. They face particularly swift means of separating families, because of their geographic location.
Heide Castañeda: Third, there's been a number of bureaucratic practices that have functioned to separate families. For example, a denial of birth certificates on a widespread basis to the US born citizen children of undocumented parents. That's something that's been addressed in a couple of court cases, but continues in other versions to this day. For example, by denying passports to US citizens who born of midwives in the border regions. So in these ways you quickly are able to separate families in cases where you have heavy interior policing and immigration enforcement activities.
Heide Castañeda: Then finally the regions where I work are also the same regions where, as Patricia mentioned, where newer arrivals are experiencing family separation. So that sort of layered on top of these historical processes and experiences of family separation and forced removals that have been gone ongoing in those regions. I primarily work in south Texas, but I think much of what I've said here applies to the entire US-Mexico border region. I think I'll stop there, and be happy to talk more about that as we go through the topics today.
Angie Junck: My name is Angie and I worked for a legal organization. We're a group of lawyers that practices what we call rebellious lawyering. That means that we believe that our work requires us to partner with those people most impacted by systems of oppression, and that the law should be accessible to everyone. We do not engage in traditional acts of lawyering, like legal services or litigation, although we have in the past. We really do this through partnering with communities to do advocacy, education, communications, and in some ways doing a form of lawyer organizing.
Angie Junck: Through that work we have focused on many issues, but we have decided in many of our areas is to focus on some of the hardest issues at the intersection, and those involve children impacted by child welfare systems in the juvenile justice system. It involves people that are being prosecuted at the border in federal court, and it involves people in everyday community that are found in our local jails. We believe that if we really want to be inclusive society, we have to fight for everyone in the immigration sphere. What we've been doing is really working with a number of partners around the country to look at some of the holistic reforms that we can push, that really address some of the root problems of what we're seeing in family separation.
Angie Junck: This is not a new phenomenon, it's undergirded by a lot of systems of oppression in the United States, and let alone just mass incarceration that we see. So right now in one of the works that we're doing is, I just convened the last two days a group of experts, and advocates, and organizers that do juvenile justice work in the countrY that have been at the forefront of actually closing youth prisons and decriminalizing young people, and addressing these issues of call like super predator. Then bringing the immigrant rights folks, the people that are litigating these cases of mass detention of youth at the border, who are serving these young people every day in detention.
Angie Junck: And to come together and really envision a different society, in which we can actually look at and think about the possibility that there would not be any baby jails for any of these young people. That we wouldn't be in a place where we would look at some of these young unaccompanied Central Americans, and say they're gang members and they're not worthy of any protection of the United States. So from taking that perspective where we're working backwards to figure out what would those reforms look like in the next few years, even under the most difficult circumstances. And how can we work together to build some power and movement towards that.
Angie Junck: I just want to say, I guess in terms of family separations, I won't repeat what a lot of people have heard in the media, but in terms of how we've been seeing it as people in the trenches, this is a crisis that has been manufactured by this administration. And when I say manufactured, there was a specific design by this administration to create probably such outrage on this issue to get to a reform called Family Detention, that we rejected and organized and litigated against 10 years ago. What was so disheartening about that was that you saw even immigrant right, centrist, democrats and others that actually supported that idea. Of like, it's okay now that we could detain families together, because things are so horrible right now that, how could we bear less than anything else but like pulling them away.
Angie Junck: I just want to break this down for people what exactly is happening. People have a right to come to the border and ask for asylum. It's an international protection. It is in our federal laws. They circumvented that altogether because we know this administration does illegal things all the time. They basically said we will circumvent that, and we'll prosecute you for a federal crime. Illegal entry to the United States is one of the number one prosecuted crime in the United States, over any other federal crime. Weapons, drug trafficking in our border.
Angie Junck: So by prosecuting someone, they cannot hold a parent and a child in a federal prison, just not legally possible. So they forcibly separate, and that's when you saw this crisis. This was done by design, obviously to create some of the outreach to get to the reform that they wanted. But it's in some ways a brilliant strategy on their part. One, to ensure as many people as possible are deterred from coming to United States. And two, to ensure that everyone would be locked out. If there's any possibility that they could walk in and be able to stay in the United States, that they would never ever be eligible for any kind of immigration reform or relief in the United States.
Angie Junck: What they are doing is really sending a clear message to so many people, that you shouldn't even try, you should self deport yourself. Even though those numbers, I know people were outraged to 2,000 ... we've seen 60,000 unaccompanied minors come in 2016. We have massive numbers in the United States of people being deported. So these numbers were not significant in that way. But the message they're sending is that they don't actually have to do much. That to create so much fear, that people will forcibly removing themselves from the United States. And I know we'll talk a little bit about that.
Angie Junck: I do want to say though, and end on a high note, because I know we'll talk about a lot of depressing things, is I have never seen in the 15 years that I've done this work, the sustained coverage of any immigrant rights issue in the United States period. Not even on immigration reform, not even about dreamers. I've never seen that sustained coverage and outrage by people that I've worked with, that never even said anything about immigration on social media or whatnot. I think that, that's a real opportunity for us to have a conversation about immigration.
Angie Junck: It's been an opportunity for even some of us that are immigrant rights advocates to have a conversation with our own colleagues, who have been blinded to the systems of how people have been criminalized and how we even got here. It's so bad that people are going to have to take the blinders off and really figure out, how do we get here? What do we really need to do differently to actually address this crisis?
Seth Holmes: Thank you.
Ericka Huggins: I think that, I don't quite know what to say. Thank you for what you, what amazing work you're doing, both of you. I'm just so honored to be in your presence. I'm sitting and I'm remembering a time when I was separated from my daughter. Is this a good time for me to share this?
Seth Holmes: Yes.
Ericka Huggins: How many people here ... Hi everybody. How many people here are ... If you came in later, my name is Erica ... have children? How many people were children? So if you can imagine for a minute being one of those babies, pre-language baby. You're separated from your mommy, and maybe your daddy, your grandma, your siblings, what does that feel like to you? Just thinking about it. Just imagining it, with your real heart and your real mind. You can shout it out. I know this is UC Berkeley, and you don't shout out, but come on.
Ericka Huggins: What?
Ericka Huggins: What kind, specifically? What might you feel if you were two years old? Pain, someone said, Terrified.
Ericka Huggins: Isolation. Scared, sad.
Audience: Inability to be consoled.
Ericka Huggins: Inability to?
Audience: To be consoled.
Ericka Huggins: To be consoled. Just crying, and crying, and crying. Maybe you're three, and your bellies hungry, but you don't eat. Any of you who are in this room who've been in that situation, I am so sorry on behalf of humanity. Can somebody give her a hug? I am just so sorry that anybody would be so violent as to take you away from your beloveds. This is real. This isn't just academic. This is a harm to humanity, and I was thinking as the both of you were talking, what if on another border Europeans were being snatched from their babies, snatched from their mommies and daddies? Maybe just even one.
Ericka Huggins: What would happen? Come on y'all.
Audience: World war three.
Ericka Huggins: World war three. What?
Ericka Huggins: Outrage. Worldwide, and the kind of outrage that comes with the privilege to do something with the outrage. I don't know what to say. I'm just asking you questions so you can help me out here.
Ericka Huggins: When I was 19 and in the Black Panther party, I was pregnant with my ... my husband and I were pregnant with our daughter, and we were so delighted that we were going to have a baby. We didn't have any money. Actually, we shared food a lot, and I got the bigger end of the deal because I was the one carrying a baby. These were times when we were also being stalked by the FBI, and routinely arrested by the police for being African American people who had the audacity to say, "No."
Ericka Huggins: "No you can't. Not anymore." And, "No, you can't just routinely kick in doors, and take people to jail without our intervention. You can't send babies the school without feeding them first. We'll feed them. And when you step into our church basements with your guns drawn, we will ask you why, and call lawyers. and remove you." And so for this, we were treated like, well, I think Patrisse Cullors is writing about it in her new book. Have you heard about her book? Do you know who Patrisse Cullors is?
Ericka Huggins: She's one of the three original Black Lives Matter wonderful people. Her book is, When They Call You A Terrorist. That word wasn't used for us then. But there were other words, and we were criminalized and pathologized and pretty much hated by the government. But the people we were serving were inspired by us. So there I was, a woman, a pregnant woman, a revolutionary woman, and about to birth a baby. I'll skip over the way I was treated when I got to the county hospital. We'll skip that part.
Ericka Huggins: But what I want to say is that our baby daughter was born, and then within three weeks my husband John Huggins and my dearest friend Al Prentice Carter were assassinated on the UCLA campus in 1969. January 1969, two weeks after my birthday. Three and a half weeks after my daughter's birth. Then within two more months I was arrested and incarcerated, and of course my daughter didn't go to jail with me. Thank goodness for John's family taking her and raising her, because I was not allowed bail. I was isolated, I was in solitary confinement for a portion of the time. I was there for two years.
Ericka Huggins: It was the most difficult moment in my life, to dry up breast milk and know from the authorities in the prison that I could not see my child more than one hour each Saturday. And at the border, the women and men who are parents don't even have that. But let me continue with the story, because this isn't a comparative story. The trauma that I went through being separated from my daughter can not compare to what she went through. All of the sudden, there was literally no familiar body against hers. Can you follow this? Please, please stay with it. This isn't political, this is human.
Ericka Huggins: When I saw her, she would look at me like I kind of remember you, kind of. For a while I didn't even want to go to see her for that one hour on Saturdays, because it was so heartbreaking and I thought I would re-traumatize her by crying all the way through the hour. Well, thank goodness I had some presence of mind and taught myself to meditate. I was able to see her for those two years, once a week for an hour and not cry. I would bawl my eyes out on the way back to the cell, but I could be present with her. These families don't have that. The connectedness is gone.
Ericka Huggins: What I will tell you is that my daughter, and I are still repairing that time. Because though I didn't intend to be separate from her, her father didn't intend to die, she was abandoned, right? She was abandoned. The intent isn't the problem. It's the system that allows for that kind of abandonment to occur. There was no proof that there was any reason for me to be arrested. It was the times, and the energies of people who ... maybe some of them had children. But didn't consider any children that weren't theirs. Their own is the highest, it is still the highest expression of othering.
Ericka Huggins: In the United States there are people who cannot be separated from their dogs, much less their children. I don't know what to say, except that I know that when ever there's the opportunity to vote, we need to get our butts out there. And anytime we can speak, we need to do something. We need to figure out what it is that we can say and do, not just what it is we can listen to, or read, or ask questions about, What is it that we can do to uplift our world? Because this is a heinous expression of harm, and it's been going on, and going on, and going on.
Ericka Huggins: So, my daughter and I are now able to talk about how it felt for her. We talk about it often. She has children now, and I wish that I could turn back all clocks and take that out of her life and of course my own. But it's not possible. We are in this time right now where there is something we can do. I don't know what you can do. I know what I do. So, I'm gonna stop there and I'm going to keep asking myself what I can do. I'm going to answer that question, and I hope that you will too.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Thank you. Professor Huggins. This is really, it's important meditation when the crisis of humanity, that we need to sit with today and everyday work. I want to think a little bit broader, and you brought us to this moment to think of the family separation or the damage to humanity that is beyond the border that we're talking about earlier today. Recently, the New York times had a story that was brought to them by one of the ACLU attorney. The story of a woman that was referred to us, this Ms L, who was from the republic of Congo, but who was detained also at the border as he was seeking asylum, and was separated from her seven year old daughter.
Patricia Baquedano-López: So we focus on the border, thinking the Mexican border, the Central American immigrants that are fleeing violence in their country. But this is about families everywhere. This is about the human condition that is leaving, that is forcing people to leave what they know as home in search of a different type of belonging. So, I wanted to ask the panelists, why are things affecting so many people? And how in their work have they seen the situation of family separation impacting broader communities? African, Caribbean, Muslim, Asian, Pacific Islander, Mexican, as well as Central American.
Patricia Baquedano-López: What connects these separation thoughts, if you can imagine that? What makes these experiences similar and connected? What has been done about it, beyond what we immediately focus on at the border? Or what can be done?
Ericka Huggins: And what is being done already? Right?
Heide Castañeda: I'll start it and set it up for you.
Heide Castañeda: I think one thing to recognize is that there's an intersection between our immigration law system, immigration enforcement and our criminal systems. I think that's what connects a lot of what we're talking about on the panel here today. One of the ways in which these systems are connected are first of all, through increases in an interior immigration enforcement that is capturing a lot more families up into the nexus of those two systems, regardless of where they're from. I guess sort of as a thought experiment, the thing I'm gonna sort of point out is that, a lot of this goes back to a concept that's called best interest of the child.
Heide Castañeda: The concept of best interest of the child is something that spans not just immigration, but all sectors of our society and disproportionately impacts communities of color, communities living in poverty, communities living in marginalized regional areas of our country. This is where I'm going to kind of transition to Angie, is that the concept of best interest is a discretionary one, right? When a family is caught up in either incarceration, detention, deportation, there's a calculation made about children living in the family, and what would be in their best interest.
Heide Castañeda: A child's best interest is being determined in these cases by bureaucrats who can essentially lay out that definition, and the various concerns associated with it in any way that they want. There's very few guidelines often. This is particularly how some of the most marginalized communities get caught up in the system, in cases where children are removed from families, for example, and put up for adoption. The best interests clause was used among american Indian communities to support residential schooling, and separating families in that way, and having children for very long periods of time being educated outside of their communities.
Heide Castañeda: So, we have a history in this country of thinking about this concept, this bureaucratically ambiguous concept, of what's in the best interest of a child, or a minor, or a vulnerable person in a family. That has consistently supported family separations of various types in the United States. One of the ways in which this happens, to go back to your question, is that immigrant families of all types are caught up in this nexus, and often face types of separation because of that.
Angie Junck: When the family separation crisis happened, something that really stood out to me was I had a friend that posted a picture of a jail on Instagram. What he wrote was, "There's already a 10,000 bed detention facility in downtown Houston that police used to separate families. The people who control the facility have consistently been faulted for breaking the law and engaging in discrimination." This is the Harris county jail. It's one of the largest jails in the country. It deports more people than any other jail, thousands of people each year. This county is terrorizing communities of color, it's not immigrants.
Angie Junck: I think that's the hardest thing about some of these issues, immigrant rights, is that people see something on the border and see as everything, and this is happening in our backyard every day. It's called Alameda County Jail, Santa Rita. Every single day, that sheriff works with ICE to report people. To deport people from this county, to separate them from their families. Those are the stories of separation that we hear every day.
Angie Junck: And I think a lot of this, because we have the numbers, has been painted as a Mexican, Central American issue, but we have so many other communities impacted. We have the largest undocumented API communities in the bay area. Do you know that the black immigrant community is more disproportionately affected by deportation detention, than any other immigrant of color in the United States? I want to just share a couple of examples of what this could look like, in the stories that we hear every day.
Angie Junck: [inaudible 00:48:30] is a Southeast Asian refugee who was induced to come to the United States at a young age through refugee resettlement program. Landed in poverty in a crime ridden community with little to no resources, and as a means of survival, found themselves on the street with gang members, and ended up being criminalized and did their time, But now, is being mandatorily deported to a country that they never lived in.
Angie Junck: These are people that are born in refugee camps, end up in the United States, think that there are American.Because they never became citizens, because they didn't understand that process. Because no one educated them here in the United States, that if you become a refugee, you should become a citizen. Here are some of the responsibilities. Now you're deporting them. We have some of the largest diaspora now in Asian countries as a result of that.
Angie Junck: And it's just the black immigrants every single day, who are subject to constant police surveillance on the street. You take this phenomenon of mass incarceration, and you feed it into mass deportation. Right? I mean, they're designed to work together so that it's not enough that you do your time, but that you continue to suffer the consequences of those actions. There are many consequences of United States when you're a formerly incarcerated person. But for immigrants, it's actual banishment from the United States. For which you could be prosecuted for a federal crime, if you come back to reunify with your children and your family.
Angie Junck: So these are the kinds of stories that we hear every day. I think just my offering to this group is just to really be aware, these are people that are in our community every single day. They're not just the stories that we hear on the news media, and there are a lot of systems that are complicit in this. It's not just a federal immigration system. It's not completely out of our power. There are local systems every day that are effectuating harm on our local communities.
Seth Holmes: Do you have anything to add?
Ericka Huggins: I wonder if we could dialogue? I mean otherwise ...
Seth Holmes: Sure.
Patricia Baquedano-López: Yeah, let's do that. Yeah. We had planned that- [crosstalk 00:50:58]
Seth Holmes: Could I ask- [crosstalk 00:51:00]
Heide Castañeda: Is this the moment?
Seth Holmes: Can I ask a question while Mike's there? [crosstalk 00:51:03]
Ericka Huggins: I wanted to thank both of you for what you just said, and particularly I wanted thank you for broadening that which is the continual repetition of the one story. Which further pathologizes Central American people. They've become the enemy, because we can't see that this is a systemic structural form of racism. It is. So I wanted to thank you for that, and the facts that you just gave.
Ericka Huggins: Did you appreciate having those facts? Did you know that? Some people did, some didn't. So, thank you. So quiet in here.
Speaker 8: Thanks to all of the panelists. I work within an organization that is trying to move towards greater justice in adoption. So, the best interest of the child is something I'm very familiar with. I've often thought that we could make some progress if we shifted that concept to the best interest of the family. Because the moment that you isolate the child outside of the context of its family, you commodify the child. You allow other people to be making choices and decisions for that child.
Speaker 8: But, it almost feels like heresy, because our child welfare system is so rooted in that concept, to suggest that perhaps what needs to be elevated is the best interest of the family. And I just wonder if you could share some thoughts about that.
Heide Castañeda: I'll say that I agree with you. That one of the ways in which we can effectively single out and produce violence on families, is by singling out individuals as the locus of intervention. Right? If we think of people as existing within families and within larger communities, that's much harder to do. And so the law, and a lot of our policies and our processes are very adept at singling out individuals, and doing exactly the kind of harm that I think we're talking about here today.
Heide Castañeda: So, I agree with you that I think it needs to be a larger consideration of the best interest of the family, or even the best interests of a community. I think that focusing on individual is precisely a way in which we hide some of these larger effects.
Angie Junck: I just want to say, I guess like in doing immigrant rights work, we don't even really talk about the best interests of children. That's how far behind we are in when we talk about systems. I mean the things that we're able to do to immigrant children in this country, if you understood even the rules and laws, or actually the lack of rules and laws, of what they can do and act.
Angie Junck: I work with a lot of people that work in child welfare needs. They're just like, "How could this even be?" These are rejected models from like decades ago. Like how can we use congregate care and hold 2000 kids in a single facility, and not expect that these kids will be sexually, physically abused. It's a guaranteed result when you put young people in those situations. So for us, I mean I think there is a lot of learning to be done about what are those models, what would that look like?
Angie Junck: Because we're fighting at this point for even some young people to get out of these local ... they snatch and make kids disappear that are in our local communities. I just want to say, the biggest thing that's the issue that we've been focusing, is on these unaccompanied minors. Young people that they basically "Other" by labeling them gang members. Saying they are wolves in sheep's clothing. That the gangs are killing all our communities, and create such fear that any kind of child standard goes out the window.
Angie Junck: You literally snatch them from their homes where they're at. And the federal government already knows where they're at, because they've already arrested them and released them. Then you put them in detention center where their parents don't even know where they're at. then you tell them, you don't even get a hearing to even see whether or not you're going to be released. Then they tell you after that, whatever someone said that you're a gang member or not, it's done. You can't disprove anything that anyone said, even if it was a lie.
Angie Junck: So for us, if they're willing to treat children this way, we have a long road to go to figuring out how do we get people to even care about some of these young people, and not see them literally like we dealt with in past years, like the super-predator, that these young people are monsters.
Heide Castañeda: If I could add to that, sort of bridging these two points. I was just two weeks ago, actually two and a half weeks ago, I was down at the border and met a little girl who had just been released from detention. Her name is Helen, and she's five years old. She entered the United States with her grandmother, and she was persuaded to sign away her rights. Maybe you've heard of this case?
Heide Castañeda: She's five years old, five years old. That just sort of speaks to how far behind immigrant proceedings are in understanding the rights, and also the capabilities of children. This went pretty much unquestioned until a nonprofit got involved, and pro bono lawyers got involved with Helen's case and eventually persuaded her to be released back to her grandmother's custody. This is two and a half months after she was detained, and put in a facility with other children by herself, away from her family.
Heide Castañeda: I was there when she was released, and they had this big party at the organization that helped with her release. And it was a really bizarre mix of emotions because she was given all these ... it was almost like a birthday party, right? A princess birthday party. She was given this little princess dress, and there's a cake, and there was welcoming her. But, Helen was silent. Helen was silent. She was dressed up in this pink princess dress with everyone feeding her, celebrating her. Helen's silent and her mother is there and says, " You know, she's not the same. She's not the same."
Heide Castañeda: But then a five-year-old could be legally given paperwork to sign away her rights should be astounding, should be shocking, should be widely seen as an act of violence on a child and on families, family integrity.
Seth Holmes: One concern I have with the best interest of family partially comes from my experience as a physician working at Highland Hospital. I've done a fair amount of my work at Highland in palliative care. I've done other work in the Human Rights Clinic and Urgent Care. But in palliative care. I've taken care of many people who are gay, or transgender, or lesbian, or queer who have been separated by from their families, by their families, by heteronormativity, homophobia, gender normativity.
Seth Holmes: I've seen people die without anyone visiting them. Or with people visiting them and shaming them ,and treating them as undeserving. Also as a queer person myself, I'm lucky to have parents who I have a good relationship with, after several years of not having a good relationship. I see my queer friends see my relationship with my parents when my parents come to visit. And they both become sad, because they don't have a relationship with their parents, the vast majority of my queer community.
Seth Holmes: Or they want to hang out with my parents and me, for some kind of like ... whatever you would say. [crosstalk 00:59:53] Like vicarious-
Ericka Huggins: Love?
Seth Holmes: ... therapeutic experience. In both those situations, I would be nervous about the best interest of the family. I don't know what it should be. Best interest of community, best interest of black, humanity, environment, I don't know. When everything is within structures that are systematically and structurally violent, differently to everyone, but in different ways systematically especially to immigrants, people of color.
Seth Holmes: In our kind of preparation, we talked about the Japanese-American internment. We talked about the Bracero Program that separated men from families. We talked about the American Indian boarding schools, chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws that led to great migration of African Americans. But I'm also thinking about family separations, being a physician and being a queer. A member of the queer community as [inaudible 01:00:57].
Ericka Huggins: I thought that the conversation was ... you have the microphone? Okay. Just one second. Thank you for that. Do you need a tissue?
Seth Holmes: I could use one, but I'm okay.
Ericka Huggins: Okay. I thought that-
Heide Castañeda: [crosstalk 01:01:20]... was my shirt.
Ericka Huggins: You know, the conversation about the best interests of the child ... oh, here comes tissue. I thought that the best interest conversation was about reframing the language, not deciding on ... And it's like, sometimes just putting it out there like you did and we're doing now, is great because structurally it's all rotten. That's the thing to remember. That isn't to say that people are rotten. I'm saying if a structure, if an infrastructure is ready to be demolished and we just put up a new wall, that's not getting at it. It's structurally, let's say corrupt. Not corrupt, but old, very old.
Ericka Huggins: You were talking about this, and we need to look at it all in new ways, including challenging those who hold the the old ways, as the way to move forward. Like in the institutionalized organizations that we might work in. So, I just wanted to say that. Sorry to ... You've had your hand up for a long time.
Speaker 9: Not to backtrack or anything, but I guess I just needed a little bit of clarity, because there was a little bit confused as to something that you were saying. I'm sorry I missed your name, but you were mentioning how five-year-old kids are being given papers to forgo their rights, and you were saying how that's legal. I just wasn't aware that, that was legal for the government to be able to get a five-year-old who does not have their parents with them, make those kinds of decisions. In a way, would you say that that is also a trap that the government is trying to give kids, so that they forgo ... is this all part of the system, the system's goal to, basically erase these people from our country?
Heide Castañeda: Yeah. I think you said it well. It's the system's goal erase people. This is one of many instances of that. Or to other people, or to assume that a five-year-old has capabilities in one situation, but not in others. Most people also don't know that during deportation proceedings, a two-year-old can represent themselves. In fact, they are forced to represent themselves, because unlike in criminal cases where you have an attorney or if you can't afford one, one will be provided to you. That does not apply in immigration proceedings.
Heide Castañeda: So if you were a two-year-old, let alone a five-year-old.I think even six-month-old children have sat before an immigration judge. So pre-verbal children representing themselves. So, yeah, it's holding the rights of individuals, in this case immigrant children, as not equal to that of other children, not equal to that of other citizens or residents of this country. Yeah. Yeah, I mean it's shocking, but I think a lot of people don't even realize that when you're being deported, you don't have a right to an attorney, Including if you're pre verbal.
Ericka Huggins: Someone here has something.
Speaker 10: I am really grateful and honored that you're here and I'm capable of hearing the information that you're sharing with us today. My question is, what do I say to my friends, my neighbors and my loved ones, and my family when we were not bringing this conversation up. Then we watched that movie, and we watch the people who are on their way here to the United States? What do I say to them to help them understand that these people that are coming, they're not bad, they're not going to hurt us.
Speaker 10: How can I explain to them that this is something that the countries, the United States did, to cause them to come here? How can I articulate that in a way that they will understand it? And I think that we all are grateful, I'm speaking for myself, but I think we all are grateful to hear the information that you're sharing with us today, so we'd get a better understanding of it. Can you help us please?
Angie Junck: Yeah, these are difficult conversations we have all the time. But, I mean, honestly, a lot of this is sometimes the human-human contact, and sharing the stories. And the people that are the most compassionate are the people that actually meet some of these individuals. To know that they're not someone that's scary over there, the other, right? There's similar strands in these stories. Some ways too, I mean, I connect the dots about how this country has punished, controlled so many different populations, and it's been a cycle of violence.
Angie Junck: Now, a lot of what we're seeing with the immigrant community are tactics that we have seen on the war on drugs, and the war of people. They are the same tactics that have been played and twisted to some extent, and then inserted on immigrants. A lot of what we do is try to build solidarity and understand. And I think one of the things that's really hard for people to identify, is when you say what you don't want, people like, "Well, I'm not affected by that. Why should I care?"
Angie Junck: But why aren't we having a conversation about what we all do want. The reality is at the local level and things, there's so many people in power are using their money and their resources to divide us, instead of for us to unify ourselves and really figured out. Like, we all want to be safe, we want to thrive, how do we not see this kind of as a scarcity? And it takes a while to get there. And I know a lot of groups have taken a long time to have those dialogues in those communities, and build that solidarity.
Angie Junck: But, the more that we can share and talk about it, what we do want, what we want to live, what kind of society we want to live in, I think we get closer to that. Than saying, here's the problems with all of this, and say, "Well, it doesn't affect me every day."
Speaker 11: I wanted to comment on recognizing the victories and our resistance along the way. Freedom for Immigrants, which serves immigrants in jail, in detention, has been working for seven years at these issues. They, and other activist groups, and the people of Richmond rose up and kept a vigil every Sunday for a long, long time to get ICE out of the Alameda County Detention Facility. I think that's a tremendous victory.
Speaker 11: Sadly, of course there's always consequences. They've now sent those people farther from their families to Yuba City or Mesa Verde. But I want to invite students to participate in helping to meet with those immigrants in jails, and in their detention facilities in Yuba city and Mesa Verde. Particularly Spanish speaking students, and be able to provide that solidarity. It means so much, I believe, for an individual to care. Simply come and care with someone and for them, when you're isolated from your family.
Speaker 11: So that can be checked out online. Freedom for Immigrants, it used to be called Civic. And I volunteer with them.
Speaker 12: Thank you so much for sharing your stories and your work. I was just hoping to add another layer of family separation, that of the Muslim ban. And maybe you all on the panel could speak a little bit to that. I've been in Oakland schools and have sat with young and many children whose parents can't come. Al Jazeera has done a really brilliant report on American US, Yemeni-American citizens in Djibouti trying to get their children or their wives into the US to be with them, the civil war. but because of the ban, not being able to.
Speaker 12: And so that is also another layer of family separation, that I think we often leave out. So I wondered if anybody wanted to speak to that? Also, just really appreciative of the panel in general. So thank you.
Speaker 13: I have a question.
Takiyah Franklin: Can you hold for just one moment? Did anyone want to respond to ...
Angie Junck: I would just acknowledge that, that is absolutely true. And a lot of the narrative has been driven like [inaudible 01:10:56] post 9/11. I mean, we are in the state that we are because of the fear of terrorism and national security. And people that are Muslim face the greatest barriers in the immigration system, because when you just say that word, it triggers all sorts of procedures that you actually don't even know what is happening to these communities.
Angie Junck: We as advocates don't even have access to half that information. A lot of what I think what people talk about immigrant rights, is just how surveillance has been driven in this country and sharing. And we don't even know half of the things that are happening right now, that we need to get ahead of at the local level. So I think that's something that people are trying to address. But it's been really incredibly hard, because it's that one thing that everyone's like, we're willing to give up for immigration reform. We can't touch, because everyone agrees, right? That we can't stand up for those issues.
Seth Holmes: And it's even been a part of Trump's statement that he is planning to, I don't think he has yet, issue an executive order to engage the military to stop the caravan. Stating that there are Middle Easterners and Terrorist hiding among them. So even in the current caravan coming through Mexico, that other level of othering is being used to legitimize violence against multiple groups of people.
Patricia Baquedano-López: So I want to also comment on the ways we're talking about structural violence. The way in which our laws and our policies look like they're fair, that they're there to protect. But that at the core, they are also fundamental policies of racial violence. And that, what you just mentioned and in terms of like, this doesn't relate to me and that is someone else's problem. Because we can be, and this is in [inaudible 01:13:10] what people say, right?
Patricia Baquedano-López: It's like a family member say that. It's that we have been so supported by these policies and the benefits that you can derive, if you belong to a class that isn't, or a race that isn't the target of this violent structures that we have, to say you can feel separated. But when in fact it is because we are so related, the benefit of some is the curse of others. Those who benefit are not the targets of racial aggression. So like this is so deeply ingrained, that we can through these laws and mechanisms feel like we're not related. When in fact we are so part of the process that racializes and rejects.
Ericka Huggins: I am so glad you said that. Really. When you asked her a question about how we can have these conversations with our family and friends. Because, I can't not do that. I have to have conversations. Otherwise, it makes me sick. Physically sick. If I'm holding something that is a truth, I don't mean I want a blow torch somebody. I just mean I want to say what's on my heart. When you said that I wasn't going to say this, but now I will.
Ericka Huggins: We still have in the law of these United States, in property law, vestiges of the owning of humans, like your family and my family. What does that mean? That means that a lot of things are okayed throughout history, and that the ways in which we've been spoken to about what is real and what is not, what is the truth and what is a lie, are all merged and mixed and crazy. Especially when you think of what internalized racism does.
Ericka Huggins: Once we get confident enough to believe, well, not me anymore. I mean my people have ba, da, da, da, da, da, da,. Then one day your grandson is in a car and gets pulled over. What then? Having done nothing. So the conversation is about the ways in which the structural racism impacts our individual lives, our families lives. We were talking earlier, I think I was talking to you about this book called Lose Your Mother. You should read, this book is beautiful. It's difficult, but it's a beautiful book. It's about the mid atlantic slave trade.
Ericka Huggins: But we were talking about how African people were stolen, the children were stolen. There are all these other narratives about what happened, but they were stolen. Just picked up, and carted, and put in that castle in Ghana. And we know the rest of that history or if we don't, we should. Now we have textbooks for children that say African American people came here as migrant workers. Textbooks.
Ericka Huggins: If we don't tell our story, somebody will. And somebody else is. And we're believing it. Then we're othering, here we are the unwilling immigrants, let's call ourselves with lack of a better way to describe it. Othering immigrants, because we believed a fictitious narrative. That doesn't mean we shouldn't feel safe, and brave, and competent in the life that we have. But we just have to understand there's some holes in the narrative. So thank you again, and thank you for that beautiful question. Thank you very much, and good luck with your conversations.
Speaker 14: So, I have a question about adolescents in particular. I'm a pediatric nurse practitioner. I work primarily with immigrant youth and unaccompanied youth, and I also do research. And really talking to the young people I've worked with, many of them have made the journey from Central America because they were given a choice of basically being recruited by the gang or dying. Every one of them had stories of cousins, and brothers, and sisters who had actually been murdered.
Speaker 14: So I think of them as a protected class in a way, that they have actually been targeted because of their age, because of their status as youth when they come here and they're being demonized. And I'm wondering your thoughts on how to shift that conversation about them.
Ericka Huggins: I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand your question.
Speaker 14: So I mean I see that adolescents coming from Central America, basically our protected class in terms of asylum, because they have been so targeted by gang violence. And many of the youth I've spoken to have actually been directly threatened, or have seen family members of their same age murdered. And when they come here, the story is that they could be in the gang member themselves, and that doesn't seem to be a legitimate reason to ask for asylum. I'm wondering how to try to shift the conversation. In particular about the large group of youth who've come.
Angie Junck: I think the question you're asking is fundamentally what immigration's about? Who is American, who belongs and who doesn't? This idea that the United States wants to pick and choose who is an ideal immigrant to stay, right? I mean, the imagery itself in immigration reform has painted these pictures of one, someone in a jumpsuit, gang member, and the other person as a valedictorian or graduating. Right? Of who we should protect or not.
Angie Junck: I think until we fundamentally break that down ... and I think language really matters. I hear it all the time from people saying, "But they're not criminals. They're not doing this." It's like, "No, the federal government already defined them as criminals. That's why they're prosecuting them." They are criminalizing behavior all the time. Until we kind of get at the root of that, I think will continue to be in these difficult places in which we're fighting legal battles of like, "No, the law says that it should protect, X, Y, Z."
Angie Junck: We're trying to force these arguments of what international protection looks like. [inaudible 01:20:31] debate about what United States responsibility in intervening in other countries like Central America. We exported a gang problem that has been created the most dangerous place in places in the world, right? But no one wants to talk about it. It's like, "No, that's their problem. They should deal with it." And that everything else in the United States is based on personal behavioral choice. They're choosing to come here, to violate the law. Without understanding that larger context.
Angie Junck: So I don't know if I'm the answer to you because that's the struggle of the immigrant rights movement. That is what fundamentally we are trying to do, why we're defending these attacks and in the trenches every day. But meaning to take a step back and understand, like looking at that rotten structure. How do we start tearing pieces of this down at the same time?
Heide Castañeda: I would add to that, that using the rhetoric of gang member is good enough to strike fear in the hearts of Americans. But it's not a good enough reason to apply for asylum these days. You maybe recall that Attorney General Sessions recently said that threats of gang violence and, experiences of domestic abuse, and interpersonal violence are no longer grounds for asylum. So, in this case, what's good for the goose is not good for the gander. It strikes fear in one population, but it's not good enough for asylum.
Heide Castañeda: It's just another example of these other tactics along with, I think we mentioned earlier, talking about trafficking. Referring to the parents of children, along the migrant care and so forth, as traffickers. As trafficking their children. So I think this is another example of that.
Ericka Huggins: And it's important to look at colonialism and all of this. Which America has had his hand in, in the blow. But why do people want to leave a place? Because of systemic poverty. And crime is an expression of poverty. There's so many ways to look at it. It's like turning a prism so you see how the lights reflected and refracted every different kind of way. So, no matter which way you look at it, we have an obligation, we who call ourselves Americans, and I do, we have an obligation to humanity.
Ericka Huggins: The poor choices thing is really one that just gets me going. But we have done such a thing in the world under the guise of a reestablishing democracy. So yeah, it's a new way of thinking about the world we live in, and that this United States is not the center of the world. Not the center world. So, yeah. Thank you for your question.
Takiyah Franklin: So we have two more questions in the audience, before we turn it back over to the moderators for the final comments and questions from our panelists. First one.
Speaker 15: Hi. So this is kind of going back to what Angie was saying in the last question. It's a little bit more to do with immigration policy ,if that's okay. I think that the United States has intervened in foreign aid, in policy, in the name of corporate interests at the expense of a lot of poor countries, resulting in a lot of mass immigration. I was wondering in terms of this, how legal and how necessary and ethical do you think immigration quotas are? Then also ... sorry, I'm really nervous.
Speaker 15: Then also what kind of foreign policies do we need to change in order to affect undocumented immigration flow?
Angie Junck: I can just say something about the quota. So people know that there are designated numbers of visas that are given, allocated to certain countries to be able to come to the United States. At one point, there were more very generous quotas for different countries to come United States. They decided to change that, and it was basically, I would definitely say it's race based. You take certain countries that would have the greatest impact like Mexico, and you give them a very disproportionate amount, where you give white countries in Europe a greater amount.
Angie Junck: Then you create this concept of illegality of like, "They didn't actually follow the law. They didn't get in line." Right? "They don't deserve to be here." And the line looks like, if I had a brother and I'm a US citizen, 30 years to immigrate to the United States. Tell me if that's doable and realistic to reunify with your family member. So that's the problem with quotas. Unfortunately, people are always talking about document status. But that is at threat too. The threat of people being able to reunify with their families in the United States is not possible right now. And you have Trump and this administration talking about chain migration.
Angie Junck: We should value people based on our family, right? We actually should value them for their merit. What are they contributing to this country? What kind of work value, economic value? And that's a conversation immigration's always come. You're more generous in the United States when you see a certain benefit from migrant workers that come here to do our labor. Then when you have no need for them and there's economic recession, you want to blame them for being here.
Angie Junck: So I think that's, something that to keep your eye out, because we've been trying to work on that. I think there's some very slippery slope kind of rhetoric that's been used. We just did actual with Color of Change, a whole petition on this use of chain migration. The news media outlets had not used that word ever, and all of a sudden it was 30 fold use of that word. And again, language matters. It creates this chain reaction of how people think about these issues.
Angie Junck: In [inaudible 01:27:18], I don't know if Heide has some, I mean these are the things that we continually want to talk to. Like when we talk about the crisis Central American, we can't address this gang crisis and what's happening young people here in the United States without looking at an international issue. But, it's a very hard thing to do based on the lack of resources in the home country, and the support systems that don't exist. And the fact that a lot of people don't want to talk about this as an international issue, right? They're very dismissive of international law and those protections that are needed.
Heide Castañeda: I'll just add a resource for you, just to underscore what you're talking about. If you type in, if you just google "state department visa bulletin October 2018" you can see the numbers of what visas they're currently processing right now. And you will see that, for example, for a family based visa, talking of visa quotas, there's four countries that are disproportionately affected and that is Mexico, the Philippines, India, and China. To the point you were just making, if you have an adult brother living in Mexico right now and you were petitioning to bring them over, they're currently processing paperwork that was filed on the 25th of June 1995.
Heide Castañeda: So she said this, but I just want you to have a resource to go look up and to share with people you know, so that you can see why people might after 23 years decided to take another route into this country. Not that I would endorse that, but you can see that there's an unmanageable line here. And it's all based on these visa quota, these oversubscribed categories of visas that people don't really know about. They don't realize that there's different countries affected in different ways. Bringing your brother were from Norway would be quite easy.
Josh: I don't know if this is on. You can hear me, right?
Takiyah: Just push the button.
Josh: Sorry. I spent most of my life in prison. So technology is still a little foreign to me. First of all, thank you guys of course, for taking the time to come and share. I'm humbled to be able to hear from you all. I was wondering, it was mentioned a little bit around gang, and for example, young people not getting the right to representation that you get in criminal court. And maybe if you can go a little further with this idea that, and this might help some folks in their conversations with their loved ones of like, "I don't want tHe gang members here, but I'm okay with the good kids. I just don't want the bad kids." And that very problematic narrative.
Josh: where if you come here and you're just pulled over because you are Latino walking down the street in a community that's oversaturated with police, and you haven't done anything wrong, and you've never had police contact before, and you've never been arrested, and you're doing well in school, et cetera, et cetera. Immigration could still show up to your house, oftentimes does two days later, and say you are a gang member. Then it's on you to have to prove how you're not a gang member.
Josh: With very limited understanding of how systems and structures in this country work. Not necessarily understanding this notion of gang member as it applies in the United States, so really not very well equipped to challenge a label that you don't fully understand. But also while you're locked up, right> Like you were in detention, you don't have the resources. And how they're shifting folks across country, and whatnot, to try to leverage that idea of sign away your asylum opportunity, sign away and just go.
Josh: So when we hear a gang member, the overwhelming majority of time from my experience, you're not hearing of somebody that's ever committed a violent crime. That is anything like what we think of.
Angie Junck: I just want to say, so I know Josh for a long time. He's a teacher and mentor for me. He is one of the only people that I've been able to find that would be a gang expert, in these cases of unaccompanied migrant youth that are being accused of being in gangs or need deported. So he's gone as far as to Boston, New York City, to testify cases where these are people have no resources, they don't have the money for experts. And he goes against the federal government, local law enforcement that are claiming these young people are in gangs, and discredits them.
Angie Junck: Because he understands what the problems are with gang database, as us in immigrant rights, we've learned from people like Josh, but trying to fight that is an uphill battle. And he's been a great resource and tool for us.
Seth Holmes: Part of what I'm grateful for today is the mix that each of you have brought of a structural analysis of the system, and how it's sick. And the personal stories from your own life and other people's lives about how it affects us on the personal, interpersonal, emotional, [inaudible 01:32:36] bodily level. And I wonder if you could each tell one story of one person, or a collective, who's doing something to change things. Doing something toward social change, structural change, whatever it might be. I mean, you already told me you're doing that, you are that story. And I think
Seth Holmes: Angie, you just did that by telling us about what Josh has been doing, which kind of helped me, I think that, that might be helpful. People have asked about what they can do, and I wonder if hearing this story of what someone or some people have done or are doing might be helpful.
Heide Castañeda: First of all, thank you for the work you're doing. I think people's time, and expertise, and investment in trying to change things is really key. I mentioned the organization that helps with Helen's release. That's a lot of volunteers coming together, and feeling the power of strength in numbers was really key in that situation. It's not just one lawyer doing something, but a whole community behind them. But the story I guess that I would tell is that, this current migrant caravan, which I have a little problem with that term. I mean, in Spanish it looks quite well, and that is the term people use.
Heide Castañeda: But for the American public, it's another one of those catchphrases, just like that chain migration. It starts to take on this life of its own, and becomes the boogie man of some sort, but that's not what we want to do with that. I think what's going on with the migrant caravan is that, maybe we should be reframing it as asylum seekers on a journey, that's really what it is. It's not a scary caravan coming to us.
Heide Castañeda: So I happen to know that there are many people on the ground. You may have recently heard that this group has swelled in size from 2000, to 5,000, to 7,000 people. I want you to know that those are not all people who are migrants necessarily in that caravan. I want you to know that there are a lot of advocates, there are activists. There are people bringing their organizations. I mean people who are professionals. From [inaudible 01:34:58] and Honduras, who have traveled north of join this movement of people.
Heide Castañeda: I know that there are people who are Mexican nationals, who live in the communities that these people are passing through, who are just joining in and supporting that. If you look closely the pictures, you'll see that it's a mixture of people. The numbers are swelling not because more and more migrants are joining and marching northwards, they're swelling because they're activists, or advocates, or organizations who are traveling to meet them and join them. So know that, and that would be my story relate of collective action, and the impact of people are stronger together.
Angie Junck: I've been fortunate to work in a lot of different groups, organizations, and a lot of them are undocumented youth themselves. The power that they have to change is just phenomenal, and the ideas that they have, have taught me so much. But I'll just tell the story about how I even got into this work, and where I really believe that a lot is possible. I worked in a volunteer organization, and there's another person in the audience, [inaudible 01:36:14] works with me, The California Coalition for Women Prisoners.
Angie Junck: And working with women that have isolated, incarcerated survivors of domestic violence, visiting them inside prison, and really fighting for their freedom to be able to retell their stories, and be able to be heard in court so that they can get released. We worked with many women, and one woman in the early 2000s was one of the first to be granted parole, one of I think around three people to be granted parole by then governor Gray Davis.
Angie Junck: It was a tremendous victory for people that get to that. But to find out that, we were blindsided of the fact that she was going to be deported after she had been sex trafficked by her abuser. Served 25 years to life in sentence. What was inspirational about that experience is that the family were like, "No, we will not accept this. We will organize, we will do everything we can to unionize her story, to push on every single person, and we know people's power? We're going to look at our elected officials. We're going to look at our Congressperson. We're going to use the media, we're going to use Spanish-English media."
Angie Junck: They used every single resource to organize. The result of that, I mean, it's not always a result of this, but they got basically a pardon for a person that served 25 years to life in early 2000s to be able to stay in the United States. If we can do things like that, it's just, it's tremendous to me. That power and organizing family and coming together. And that gives me hope that I think that we can do a lot.
Ericka Huggins: I don't really have a story I can share.
Patricia Baquedano-López: I find this incredibly powerful, because your presence is a story. It teaches us so much about not just your resilience, but rising above and inviting us to also be active in changing. Changing the way things are. Thank you for your presence. I want to just comment on ... I know we're winding this down, and to return to your questions to us at the beginning of this conversation, to imagine ourselves as children, and to think about babies and children. For me, one takeaway point as a professor of education who examines and thinks about toddlers, and children, babies, how we continue to manipulate this category, this social category in children.
Patricia Baquedano-López: We have done this to some of the most vulnerable. But children are powerful agents in all those things, because we have seen that the terrible twos side. But children truly in the hands of a structure that's racist and that others and rejects are truly vulnerable without adults beside about them. And so, to think about family, but to think about those children being manipulated, I wonder how this is going to change the way I talk about our relationship to students and children in schools, and relationship that children and babies and families. I hope that it changes for a different kind of understanding, a positioning of children and families, but also our own responsibility towards them.
Seth Holmes: In closing, if there's anything else that anyone wants to say or invite or ask, I welcome that. We welcome that. I also want to let you here know that the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society with the help of Takiyah Franklin and Erica Brown especially put together a resource and action sheet, which of course is incomplete in all kinds of ways, like many things are. But there are lists of things going on campus. There are lists of community organizations, etc. That might be thing you might want to support, or learn from. Pr get involved in.
Seth Holmes: Then maybe they're back over there somewhere. Then it might be posted on the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society website. One resource that isn't there is if you are a student you might meet Sue Schmidt: who is in the English department, and teaching a course this spring, has set a title of which is about the founding museum. I get emotional easily, but the family museum is made from buttons pieces of cloth that American Indian parents gave their .... no? Sue can explain it better than me.
Sue Schmidt: You're being very helpful, but it's based on a museum in London, 17th century common hospital founded by [inaudible 01:42:02] for women who came, half of them sobbing because they were leaving their kids, and the other have sobbing because they couldn't leave their kids. They weren't literate in bureaucratic forms. So they would leave a little scrap of cloth or button or something in order to match with their child, in the hope that they would come back.
Sue Schmidt: There's this huge archive of these objects, and then the founding museum has different people, who the museum chooses, choose an object and then write an essay about it, and that's what your experience is going to the museum. Hearing people's voices about why they chose that object. So it's an American culture's course in the spring. It's going to be called the American Foundling Museum. It's exploring the history of family separation in the US, and everyone's going to be finding some kind of artifact and sharing in a virtual museum space. So anyway, it's open in the spring.
Seth Holmes: Thank you for correcting me on something I'm not an expert on. I also want to thank Denise Herd the Associate Director of Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society as well as Takiyah Franklin for organizing with Erica Brown, whose done a lot of this work. Deborah Lustig from the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and [Aline Harrow 01:43:41] who is helping, or was helping with getting questions. [inaudible 01:43:49]
Angie Junck: I'd like to just say something. A lot of people might talk about federal immigration and be like, "What can we do at the federal level?" And I just want to say we haven't had immigration reform for decades. I've been part of three immigration reform efforts. I think the whole idea of immigration reform is somewhat dated, and we have to think about it in different ways. But I just need everybody know that everything we've won on a federal level, has always come from local power. Whether we're shaping these narratives and telling a different story about what sanctuary means. What does it mean to belong and who will be value in our communities?
Angie Junck: Or just the Undocumented and Afraid movement of undocumented students amazing students at this university, being able To tell those stories. And really reclaim power and said, "No, we belong here, and we will stay here." And so, there are a lot of opportunities. Don't feel like, "Okay, something's up the border. We have to run to the border, and fund these different organizations." It starts at a level. We lack federal power because we have not grown as movement locally around the country.
Angie Junck: Despite politicians saying the right things, they could always do more. For them to say, "No, it's just a federal issue," is not true. We know that people effectuate change, and people in power can effectuate that change from our city all the way to the county, from county to federal. I would definitely connect with efforts, there are so many different efforts around detention reform, sanctuary, serving unaccompanied minors. We have a large population in this county. What does that look like for this county to actually welcome these young people, and give them resources in the school districts is another thing.
Angie Junck: So be creative and go out there and look for your local organizations, not just the mega organizations that might be talking about these issues, but not understanding how it plays out every single day.
Seth Holmes: Thank you. Thank you very much. We thank you for coming to, and sharing your questions, and your desires and wishes for a different society. Thank you for coming and spending time with us, and for the work you do. And just for gracing us with your presence, and your ideas today.
Ericka Huggins: Thank you.