Community Support Network eNews, March 2014 issue
|Dear Community Support partners and friends,Happy Spring!Thanks to everyone who traveled to Baltimore to participate in the L3 convening – it is always wonderful to meet in person. We really appreciated your insights, creative ideas and feedback. For those who didn’t attend, we hope to see you on an upcoming site visit or this September in Arizona!
This month we would like to share a brief summary of what was discussed during the L3 convening, as well as profile Jennifer Long and Sister JoAnn Persch, two dedicated and inspiring social change advocates from within our network.
As always, please send any success stories, staff transitions or upcoming events to JCoffin@lirs.org.
This month, we would like to profile and thank Jennifer Long (Casa Marianella) and Sister JoAnn Persch (Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants), two social change advocates from within our network who have a wealth of experiences and wisdom to share. I had the opportunity to sit down with them during the L3 convening to reflect on and discuss who or what motivates them to be agents of social change.
Since their teenage years, both Jennifer and Sr. JoAnn have been actively involved in social justice movements. Jennifer entered the world of activism during college, sparked by the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.
“I was upset as I began to understand the role of the United States in other parts of the world. I started to feel personally responsible,” she shared.
Jennifer feared that the wars in Central America paralleled the power dynamics evident in Vietnam; a powerful military presence actively oppressing the poor and vulnerable. She became involved in the movement against military aid in Central America, lobbying in Ft. Worth, Texas, for a year. However, Jennifer quickly realized that she found her inspiration when working with individuals, not national politics. In 1985, she started working directly with immigrants and refugees, a journey she continues today through her work at Casa Marianella.
Sr. JoAnn has been a fearless advocate of social justice for over 60 years. In partnership with her oldest friend and colleague, Sr. Pat Murphy, the two Catholic nuns have protested, picketed and prayed to end United States military aid to Honduras, prevent the construction of a nuclear power plant on Shoshane soil, and found the Su Casa Catholic Worker House, to name only a few. Inspired by civil disobedience, Sr. JoAnn and Sr. Pat threatened to lie down in front of the deportation buses at the Broadview Detention Facility if ICE didn’t allow them pray with the families and individuals being deported. When reflecting on what inspires her to wake up every Friday morning and stand outside of the Broadview facility, Sr. JoAnn quoted Sr. Pat’s mantra, “We can’t not do something. We have to do something.”
Both Jennifer and Sr. JoAnn could point to national heroes or individuals they met along their journey that have shaped and inspired them.
Jennifer immediately turned to Oscar Romero, a Catholic Archbishop who became the “voice of the voiceless” in El Salvador.
“He was not a political person.” Jennifer shared. “He was a priest, who lived an honest life grounded in integrity…But he had tremendous courage. His honesty and integrity gave him the ability to speak out in powerful ways.”
Jennifer went on to describe that, “We are called to live our lives faithfully and honestly. Inevitably we are going to be called to be courageous, and to speak out on behalf of someone who it might be dangerous to speak out for.” Oscar Romero had the courage to live out that call.
Sister JoAnn shared the story of an individual whose courage is less well known, but equally as inspiring. Sr. JoAnn traveled to El Salvador on a delegation in commemoration of four American churchwomen who were murdered in 1980 by the Salvadoran National Guard. She had the opportunity to hear S.J Armando Lopez speak, and was moved and inspired by his words. SJ. Lopez, and five of his fellow Jesuit brothers were assassinated at the University of Central America in San Salvador in 1989. The death of S.J. Lopez resonated with Sr. JoAnn on a personal level, and spoke to the courage required to stand up for what you believe in.
“When you feel called, no matter what the cost, you have to do it” Sr. JoAnn shared.
However, both women were careful not to ascribe the success of a social change initiative to the work or courage of a single person. Sr. JoAnn spoke about importance of joining national groups and networks. Jennifer reflected on the Civil Rights movement, sharing, “We tend to narrow our scope and look a one person or leader. But it worked because of the collective courage and action of 1000s of individuals who did the right thing.”
As a network, harnessing courage and inspiring collective action is our greatest strength. As we move forward, Jennifer and Sr. JoAnn remind us that our daily work is part of a larger movement that is making real progress on an individual, local and national scale.
A big thanks to all of our partners for having the courage to join in!
This March, over 50 LIRS partners from all networks and corners of the country, joined together to strengthen relationships, establish a common agenda, and set network priorities for the coming year. The L3 convening, which stands for Learning, Leveraging and Leading, brought together partners from LIRS’s Children’s Services, Refugee Resettlement, Access to Justice and Lutheran church networks. Partners were asked to reflect holistically on their experiences providing services and welcome, and identify common challenges and goals in their efforts to best support migrants and refugees.
LIRS presented some of our developing thinking around how we build upon our services to welcome migrants through our various networks to move toward true belonging. LIRS staff shared ideas of building social connection, better engaging migrants and refugees in supporting new migrants, and more robust church and community engagement. Questions for discussion included — how do we meet the immediate needs of clients, while also facilitating deeper social and community integration? How do we build sentiments of belonging among clients and the larger community? How would we measure our success? How would we build capacity for the work of integration?
Standing on common conceptual ground, the last two days of the convening were spent brainstorming ways to leverage resources, communities, assets and strengths to effectively move towards long term integration of migrants and refugees. Presentations, breakout sessions, and even a little arts and crafts, helped spark conversation around these seven common agenda items:
Participants in the L3 convening enjoyed the broad opportunity for exchange and learning from one another, which will continue this September at the L4 conference, where we will reconvene, launching our ideas into actions.
Following the L3, ATJ convened a small group of partners and advocacy allies in Washington, D.C. for a thoughtful discussion on our collective work promoting Alternatives to Detention (ATD). Network partners shared updates on their programs, as well as voiced the tension felt between competing obligations to clients, advocacy allies and ICE. Advocacy partners shared their need for data on compliance rates and an accurate summary of ATD programming costs, and challenged LIRS to redefine their goals for the Community Support Network as it relates to advocacy initiatives. We look forward to continuing the conversation this spring, so we can better identify the role we all want the Community Support Network to play in the lives of our clients, advocacy efforts in DC and in collaboration with ICE.
Launching an Immigration Detention Advocate Hotline
Malek Ndaula, a visitation ministry partner with Families for Freedom, will offer a brief introduction to launching an immigration detention advocate hotline, to help connect individuals in detention to their families, and to potential visitors. Malek with share the process Families for Freedom went through to establish the hotline, how it currently operates, and any lessons learned.
Network-wide Conference Call
Who is the Community Support Network?
In partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) LIRS launched the Community Support Network in 2012, a national service model to examine the efficiency of community-based services as an alternative to immigration detention. This initiative inspires volunteers and funds non-profit service agencies to offer a continuum of care that facilitates immigrants’ release from detention, immediate support and stabilization services, torture and trauma rehabilitation, and eventually long term integration. In 2012, the Community Support Network served approximately 85 people post-release and brought together over 80 practitioners for a conference about alternatives to current enforcement practices.