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Thanksgiving, Ferguson, deportation and mass incarceration

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving is a day to spend with our families when we can enjoy eating and having a good time with each other. Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a white cop, will not be at that table. Mark Maynard, deportee, cannot sit at that table. Hundreds of thousands of young men incarcerated for being brown and black cannot sit at that table.


On Monday November 24th we heard from Ferguson MO that it is ok for a white cop to shoot and kill a black, unarmed young man. This is not an isolated incident. We have had the recent killing of Tamar Rice, a 12-year-old black child in Cleveland, Akai Gurley in NY, Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old who was murdered in California or John Crawford who was shot to death in Ohio. In fact, the police kill a black man approximately every 28 hours in the United States. These killings are justified by the officers saying that they were afraid for their lives.


They are holding the guns, they are “trained” to be calm under pressure, they are the “good guys with guns” but they are afraid. If you are afraid to do your job in our community, to protect and serve, then leave. If the first thing that you do is pull out a gun and shoot then you are not able to work as an officer of the court in our community. You were trained and you need to be held to a higher standard from the ordinary folks that you are serving. This higher standard means that every time you discharge your weapon you should be taken off duty without pay. Every time you shoot someone you should face a jury of our peers, the community of the person you killed. We need to remove this shield of immunity that you are given when you do bad things.


Then those who are not killed are imprisoned. We are faced with a society and a criminal justice system in which one of every three African American men, and one of every six Hispanic men, can expect to go to prison in his lifetime if current trends continue. There were 70,792 juveniles in juvenile detention in 2010. The incarceration rate in America is the highest in the world. This allows the system to disenfranchise our brown and black community by taking away our basic human rights and making us second-class citizens. And for non-citizens, most who have experienced the criminal system will end up exiled from their families, from their lives in the United States.


On Thursday November 20 we heard President Obama issue an executive order that will allow about 5 million people to come out of the shadows, leaving a few million still in the shadows afraid. In the last 5 years we have seen millions of immigrants locked up in immigration prison, over 2 million deported. This order has not come soon enough and it does not go far enough. As much as we can celebrate the benefits for some, we need to continue in the struggle against criminalization, against the system that dehumanizes black and brown communities, and in favor of ending incarceration, deportation, and violence.


The New Sanctuary Coalition believes that no one should be deported, including our members who have criminal records. We fight to keep families together. We work in the intersection of the criminal justice and the immigration deportation/detention system and we speak out about the underlying racism that permeates the “laws” that kill, imprison and deport us. We stand with Ferguson and our brown and black communities that protest this vile decision not to indict the white officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, a young black man. This violence has to stop whether the killing of our black and brown people by police or by Customs and Border Patrol along the US border, it has to stop. We demand an end to mass incarceration, an end to deportations, an end to private prisons and an end to the immunity of enforcement agencies who now have a license to kill.


As we sit with each other at our tables, let us give thanks for this privilege of being together, knowing that others don’t have that privilege. Let us share ideas to challenge the oppression that impacts people who are poor, people of color, and immigrants living in a climate of fear. But as much as those communities are suffering, they can give thanks for the growing movements that are challenging the murder in Ferguson, the millions of people incarcerated, and the millions deported.

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