As I reflect on the past year, I am thinking about moments I felt closer to a higher power, when I felt as though I was praying with my feet. I think back to the day of July 31st, the second night of the Presidential Democratic debates in Detroit.
I stood with fellow protesters as we prayed together, said a bracha nervously, not sure of what to expect in the coming hours. Leaders of Movimiento Cosecha, a movement fighting for the dignity, respect, and permanent protection of all immigrants, had spent the day preparing our group of 21 protesters, yet our nerves still held.
We gathered in Hart Plaza where the artist and activist, Sacramento Knoxx, led us in an acknowledgement of the land we stood on, home to the Anishinaabe long before the British and French violently took control. Other activists spoke, led chants and songs in English and Spanish. We then marched with about 100 people to the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, where we sat along the roadway, blocking the entrance. I shared assured glances with fellow protesters as we sang steadily, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, a protest song sang by activists in the civil rights movement. As we sang this song, with words from biblical scripture, I felt deeply connected to my Judaism. I felt that if there was a higher power, a holy spirit, this is exactly where they would want me to be. That sitting in the road alongside comrades and new friends, advocating for the human rights of others is exactly what I should be doing. That this is a mitzvah, a commandment from G-d to love thy neighbor, and that only this will bring me closer to wholeness.
Michigan is reported to have one of the highest rates of ICE arrests in the country. Throughout the U.S. about 11 million people live undocumented. Many have multiple children who are U.S. citizens, have been in the country for years and sometimes decades with no pathway to citizenship. Politicians have failed to fix our broken immigration system - under Trump, Obama, and previous administrations.
Last month I went to El Paso and visited an ICE detention center. A prison. I went to the border and saw the National Guard militarizing a trade and pedestrian route that El Pasoans and Mexicans use daily for business and pleasure - visiting family members and working or living across the border. I saw hundreds of families camped out, just steps across the border, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, searching for safety, a new home.
The reality is that migration has and always will occur. Humanitarian crises will continue to happen, and companies in the U.S., under our current capitalist system, need immigrant workers. But this administration is too preoccupied with their own racist, classist, white supremacist agenda and political strategy. The approach used again and again: divide and conquer. With the new policies that come out daily - from the first Muslim ban, to the public charge rule, the Remain in Mexico program, ‘metering’ at the border, continued ICE raids - the agenda is clear. The demonization and dehumanization of black and brown people, of Muslims, of documented and undocumented immigrants is priority.
This new year we can guarantee that Stephen Miller and his klan will continue their war on immigrants and we’ll be ready. From the Families Belong Together protests, to the rally outside of the Dearborn police department, we will continue to organize and advocate for justice for all of our neighbors. And we must go further - we must demand that our Democratic Presidential candidates end detention and deportation on day 1. That they provide a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million people living in this country.
After being arrested on July 31st, not even having to step foot in a jail, my immense white privilege was again clear to me. It was a powerful reminder and I hope a reminder to others who hold privilege, that we have to continue to put our bodies on the line. The power of solidarity and love can overcome the politics of cruelty and hate. See you in the streets.
Lisa is a Michigander who cares deeply about creating a more equitable Metro Detroit and world! She works in politics, organizes with many wonderful Jews and loves her kitten, Mini.