Forced Out: At the Intersection of Deportation and Incarceration
On Thursday, April 5th, over 550 community members joined together for a conversation on the intersections of immigration and incarceration, systems that are tearing apart African-American and immigrant families alike.
Over 2.3 million people are held in American prisons at any given time, and nearly 400,000 immigrants are deported each year – these are the highest rates of incarceration and deportation in American history. These policies of containment and removal come at an enormous cost to communities, families and taxpayers. And the same forces are at play in both systems – prison privatization, widespread criminalization, and the politics of fear.
The teach-in highlighted the numerous connections among impacted groups and the need to create a stronger, more unified voice for policy change across racial and ethnic identities.
Participants and attending legislators committed to working together to: 1) halt the construction of an immigration prison in Crete, and 2) a series of closings of wasteful youth and adult prisons.
You can help by clicking here to tell your Illinois State Representative to stop the Crete detention center!
"You can only dehumanize people for so long until they become educated, organized and united against the systematic conditions that oppresses and dehumanizes them and their off springs and generations" - Rabbi Joshua V. Salter
Below is the full speech by Rabbi Salter delivered during the closing program.
I am Rabbi Joshua Salter, a Community Organizer employed with Southwest Organizing Project.
This morning I would like to share a story with you about a mixed multitude of people who once were oppressed and became “free” a universal message. Not too long ago, there were a people that were strangers in a strange land for 400 years and you might say what made the land strange? But you would think that if you were in a land for 400 years that land shouldn’t, wouldn’t and couldn’t be strange, you should be at home by now if you’ve been there over 400 years. I would tell you that what made the place strange was that these oppressed people couldn’t understand the laws and systems of that place, it seemed as hypocrisy. I would assume that at that time the laws kept changing or the laws worked differently for the Egyptians than how it worked for the Hebrews and the mixed multitudes that were already there. How could this place which was the most technologically advanced society of its time treat people so terrible and unjust always devising ways of keeping those people down – I tell you a Strange land……..And I don’t want anyone to get confused what I am talking about, I’m not really talking of the place called Egypt, because Egypt is really called Kemet. Egypt is the English translation for Mizraim a Hebrew word that means – a land of Double Distress, hummm Double distress …… The dictionary defines distress as
great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; troubled.
When Malcolm used to speak they used to say “Make it Plain Minister” This strange place that was suspicious of the men of the oppressed classes began to devise systems to disenfranchise, marginalize and criminalize the people that looked a little bit different, not sure if they wore hoodies like Trayvon Martin had on, or if it was because their pants were sagging, not sure if they wore dreadlocks, not sure if it just was the color of their skin if they were brown or black or yellow or white, not sure but we do know that they held convenings and talked about how they were going deal with the problem of the suspicious people or the people they considered the “other”. The bible tells us in the book of exodus actually Exodus 1:10 says that they said “come let us deal wisely with them” how do you deal wisely with people.
Craftily oppress them? I am not sure if the oppressed people had anyone write a book about how to criminalize that segment of society with devices of oppression with drugs and guns as brilliant Researcher and Author Michelle Alexander has captured in her book “The New Jim Crow”. And coat it with a slogan like the ‘War on drugs, which really should be entitled a war with drugs against black people” not sure if that was captured, but we do know that they said “let us deal wisely with them”.
Anytime you have a superiority complex, and want to make others feel inferior, you must create situations and conditions that dehumanize the people that you want to feel inferior. Let me say that again…..
But the problem with this is; you can only dehumanize people for so long until they become educated, organized and united against the systematic conditions that oppresses and dehumanizes them and their off springs and generations. The thing is; No systematic oppression can last forever and it’s a good thing that there is ONE who sits high and looks down low, whose hands is tied to Justice and righteousness. Given that we know and understand this, it won’t tarry too long! How long, not long! The systems and peoples that support the systems, you know the ones that say lock them all up, knows this all too well. The people in darkness have now seen a marvelous light and it is beautiful in our eyes. Sorry, well, let me get back to the story, God always sends people to give this I mean that arrogant nation warnings and signs before divine justice approaches, you know the signs …..You can fix it now……You can find viable solutions now….. You can turn it around now…….. You can make amends now….. You can ask for forgiveness now…….this is absolutely wrong now…..
But Egypt I mean double distress wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t change, and wouldn’t get on the right side of their issues. It’s hard to turn when your arrogance dictates your actions, and humility becomes valueless, just isn’t one of the strong suits. Major difference between Moses’ humility in asking “who am I” to free the people and ask for change and Pharaoh’s arrogant question “who is God” that I “should” free the people. It’s unfortunate that Pharaoh, his advisors and his people had to find out in the worst way who God was. It never has to come down to that if we but turn it around. I like to think that God is watching the “workings of man” and when his cup of Justice is filled he will act. But I do understand that he only acts when we get ourselves together to stand up against atrocities, tribulations, wrongness, injustice and are compassionate, caring, loving and thoughtful about the plights of our brothers and sisters, and when care about them we are caring about ourselves. The reasons for us being here today at this important pivotal time in the history of mankind is that we have acknowledged that there is something drastically wrong and we bear witness that mass incarceration and mass deportation is clearly not in the best interest of the masses of the people. It is time to free the people!
Rabbi Joshua V. Salter