Celebrates CWJ Sixth Anniversary

Join us for our Third Annual Gala Fundraiser event! and Support CWJ !

A night sure to be filled with great live music, authentic food from our community, and a lively celebration of another year filled with victories!

As CWJ turns six years old, we have an exciting list of new accomplishments! We want to celebrate with our individual supporters and community partners like you who have helped us achieve so much!

We’re delighted to announce the return of the amazingly talented duo, Calle Sur, as the night’s musical guest as we honor the achievements and hard work of our members.

Tickets:
$50 single, $90 for 2, $350 for table of 8
Purchase tickets online here:https://cwjiowa.salsalabs.org/october13/index.html

For the Love of our Children

It was 2002, and the tragedies of September 11, 2001 were still fresh and raw in everyone’s hearts and minds. And I was reading, for the first time of many, Hannah Arendt’s classic study of the patterns of thought and behavior leading up to the Holocaust, The Origins of Totalitarianism. In particular, I had just finished reading a section on the ways medieval Christians had dealt with the high infant and child mortality rate of the time: by blaming the Jews. Stories of ritual child murder, sacrifice, and cold-hearted torture by Jews were rampant. Child disappearance and death, to many Christians, was too awful to contemplate, so when offered an easy explanation for it–an enemy, a place for their anger and grief–many accepted it.

I turned to my young husband, childless like me, and said, “Let’s make a promise. When we have children, we will never use them to perpetrate or excuse injustice.”

Real parenthood has a way of testing our ideals. Many of us are perfect parents before we have actual children. We swear we will not be the parents whose kids watch hours of TV, or make separate meals for each child because they don’t like what we’ve made, or send a kid to school with mismatched socks or unbrushed teeth. And sometimes parenthood tests even our highest ideals. What happens when we believe in diversity in education, but face the reality that our neighborhood school may be stressful and difficult for our kids for reasons outside of academics? What do we do when we believe that everyone gets to do what they want with their own bodies, but our chain-smoking aunt reaches for our medically fragile newborn? Or when exposure to a different culture also means exposure to values that might not match our own?

In 2006, when my son was born, I got to answer many of those questions for myself. I am a Quaker and a committed pacifist, and yet, before even leaving the hospital, I knew that if anyone ever came for my child, I would be willing to kill. When a person becomes a parent, their most important job becomes keeping their child alive, full stop. I have, thankfully, never been placed in that position, but at least at the level of ideals, my pacifism stops where direct threats to my children start.

People in power, especially those who face threats to that power, understand deeply the human instinct to protect children. For those of us who are parents, our single greatest fear is that our children will be harmed. This is not hypothetical–childhood illness, abuse, and murder happen on a regular basis. Parenthood can become our greatest vulnerability when it comes to exploitation by powerful people, because threats to our children are real and ever-present. When someone offers simple, clear-cut reasons for the awful things that happen, it can feel good, for a little while, to have a place to direct our anger and grief.

But while parenthood can become our Achilles’ heel, it doesn’t have to completely short-circuit our highest ideals or render us unable to use logic.

Immigration as our Legacy

One of my earliest memories as a little girl in the Midwest in the early 1980s is of the smell of graham crackers. But it wasn’t from our pantry–it was from the backseat of our car, where I sat next to a woman wrapped in colorful fabric, quietly looking out the window at her new country. My mother was driving a Vietnamese woman, a recent immigrant and refugee, to the fabric store to purchase material so that she could make clothing for family, likely facing a harsh Illinois winter for the very first time.

The scent of the blend of spices that infused the garments the Vietnamese woman–probably cinnamon and coriander–was at once familiar and foreign to me, as was the fabric she used to make her clothing. My mother, too, smelled of the things she cooked for us, and she made our clothes. These were tangible proof of her love and care for me as a child. I understood at a very young age the fundamental connection that mothers have with all other mothers.

I grew up with the stories of people who had undergone considerable hardships to gain the safety and security that I got for free just by being born in the United States to parents who were citizens and who looked like the majority of people around them. I heard of a boy, just ten, who had swum across the Mekong River, bullet scars on his back from the shots intended to stop him. And families did not always come to our community intact; often they had had to leave others behind, or had lost spouses, children, aunts, uncles, and cousins along their escape routes, with no time or space for burials and funerals.

The Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees who settled in our communities and helped shape life in the Midwest in the 1980s were not strangers to us. They were fellow human beings in crisis. They became part of the fabric of our lives. We ate together, sewed together, laughed and cried together. Together we felt the cold wind of winter and huddled against the evils of greed, violence, and war. We connected their stories to the stories from our own histories, of great-great-grandparents hiding in caves in Germany to escape religious violence, of the sounds of soldiers’ boots and the ache of missing familiar smells and tastes handed down to us.

The rhetoric of the immigrant as a threat to our communities is unfamiliar to me at a visceral level, even though I understand that this is also, unfortunately, part of our legacy as well. My immigrant ancestors did not always greet the “other” with warm and accepting arms, but often with suspicion and even violence. The Midwest as it is today was made possible by the murder and displacement of millions of native peoples and the systematic oppression of the descendents of slaves.

We can choose which parts of our legacy as Americans we want to nurture, and which we need to be on guard not to perpetuate.

Community Supporting Families Belong Together

Hundreds march in Iowa City supporting immigrants families on Saturday, June 30 as part of the Mobilization Day to denounce separation of families.

CWJ is proud to have sponsored the March and Rally on June 30 and joined the National Day of Families Belong Together.

For more information, read the articles linked below Little Village and CBS/FOX

Hundreds in Iowa City march in nationwide ‘Families Belong Together’ event

Hundreds march in Iowa City for the Families Belong Together rally

Court Hearing

“On Tuesday June 26, I attended a hearing for 5 men detained in the recent Mt. Pleasant Raid. The experience confirmed something many already know, that ICE makes people disappear without due process. The courtroom was overflowing with supporters, both family members and allies. The federal prosecuting attorney said that 2 of the 5 detainees had not shown up for court. She said she didn’t know where they are and asked that warrants be issued for their arrests. They may be in ICE custody, she said, she couldn’t say for sure. Said it wasn’t her responsibility to get them to court.
Public record shows that the 2 men are being detained in the Hardin County Jail. Is there any way the prosecuting attorney didn’t know this? Most likely she was lying. If indeed, she wasn’t lying, she could have easily procured this information. It’s not very difficult. I checked the major Eastern Iowa detention center roster and found that they are being in the Hardin Co Jail. My feeling is that ICE is delaying their court appearance because this judge had previously stated, that with so much community support he was considering releasing at least one of the two men so that he could be with his son. I felt enormous grief for the cruelty and corruption in our system, and also experienced the joy of being surrounded by brave family members and supporters from Davenport, Mt Pleasant, and Iowa City.
By Aaron Silander (CWJ Allies )

Stop Tearing Families Apart

 

Tearing apart peaceful immigrant families is cruel, unjust, and devastating to our communities. Take action now! Fill out this form and click “take action to be taken to a sample letter you can review, edit, and send with one click to your Congressman and Senators.

It’s been horrifying to watch parents torn away from their toddlers at the border and criminalized for seeking asylum and safety for their families. Meanwhile, the small Iowa town of Mt. Pleasant is still reeling from the recent ICE raid, in which armed agents descended on a factory with helicopters, dogs, and tasers to round up 32 peaceful workers – orphaning children and wreaking lasting damage for this interconnected rural community. We cannot tolerate this kind of brutality. A humane and just immigration system is possible and urgently needed.

Send a message to your Congressman and Senators TODAY
Take Action Now and Sign this Form: https://cwjiowa.salsalabs.org/stopseparationsoffamilies/index.html

We Are All Immigrants

Speech by Mark Schmidt on Cedar Rapids Rally calling for Immigration Reform in front of Senator Grasley’s office on May-14-2018

My great-great-grandfather came to America as a stowaway in a cattle ship in the late 19th century. He came because of prospect of work. He came because he was fleeing the violence of war and poverty. He came for the American dream.
My ancestors were simply hardworking, God-fearing, families trying to survive, caring for their loved ones and communities. Their story is almost identical to the story of today’s immigrants; here for a prospect of a better future. But because of fear and xenophobia our human dignity was denied much like it is denied to immigrants today. During the anti-German fervor of WWI period, German nationals were required to register at a local government office, to carry papers at all times, and could be stopped, detained, and interred without evidence of wrongdoing. Depicted as blood-thirsty apes threatening white womanhood and American liberty thousands were detained and, collectively, millions of dollars of their possessions and assets seized. Lives were destroyed. Families were torn apart.
But my ancestors, like millions of other immigrants, persevered and have helped to make America what it is today.
Senator Ernst has acknowledged that our state economy needs migrants to fill job openings that our aging population cannot. Our state and our nation benefit greatly from the gifts of migrants, both documented and undocumented.
We are here to ask our senators and all elected officials to recognize the failings of our current laws, to help them see how our current laws harm the dignity of the human person, how they are an assault on the common good and we ask them to change them based on the virtues and principles of love, justice, mercy, human dignity, prosperity for all by caring for the common good and not just the good of some, and a spirit of radical hospitality.…

Let’s Talk SF 481

On July 1st, the controversial “anti-sanctuary city bill” will take effect throughout Iowa. Since its introduction into the Iowa State Legislature, the CWJ has opposed the bill for its questionable constitutionality and its racially charged, political undertones. We feel that by forcing local governments to assist in the activities of federal immigration enforcement (ICE), this bill has the potential to create an environment that is unsafe for immigrants and other Latinx individuals by allowing for and normalizing racial profiling. 
 
Although Iowa City and Johnson County officials are continuing to assess if or how SF 481 will affect their current policies, the Center for Worker Justice, nevertheless, stands resolute in its commitment to the protection and the betterment of the lives of our immigrant friends, family, and neighbors.
 
To date, the CWJ has met with state and local lawmakers such as Governor Kim Reynolds, The Johnson County Board of Supervisors, and the Iowa City Mayors’ Office to speak out against this bill. As we move forward, we will continue to advocate for progressive, inclusive legislation and stay vigilant for any potential discrimination in our community.

 

Out of the loop? Click on the links below to learn more:

Quick Summary and Explanation
The Full Bill
Latest News and State Reactions 

 …

Social Justice Course Update: ICCSD Apologizes, Promises Transparency

Earlier last month, the ICCSD School Board announced that it would be unable to provide the previously promised Ethnic Studies course for the current trimester, citing a lack of students to support the class budget. At the time, students responded with skepticism, noting the district had made exceptions in the past, and Tuesday night, they came together once again to advocate for the social justice course. Sitting in the first row of chairs at the school board meeting, students held signs that called for “transparency” and “action.”
 
During the meeting, the School Board maintained that they would be unable to provide the class for credit until fall 2019, but members were apologetic and receptive to the students’ feedback. “I will personally apologize that we did not follow that kind of transparent process leading up to this,” stated Janet Godwin, School Board President. “We are going to try to do this right, because I don’t want this same thing to happen again,” added Shawn Eyestone, Board Member. To further show their cooperation, the board has agreed to appoint a liaison to ensure the students do not feel cut out of the conversation as decisions are made.
 
Follow the link below for more information from KCRG’s Chantelle Navarro:
http://www.kcrg.com/content/news

Iowa City Students Frustrated, ICCSD Cancels Social Justice Course

Blaming too few students signed up for the class, the Iowa City Community School District has decided to cancel the Ethnic Studies elective course scheduled for the upcoming trimester.
 
Brought about amid protests last school year, the student organization Students Against Hate and Discrimination (SAHD) negotiated the addition of this Social Justice class with the School Board after instances of racial discrimination prompted a school walk-out. “We were devastated because we’ve been demanding and begging and pleading [for the class] and they said yes and got our hopes up,” stated student Lajayn Hamad to KCRG 9 News.
 
Yet despite their promise to students, the district has decided to cancel the class, Kingsley Botchway, ICCSD Director of Equity and Engagement stating the “district requires at least 24 students for a new class.” Student Lajayn Hamad reported to KCRG News, however, that “other classes at City High have as few as five students [and] the district has made exceptions in the past.”
 
For the full article, click on the link below:
http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Students-upset–475465933.html