We Will Defend Immigrant Families

By Stacy Kono

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. — Maya Angelou

When I was six, my mom tried to get me to pick up my toys by sharing with me the story of when her family was sent to camp during WWII. She said that she only could bring what she could carry - and left so many things behind - when they left Seattle.

In the face of racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and war hysteria, my parents’ families, along with 120,000 people of Japanese descent, were removed from their homes on the west coast and taken to camps and detention centers in desolate areas across the country. When I was six, it made me angry that anyone would treat families, and children in particular, with such cruelty.

Both my parents told me how their parents were afraid for their lives, and feared that they would be separated from their children. They felt alone. I wondered how 120,000 people could disappear from communities without people speaking up? Didn’t their neighbors wonder where they were going and worry about them? I learned that the mainstream ideas of the time, rooted in a longstanding history of racism, created a climate that enabled this injustice to happen.

But there were people who stood up and fought back: Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, Minoru Yasui, and hundreds of draft resisters entered into legal fights with the government. Many non-Japanese Americans fought back too. American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, protested the policy and provided aid to people as they were released from the camps. Many other religious organizations also educated their congregants about the injustice of Japanese American incarceration and lobbied the government for their release.

It’s 76 years later, and we have an opportunity to make sure our resistance visible, too, so that the thousands of immigrants in detention know we will not stand for their criminalization and do not accept the argument that our freedom depends on their incarceration or exclusion.

All of us at Hand in Hand have been participating in and organizing collective actions as ways of expressing our outrage against the terror our government is waging on immigrant and refugee people through detentions, family separations, and raids.

In our work with domestic employers (people who hire childcare providers, house cleaners, or home attendants—a largely immigrant workforce) at Hand in Hand, we see the attacks confronting immigrant and refugee communities as attacks on all of us. We know, from personal experiences, that immigrant workers are an essential part of our communities’ fabric. They deserve respect and dignity in our home workplaces and in our communities, because they are ensuring we can live and be cared for with respect and dignity too.

That is why I joined the Hand in Hand staff - to contribute to building a society where we value each person’s contribution and fight against the dehumanization of immigrants and people of color.

As employers, as neighbors, as parents and friends, we have an opportunity to collectively take action for justice, interdependence, and humanity over racism and greed. Let us draw upon our connection to each other and our awareness of our histories as we work totowards put an end toing these cruel, inhumane policies.

What can we do? Make sure you’ve joined the #SanctuaryHomes campaign, because our strategies are necessarily changing as the situation does. Organize your own action.  Check out the Families Belong Together Action Planning Toolkit and Hand in Hand’s Playdate Action Guide. For support with whatever action you're planning to take, join our Monday evening calls and email us at info [at] domesticemployers [dot] org. We’re here to support you in figuring it out.

Stacy Kono is the Network Director at Hand in Hand.

Sanctuary around the Seder table

Every year since I was about twelve years old I planned my own seder. I would wrangle anyone I could to join me - family, friends, strangers I met in the park near my house in Philadelphia - and spend hours preparing a Passover in which I followed my own lead; I asked and answered The Four Questions, I bargained with myself over the Afikomen, and most importantly, I connected the themes of exodus, slavery and liberation to a current event.

I quickly learned that no one had patience for reading the entire Haggadah (the book that tells the story of Passover) and started making my own abbreviated versions, complete with non-technical English transliterations of the Hebrew blessings.

One year the Seder theme was the genocide in Darfur, another time was the refugee crisis. I described how immigration policies that generate terror and break up families were like the Pharaoh's cruel decrees in Ancient Egypt, or how gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District, that forced people out of their homes, recalled the Jews who fled Egypt without time to allow bread to leaven.

This year, my Passover seder was about sanctuary. I’m a disabled person who intermittently hires home care workers, and I have become more and more involved in organizing for both disability justice and workers rights in the Bay Area. As a member of Hand in Hand and disability justice organizer in the Bay Area, I have found that I have a specific role to play in creating more Sanctuary spaces and am working to grow our #SanctuaryHomes work -- uniting those homes into a larger Sanctuary Neighborhood.  

Sanctuary was a natural fit with the story of Passover - with ICE as Pharaoh and undocumented immigrant families as Jews --  and as we read the Haggadah, more and more allegorical themes arose. We read a passage about the hard work that Jewish women did to clean their homes of chametz (bread crumbs that more observant Jews clean out of their homes before Passover) and I mentioned that this physical labor is the daily work of many domestic workers.

Some guests talked about how they previously did or currently do this practice - and how some of them hire house cleaners to do this work. One guest reminisced about her time working for a Jewish family as a maid — cleaning out the chametz was part of her job. It reminded me how important it is for us to share stories of our real lives -- that’s a true intersectional activist framework -- because none of us live in identity silos, and the struggles we engage in necessarily overlap.

Our younger guests generously lent us masks so that we could each dress up as one of the Ten Plagues, and we grappled with the challenge of rejoicing a victory that resulted from pain and suffering in other  communities.

I invited the guests to contemplate ways in which we are both modern day Jews fleeing slavery and modern day Pharaohs, oppressing and enslaving. People discussed their own migration stories -- ones that originated in families of Holocaust survivors and ones that were victimized by our broken and nativist immigration policies today.

As always, I added an olive to the seder plate to represent hopes for peace in the Middle East and around the world and an orange to represent what would have been unimaginable not too long ago — a table with women leaders and queer and trans people sharing the Seder meal* just as we are.

When everyone had finally arrived for the Seder, there were too many of us to fit in my small apartment -- and the family adjacent to me, also Seder guests that evening, instantly offered to let us use their more spacious dining area. The more able-bodied amongst us transported the meal and place settings to their home.

As always, I only wished I’d had more time to prepare. To have a ready to-go Sanctuary Homes Haggadah that guests could take home and contemplate. Instead, I distributed Hand in Hand’s Sanctuary Home campaign information and look forward to next year when my spatial and textual planning will be improved, and perhaps can share my work to make Passover a time to remember the importance of Sanctuary spaces with all of you!


*Thank you to the organization One Table who provided funds for our Friday evening / Shabbat dinner + Passover seder food!

Katie Savin lives in the Bay Area where she is a member of and the Disability Justice organizer for Hand in Hand, a PhD student in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, a published author, and a devoted human to her service cat.

We’ve Got Work to Do!” Inspiration from the Women of The State of Our Union

By Corinne Martin

 The author, left, at a State Of Our Union watch party with Hand in Hand.

The author, left, at a State Of Our Union watch party with Hand in Hand.

Like many Americans, I felt the approach of January 30 with a rising sense of dread. I knew that everyone would be watching 45’s first State of the Union, and I knew that the event would create anger, stress, and anxiety for those of us who care about the civil and human rights of others. So I was both relieved and excited to receive an invitation to participate in an alternate program sponsored by Hand in Hand: Domestic Employers Network and Central Ohio Worker Center called the State of OUR Union. What could have been a night of negativity was instead an uplifting, inspiring night of community and a call to action.

State of Our Union took place in Washington, D.C. and was broadcast to viewing parties across the country. Our group met at Bottom’s Up Coffee Co-op in Franklinton and began with wine and pizza, followed by the viewing of the State of Our Union. The program featured women from around the country who represent the intersectional feminist issues derided and ignored by our current administration.

One by one, brave women with myriad perspectives took to the stage to share their stories and ended their speeches with pledges to create real change in 2018. Instead of listening to the lies of an unqualified, hateful old man, we witnessed strong women standing up to resist oppression and vowing to fight for others. I was blown away.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s words made the biggest impression on me as she explained why she decided to boycott and miss her first State of the Union in over twenty years: “I could not sit and celebrate a president who rode racism, xenophobia, and sexism to the White House.” As she listed all of the obstacles women — especially women of color — face in the United States on a daily basis in terms of healthcare, equal pay, access to education, sexual violence and trauma, she repeated the refrain, “We have got work to do.”

But, like all of the other women who took the stage, she gave us hope and inspiration when she followed this with, “So there is good news because you’re here and I’m here, and at every turn the resistance which has been led by progressive women sent a clear message: Not on our watch.” Not on our watch, indeed!

My name is Corinne Martin. I believe in the power of our union, and I pledge in 2018 to fight louder and harder for what is right — for fairness and equality, and for the safety and happiness of those who cannot fight for themselves.

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Corinne Martin teaches English in Columbus, Ohio.

A special task for employers of immigrants

For #SanctuaryHomes participants who are domestic employers (that is, a nanny, house cleaner, or home care attendant works for you or in your home), we have a special question this week: Have you planned for the holidays yet?

Amidst all the political chaos, it can be hard to remember that the holidays are coming, but it's a great time to reflect on yet another facet of our communities and daily lives, especially how immigrant workers may be a part of them.

How much has the nanny, cleaner, or home attendant you employe done to make your year a better one in 2017?

In a turbulent year, has their work provided relief, support, stability, or ease?
If so, now is the time to return the favor: Learn how to bring more light into your home as an employer during the holiday season, including year-end bonuses and planning for time off.

For many of us at Hand in Hand, the labor of a professional domestic worker has allowed us do to more of the work we want and need to do, from caring for children and parents to showing up at the office to living independently at home. And yes, protesting! (Sometimes, we even did that together.)

Reflecting on our own stress and anxiety this year, we can appreciate how much domestic workers have faced themselves, as a workforce that is mostly immigrants and women of color. (One star nanny, Namrata, was honored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance this month on the one hand, while dealing with the risk of her protected immigration status being revoked on the other.)  

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As we know from our own jobs and lives, it means a lot to hear that our hard work is appreciated. It strengthens our relationships and gives us more energy for the year ahead.  

Because domestic work has often been “informal” or seen as different from other professions, and because December can be hectic (so hectic!) it can be easy to forget that we need to put on our employer hat —it’s the one that says “Boss” on one side and “Human Resources” on the other. But it’s not only manageable, it’s really worthwhile.

As one worker said:  “A bonus and paid time off show how much my employer values my work. It gives me a sense of dedication to the family I work for. When they come back from their holiday vacation, I’m here waiting.”

Here are 3 things to keep in mind, based on the Fair Care Pledge, our three golden rules of being an employer at home: Fair pay, Clear expectations, and Paid Time Off.

The Bonus

An average year-end bonus is usually between one and two weeks pay, although if it feels right to your family, you can of course choose to give more. Think of the bonus as an expression of how much you value your employee, within the boundaries of what you can realistically afford.

The “Annual Review”

The holiday bonus provides you with a great opportunity to communicate what you valued about your employee’s work over the past year.

If your employee has taken on more responsibilities over the past year than in her initial job description, an increase in her wages is a more appropriate way to compensate her for stepping up.

You may wish to let the nanny, housecleaner, or home attendant you employ know to expect a bonus (different from a holiday gift, though those are great too!) so she can take it into consideration when making her own holiday plans.

Vacation  

Please keep in mind that a bonus is not a replacement for paid time off. Your employee is also looking forward to their own holiday traditions, so make sure to give generously here too wherever possible.

This has been a challenging year for many, many people, and domestic workers may have had an especially difficult year. Economic security is a gift to both body and soul. Together, we can bring more light to the end of a year that has felt dark for many. Make sure the person you employ gets the chance to have a restorative holiday season, and then, have a great one yourself!    

Our complete guide to holidays & year-end bonuses is available here! 

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How 3 Parents Are Building Community and Resisting Trump — at Daycare

When Trump was elected, our families were worried about the impact that a possible anti-immigrant crackdown could have on our immigrant friends and neighbors, and in particular the Latina women who care for our children at a neighborhood daycare in Washington DC.

A small group of parents started talking about how we could let the staff know that we appreciate them, were upset by the anti-immigrant rhetoric and promised policies during the election, and that we wanted to support them however we could. I want to share my story of finding the right course of action to encourage others to find theirs.

First, we read and discussed the resources that Hand in Hand put out after the election about how to dialogue with targeted people and offer concrete support. We tried to figure out how to best communicate our support to all of the workers without overstepping with the daycare owner (also a Latina immigrant). We also debated whether or not to discuss the issue with the entire parent group, including people whose positions on immigrant issues we did not know.  

We ended up deciding not to go to the broader parent group but decided that those of us who were able (mostly based on our ability to communicate in Spanish) would talk to the owner, and other workers as possible, in person. A number of us also included messages in our holiday cards to all the staff last year. Farah had a good conversation with the owner and later a couple staff members, letting them know what that we wanted to make sure that the staff feels supported by the parents, that we were happy to talk about  any concerns, and were also happy to provide any information or resources that we could.

Even though they seemed general at the time, it turns out that these conversations opened the door. A couple months later, when a “Day Without An Immigrant” was organized for February, the daycare owner told us that she wished her team could participate. Our families were new to parenting and to the daycare, but Max quickly sent an email to the other parents at the daycare, some of whom we didn't know yet, to see if they could keep their kids home. A couple people chimed in with offers to take a turn watching any kids whose parents couldn't rearrange their work schedules. Farah called the parents who did not respond to the email to ensure that they had both gotten the email and were not annoyed or offended.

The response was more enthusiastic than we could have hoped - nearly all the families made alternate arrangements. Even the parents who didn't get the message in time and did bring in their kids were able to pick them up early. This quick organizing meant that all of the employees of the daycare were able to take the day to protest or mark it as they wished, with only the owner staying to watch the few children who were there for the morning.

We began with the intention of deepening our relationship with the workers who care for our kids, but this experience also brought us closer to the other parents. I was surprised at how supportive they were, and that they were willing to rearrange their schedules on short notice. It also showed the daycare owner and staff that we were with them. As we've become closer, we've been able to join forces as parents to mark deaths and births in the families of the daycare providers.

Since then, we have been asked to provide resources to answer people's questions, including info sheets on what to do if ICE comes to the door, and contact information for local groups that provide legal aid. Both of our families are also organizing and protesting to push for justice at a city and national level. We were glad to have the chance to engage more directly with the people we see every day, and to take a small act in solidarity with them.

— Farah, Max, and Jess