Tag Archives: immigrant rights

Enlarging our human circle

This is my last post, at least for now, pulled from the notebook in which I’ve been recording some of my reflections, over the past few months, on dr. john powell’s time in Kansas City. I’m grateful to the folks (including many good friends) at Communities Creating Opportunity for bringing him to town, and for convening people to talk and think about race and justice and how easy it is for us to “other” others.

I hear this a lot, really, in my work with policy impacting undocumented immigrants–the idea that much of this policy is constructed without a basic regard for immigrants as human beings–as though they are somehow non-persons.

And to be honest, sometimes it sounds kind of outlandish, this concept that the root of the injustice that surrounds us is an inability to see each other as people. I mean, I get it that we obviously don’t see kids in urban school districts as our neighbors, or people experiencing homelessness as our fellow citizens, or immigrants as our equals.


But, not even as people?

Except, you know, it kind of explains a lot.

dr. powell shared some tremendously powerful psychological research about how the brain responds to stimuli around difference, and, in contemplating the end results of the policies we end up with, it sort of becomes the only logical conclusion:

surely we wouldn’t, couldn’t, let these routine tragedies befall other people so regularly…unless we didn’t see them as such.

And, so, unless we can bring people into our circle of concern, who are currently beyond it, unless we can begin to see everyone as just as human as we are, then our tools to push for supportive policy responses–to child poverty, to criminal justice, to mental illness–will be severely limited.

Because what has a heavy application of guilt gotten anybody lately?

But if we can enlarge our circle of human concern so that it goes beyond our Facebook friends and our next-door neighbor (maybe) and the families that look just like us, then we can tap into the decency that still abides in many hearts, motivating American voluntarism and charitable giving, albeit in quantities inadequate to compensate for the abdication of our collective responsibilities.

I don’t have the answer, of course, to the key question: how?

It’s getting harder, evidence suggests, because, as our society grows more diverse, there are more and more people we see as beyond our “circle of human concern.”

There are efforts that seem to be bearing some fruit–like Welcoming America, in dealing with immigrant and refugee issues–by helping people see themselves reflected in each others’ eyes, and by connecting on the level of shared hopes and common fears.

There are policy answers, too-seriously integrated schools and mixed-income housing and the preservation/creation of public spaces–to our tendency to draw a tight and small circle that leaves a lot of “others” out.

And we need to tell stories, because it’s still hard for most of us to ignore the humanity of someone so obviously human, while statistics and even aggregations are too easily lumped beyond the circle.

I guess the key is that we don’t overlook this step, as I’ve done for so long. We can’t rush to the policy solution, scratching our heads or lambasting the culprits, without stopping to ask why it’s so easy to harm those whose pains we can’t see or even comprehend.

First, we need to make sure that those we want to help are fully humanized, since we already know they’re fully human. We have to force those in power to face the “other”.

We have to draw the circle. Bigger.

We need to win this on the merits

Image credit: americasvoiceonline.org

You know I’m not a fan of taking the easy way out.

It’s tempting, sometimes, to think that we can throw the proverbial Hail Mary pass and move down the field (that’s the right sports metaphor, right?).

But in advocacy, as in life, it’s seldom that simple.

And, I’d argue, even when it might be possible, at least temporarily, it’s just not as good.

This is one of those cases.

Around the country, sparked first by the living nightmare that is now Alabama, anti-immigrant forces have been going after what they’ve long considered the Holy Grail:

Kicking immigrant kids out of Kindergarten.

It was at least 8 years ago that I first heard Kris Kobach’s assertion that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe, which established the right of every child in the U.S. to attend public K-12 schools, was ‘fatally flawed’, I think along with some pronouncement that he could win a different decision if he had a chance to try the case.

Since then, he has been hoping for his chance.

With the Alabama legislature’s approval of a requirement that K-12 schools verify the immigration status of students, that door was opened, even though that provision was pretty quickly enjoined in federal court.

This legislative session has already seen similar debates in other states, and I guarantee that there’s more to come: in the ‘war of attrition’ that the anti-immigrant crowd has been waging for years, barring immigrant kids from going to school would be a really big deal.

Immigrants and their allies, then, are justifiably hell-bent on stopping these attacks. In our fervor, I think we’re vulnerable to make a serious error.

We have to win this battle on the merits. We can’t take a shortcut, point to the Supreme Court, and just argue legal precedent. Yes, scaring legislators with threats of lawsuits and confusing them with references to previous decisions can sometimes work. And, yes, I fully believe that the U.S. Supreme Court (and I mean this specific one) would still decide a similar case the same way. Absolutely. But precedent can change. Winds can shift. And, so, the foundation can fall out from under those arguments that once looked so solid.

Besides, who was ever motivated to stand up and join a cause to fight against something just because it contradicts Justice Brennan’s majority opinion?

Because the truth is, Supreme Court or no Supreme Court, turning our teachers into immigration agents is a horrible idea. Keeping children, most of whom will eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, out of school and on the streets is really terrible policy. Sending ripple effects through mixed-status families and communities, depressing the educational attainment of an entire generation, just because we hope that it might make some parents leave the country, is a nightmare scenario. Kicking kids out of Kindergarten because we don’t approve of their mom and dad is not an action of a place worthy to be called the United States of America.

Those need to be our arguments, not recitations of precedent, even that which is based on a legal principle as important as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

We can win this.

I truly believe that a majority of Americans opposes this idea, and that we can convince state lawmakers that this is not the way to prove a point on immigration reform. I think that we can find new allies–in teachers and administrators and law enforcement officers and business leaders–and that we can emerge from this struggle poised for more success on other fronts.

But we’ve got to fight.

It was bad policy in 1982, and it’s bad policy today.

We don’t need a precedent to tell us that.

Stuff I Love

It’s Valentine’s Day.

And, you know, I’ll admit that it’s not much of a holiday around here–we fall into the “it’s a commercialized ploy that doesn’t capture our feelings for each other” camp.

But, perhaps in an effort to demonstrate that I, too, can pour forth my feelings on February 14th, here is some stuff I totally love.

What are you loving this Valentine’s Day?

There’s a lot of love to go around, folks.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“You Don’t Speak for Me”

There’s a lot that I really love about teaching–the constant opportunity to challenge my own thinking about critical issues, the incentive to read and stay abreast of developments in social policy, the relationships with students who later become colleagues.

But my favorite part?

When students totally blow me away with their commitment to social change, creativity in pursuit of justice, and all-around awesomeness.

In all fairness, this post is not about my students. But I feel like I can claim them just a little bit, because I worked with them in my capacity as an advocate, advising them on their project and connecting them to policymakers and allies.

And because, if I’m really, really lucky, they might end up in one of my classes one day.

I’m thrilled that this group received the national Influencing State Policy award. They completely deserve it. They absolutely did influence state policy, defusing the anti-immigrant argument that, somehow, attacking immigrant kids helps other college students. Their advocacy, including this video and the petition drive that garnered support from college students around the state, shored up Senate supporters of Kansas’ current instate tuition policy and injected a new theme into the media coverage of the repeal debate, both critical to the ultimate defeat of the attempted repeal.

What I love most, though, is that these students not only made an impact on state policy (in a truly beautiful way). They also demonstrated, for other students and would-be activists, that such influence is within reach and that it can be really fun, too.

I always cry at the end of the video, when this powerful collection of students says, essentially, “Hey, when you’re hating on hard-working immigrant students, you don’t speak for me.”

I am so glad that they found their voice.

And I can’t wait to hear what they say next.

Truth and the cult of objectivity

This is going to be one of those not-quite-fully-developed posts, where there are just too many ideas in my head to say something terrifically cogent. As usual, that’s where you all come in.

But my core message (in case it doesn’t come through clearly!) is this:

We can’t let our obsession with objectivity, and our equation of it with “fairness” or “even-handed treatment”, obscure our search for truth.

I thought about this the other day when I was internally railing against coverage of our nation’s ongoing immigration debate. I was reading yet another article that quoted some immigrant students’ stories of their own lives and hopes for meaningful reform in the coming year, followed by a few quotes from a restrictionist group about how the “pro-illegal immigrant” groups were hoping to blackmail members of Congress with electoral threats related to the 2012 elections and the rising prominence of Latino voters. Or some nonsense like that–I kind of stopped reading.

And it reminded me of part of The Race Beat, where some of the reporters charged with covering the civil rights movement found it increasingly difficult to do so to their editors’ satisfaction, because the issue had crystallized to such an extent that, truly, there wasn’t a legitimate “other side.” In their quest to provide the balance that their newsrooms demanded, they were giving voice to actors who truly didn’t have a real place in the debate, morally or politically. I mean, people of color were being killed for trying to register to vote, and we’re somehow supposed to give credence to an alternative explanation–something other than the evil of racism? Really?

I’m not arguing that we’re in exactly the same place with immigrants’ rights. I don’t get into the “whose injustice is worse?” game. Ever.

But I do think that we’re beginning to find ourselves facing some of the same quandries, at least with elements of this debate. Who do you find who is a legitimate voice arguing that amazingly bright and hard-working immigrant youth should be rounded up and sent “back” to a foreign country? Who represents the “other side” in a question about how we should handle the deportation proceedings of mothers with young U.S. citizen children? Where do you put a shrill nativist voice clamoring for sealed borders and harsh detention conditions? And why can’t we have this national conversation without including them?

Truth obviously means being open to inquiry, curious about alternative views, and willing to engage in an earnest dialogue, including with people who disagree with us. But, in order to fuel the knowledge on which we rely for those conversations, I just don’t think there’s any rule that we should have to try to give equal time to those whose views masquerade as opinion, when they are really dangerous attempts to dress hatred up as dissent.

Objectivity is just not necessarily a virtue.

Our values are a valid lens through which to view our world.

And giving more attention to those voices our values compel us to heed does not mean that we’re so hopelessly biased that we cannot think.

That might make me a terrible newspaper editor.

But I think it serves me fairly well as a seeker of truth.

Hook us up, Santa

My kids are pretty into Christmas, I’ll admit.

Somehow, despite watching absolutely no television (they can only have ~20 minutes/day of a video from the library, with no previews or commercials) and having parents who very rarely buy anything (Mommy does not have time to shop), they have grown some of the same propensity to “want” as most of the rest of our society, and this manifests itself, each year, in a Christmas list.

Truthfully, it could be a lot worse. My oldest son has asked for some paint in his stocking for the past couple of years, and they LOVE fruit snacks, so they each get a box of those, too. Other than that, it’s mostly some books and maybe a puzzle, some pajamas, and one special present for which they’ve been longing. It doesn’t get too out of hand, and we work in a lot of giving–the kids each choose one brand-new present they receive to give away without opening, and we divert much of what others give them before they even see it.

So, in all honesty, Mommy’s Christmas list is probably a bit more audacious than the kids’, a bit longer, and certainly more aspirational. Mommy wants a lot, and, while I’m committed to working hard to bring much of this about, it’s been a rather rough couple of years, and I figure that we could really use some help, you know? So if Santa can bring my daughter the dolls with snap-on outfit changes that she’s been coveting for months, surely he can hook us up with some social justice, too.

Here’s my list, edited to not seem too greedy.

What’s on yours?

  • Election protection: I want people’s votes to count in November 2012. I’m very concerned that efforts in states around the country, including notably my home here in Kansas, are eroding individuals’ abilities to exercise their constitutional rights, and that elections will be truly stolen under the guise of ensuring their “integrity.” Our nation cannot, and should not have to, withstand a confusing and unnecessarily contested election that destroys our confidence in the democratic process.
  • The DREAM Act: I’ll admit, Santa, that my faith is waning a bit, since I asked REALLY nicely for immigration reform last year and didn’t even get the DREAM Act in that December 2010 vote. Is there an example of more commonsense legislation that we’re stubbornly refusing to pass, even though it’s in our best interest? I’m not sure that I can think of one. These kids are incredible. Even our most ardent anti-immigrant policymakers, when confronted with them face-to-face, acknowledge that. Let’s give them a chance and give ourselves a break.
  • Progressive tax policy: OK, so maybe this is a bit like my daughter asking for Barbies (not going to happen). But what is Christmas if not a time to dream? Instead of a long list of what shouldn’t be cut (and what should be restored) in our state and federal budgets, what I want is a revenue foundation that would make those investments possible, while at the same time addressing the tremendous inequalities that are corrosive in themselves. We should have the money to do what we must, but we’ve got to collect it in a way that makes sense. As one of my students said in class this fall, “it’s all about the orange.”
  • Foreign debt forgiveness: Can’t we get out of the international payday loan business? We’ve collected what we were owed, many times over, and yet we’re still holding developing countries hostage so that we can receive our interest payments, despite the fact that their debt service cripples their ability to invest in their own economies (and people) in ways that would not only relieve suffering but contribute to prosperity (thereby reducing the need for our later intervention)! I’ll compromise; it doesn’t even have to be across-the-board, but let’s put real debt forgiveness on the table, now.
  • An invigorated movement for social justice, to make it all possible: Santa, I know you’re getting older, and I’m sure you’d like a break. The truth is, unlike elaborately hand-crafted wooden toys or correctly-assembled dollhouses, we can take care of this list ourselves, if we can build the kind of grassroots cohesion necessary to chart our own collective futures. I see signs, in the labor movement and with immigrant youth and in exciting campaigns that integrate social technologies, that this potential is within our grasp. I hope that this is the year that we look back on as having made the difference.

    I’ll set out the cookies, Santa. You know what to do.

  • That sounds about right…

    In preparation for the upcoming state legislative session(s)–they’ll be here before we know it!–I’ve been working with some folks who are reviewing policy trends at the state level, nationwide, to identify sources for these new initiatives, messages and strategies that can combat them, and (because I’m ever the optimist!) positive legislative agendas that can chart a way forward, at least in the states where I spend most of my time.

    Looking back, especially over the last couple of years, I was reminded of a quote that I bookmarked in Backlash, a book that I read during my maternity leave.

    Will Bunch, the author, referred to some of the legislative developments that took precedence in Congress over job creation priorities, as “impulsive acts of rage with imprimatur of law” (p. 164).

    And, you know, that sounds about right.

    I have an obvious interest, in particular, in the anti-immigrant attacks that are odious not only for their sheer meanness but also for their foolishness, given that almost all of them are completely unlawful (which, if you think about it, is really kind of ironic: What part of “illegal” do they not understand?). Of course, immigrants aren’t the only ones hurt by these attacks: do you want to be waiting in an emergency room in Arizona while personnel are trying to verify proof of citizenship? (SB 1405–I don’t make this stuff up) Or, what–you don’t carry your original birth certificate on you in case of a life-threatening injury? Wasteful, ill-conceived, hateful, ridiculous…and popular, in states with very different demographics and even political landscapes.

    But, of course, immigrants were not the only ones targeted by vengeful acts of childish rage. One of my students wrote a paper this year pointing out how the attacks on women’s reproductive rights threaten our economic viability as a nation, given the link, worldwide, between women’s ability to control their own fertility and their labor market participation. People who work for a living, despite their overwhelming strength in numbers, were demonized, devalued, and, in terms of meaningful access to redress for grievances and some power to right tremendous imbalances in the workplace, nearly destroyed.

    States went after children’s health insurance, early childhood education, and safety-net services for those with mental illness, in many cases while simultaneously purporting that businesses need tax “relief” because of their horrible struggles. (In this, of course, they were echoed by the U.S. House of Representatives, whose penchant for oil company incentives over children’s health even my 5-year-old called “wacky.” Indeed.)

    We cannot afford to bemoan these policy proposals (some of which made it into law, and some of which were forestalled only by the courageous efforts of advocates and policymakers who deserve our support in November 2012). What we need to do, first, is call them what they are: distractions and assaults, not legitimate plans to address the challenges facing our states.

    We need organizing strategies that address their root causes–the maligning of the “other” and the fault-finding borne of desperation and preyed upon by those with a horribly unjust way of seeing the world. We need coalitions that see a threat to one as a threat to all. We need an agenda that offers a promise of real solutions.

    We need a new year, and a commitment to make great things happen in it.

    What does it mean?

    We’re two weeks now from the November 2011 elections.

    There has been a lot of tea-leaf reading, with pundits trying to figure out the 2012 implications of the Ohio referendum against the anti-labor legislation, the defeat of Mississippi’s ‘personhood’ amendment, and the victories by more progressive candidates and causes in some parts of the country.

    And me?

    I just keep thinking about Kris Kobach’s response when a reporter asked him about the significance of Russell Pearce’s recall in Arizona.

    Pearce was the key sponsor of SB1070, the first harsh anti-immigrant enforcement measure Kobach got passed. Voters were, by all appearances, tired of his rhetoric, knack for dragging Arizona into costly litigation, and other ineptitude (not all immigration-related). So he was recalled, which is rather noteworthy, and then lost his recall election.

    A reporter in Kansas asked Kobach about the defeat of his colleague, and he retorted that, if it had been a closed Republican primary, Pearce would have retained his seat.

    But he was, after all, defeated by another Republican. Just in an election in which any Arizona voter could vote.

    So what I keep thinking is this:

    Did the intellectual architect of the legislative attacks on immigrant families just admit that these ideas only resonate, today, with Republican primary voters? If so, then, given that there’s obviously a general election in every cycle, did their guy just acknowledge that their days are numbered, at least at the ballot box?

    There’s never been the kind of electoral evidence of support for anti-immigrant extremism that anti-immigrant organizations and politicians allege. Polls show that most voters don’t make their decisions based on immigration issues, and that Latinos and Asians–mostly with pro-immigrant positions–are the ones for which immigration is the deciding priority.

    But it’s a far cry from believing that most voters don’t mark their ballots with an eye towards immigration policy to thinking that we could see an electoral scenario where anti-immigrant extremism is truly marginalized…and that one element of the electorate may cling to those positions long past the point at which they become toxic.

    The truth?

    I don’t know what it means. Is it that proverbial pendulum swinging back? Is it changing demographics within the electorate? Is it an isolated example in an off-year?

    Or is it something more? A symbol that Americans, in this case specifically Arizonans, took a look at what they had become and, not liking it at all, got rid of the man they held responsible?

    November 2011 was surely about May 2010. Let’s hope it holds some insights for August and November 2012, too.

    Fighting fear with fear?

    Flickr Commons photo of Arizona protests

    I hate it when really effective messages are off-limits because they’re just so…ethically suspect.

    I’m actually not convinced that this particular quandry falls into that category, so I guess what I’m hoping for is some guidance. Because it’s a question that needs to be faced, not just in the immigrant rights community, as I’m dealing with here, but more broadly among social justice advocates at large.

    Here’s the deal:

    So we acknowledge that the pervasive use of fear as a messaging component, and, indeed, an overarching political strategy is problematic, right? We want social policy that appeals to people’s best ideals and greatest hopes, not their basest anxieties. We know that the former is how we arrive at policy that uplifts and affirms and builds, rather than that which divides and denigrates and destroys. We deplore the use of fear-laden imagery in the policy campaigns that are directed against our communities and those we serve, and which label those individuals as “other”, raising specters of dire consequences if one’s desired policy objectives are not pursued.

    And yet.

    When it comes to opposing some of the onerous (and, indeed, odious) legislation aimed at immigrants, we find that using fear as a messaging strategy is, in fact, quite effective. It saves us from having to label as morally “bad” that which absolutely is, and it can sometimes allow us to sidestep the whole, “how do we treat newcomers in our midst” question in the first place, by shifting the focus to our fears about the implications for other sectors of the community.

    And we can win.

    When we talk about Arizona-style profiling legislation as “show me your papers” proposals that will intrude upon the lives of U.S. citizens, we’re tapping into fears about police states and encroaching authority. When we project that employer sanctions bills will decimate whole industries and lead to economic collapses, we’re relying on latent (and not-so-latent) fears about the precariousness of the current economy.

    We’re not lying. Those are real dangers, and real possible impacts. And therein lies the dilemma; if this was a question about truth or not, we wouldn’t have an ethical quandry, just a question about our commitment to integrity in advocacy practice. The dilemma comes from deciding between what we can do and what we should do, and between short-term expediency and long-term shifting of the foundation from which our policies spring.

    And, again, this isn’t limited to the immigrant rights arena. What about when we talk about investing in early childhood education as a way to save later costs in incarceration? Or public health as a way to ward off epidemics? Or…fill in the blank for your particular area of emphasis?

    Why don’t we, instead, use messages that emphasize our universal humanity, the right of everyone to quality education and adequate health care and economic security?

    Because those messages don’t have as much “pop”, quite honestly, as the scary ones. We know from psychological research and the consistent advice of those high-dollar communications consultants that fear sells, and that we are more motivated to act on our fears than on our dreams. And so we rely on those same techniques, and different variants of those same messages, to make our points, even though, when we stop to think about it, we’re a little squeamish about doing precisely what we abhor in the abstract.

    So, again, my question is this: Should we focus on energies on shifting the conversation, knowing that if we don’t move away from fear as the conduit, others are unlikely to? Or do we engage in battle on the terms outlined today, because the stakes are just too high not to? Is there a middle ground that’s workable, or how can we make peace with where we think we must be? How do you use fear, and how do you respond to it, and how do you live with it? Does it make a difference, the question of what we’re teaching people to fear? Are there “good” and “bad” fear-based messages and, if so, how can we be sure that we’re only crafting the former?

    How do we move people towards the world as it should be, without becoming entangled in the pervasive fears that inhabit this one?

    These kids need to eat: Why the connection between advocacy and direct services matters so much

    On October 1, 2011, our state agency charged with administering SNAP benefits (what we used to call Food Stamps) in Kansas announced a new rule that changed the way that they calculate income for mixed-status households (where some in the household are U.S. citizens and some are ineligible nonapplicants (a technical term for immigrants who can’t receive benefits and, so, are not applying for them).

    It’s kind of complicated, and it was only through the incredible patience of my good friends at the National Immigration Law Center (whose expertise and willingness to pick up the phone has saved me dozens of times over the past decade) that I understood exactly how it works, but, in essence, it’s this:

    Kansas now pretends that undocumented parents don’t need to eat, so we count all of the household’s income, but only count the number of family members who are eligible for food assistance. This makes it much harder for these families to qualify for SNAP, since the eligibility thresholds are based on income per size of household. None of that was really comprehensible from the initial announcement, which had some vaguely patriotic language about restoring equity and fairness to SNAP, a reference to the term “pro-rata share”, which we’d never heard before, and all kinds of assurances that there would be ample training before the new rules went into effect.

    And, then, on October 4, 2011, an extremely distraught single mother of 5 children, who had recently built a safe life for her family after years of domestic violence, showed up at El Centro, Inc. with a notice that her children’s SNAP case had been closed due to “non-citizen status.” She had no idea how she was going to feed her kids without that assistance, especially so soon after leaving her abusive husband.

    The good news, in this tragic mess?

    She knew where to go, not just to receive some immediate assistance–connection to a food pantry, and help getting her kids signed up for school breakfast, and information about congregate meal sites–but also for some answers about why this was happening to her, and for an ally in what she knew needed to be a fight.

    And, because it’s an organization that weaves advocacy into its direct services, the social worker with whom she met that day did things a bit differently, perhaps, than would some in a similar situation.

    • She made copies of the letter, because she knew from her advocacy training that USDA prohibits adverse action against eligible beneficiaries because of a nonapplicant’s immigration status, so, at the least, the title of that letter was unacceptable.
    • She asked questions, not just about what the mother intended to do now, but about what the SNAP case worker said (and didn’t), because she knew that USDA also requires disclosure about the voluntary nature of nonapplicants’ immigration information.
    • She got permission to share the mother’s story, not just with agencies for referral purposes, but with Office of Civil Rights investigators, with the organization’s public policy consultant, and with the media. She helped the mother write out her own story and explained how sharing her struggle would connect to future advocacy efforts.
    • She organized a meeting, where mothers who had had the same experience came together, learned about the new policy, and worked together to strategize about what could be done. They made posters to tell immigrants that they are not required to disclose their status if they’re not applying for benefits, and they wrote out their own testimonies, together.
    • She asked for help, reaching out to advocates with connections to national organizations, USDA officials, U.S. senators, influential community leaders. Together, they made a plan, which now includes not only the civil rights investigations but advocacy campaigns with members of Congress, an organized media push, and exploration of possible lawsuits.
    • She utilized radical practice skills to help that first mother, and the ones who poured into her office in the days to follow, understand that, just because the new rule is allowable doesn’t make it acceptable policy. She held their hands and looked into their eyes and said that it’s wrong for our country to allow children to go hungry because we don’t like their parents, and she vowed to work alongside them to make it right.

      It’s an advocacy effort that is far from resolved; indeed, Kansas is just one of the first states to use this allowable option to apply more restrictive income-counting rules to mixed-status families, and they most certainly won’t be the last. It’s a struggle with an uncertain resolution and, in the meantime, children are hungry and mothers are desperate.

      But there are real, concrete ways in which this whole scenario is unfolding in a far more hopeful way than it could have, and it’s because of the existence of an organization that believes that direct services make advocacy more authentic and more effective, and that only advocacy and organizing can provide a context in which direct services can succeed. One serves as a vehicle through which to collect the stories, document the evidence, and mobilize those affected. The other deploys those considerable resources in a strategy designed to bring lasting change.

      Their coexistence ensures that direct services never become about placating an oppressed community, and that advocacy never forgets its reason for being.

      These kids need to eat.