Where is your home?


The questions “Where are you from?” and “Where is your home?” are sharply relevant  today, given the immigration reform debates heard in the halls of U.S. Congress and around our kitchen tables.

These questions present opportunities to delve into different, deeper-leveled conversations when considering the reasons people seek refuge in the United States:  to escape persecution, to seek safety and security, and to begin new lives.

“Where you come from now is much less important than where you are going,” said acclaimed author and essayist Pico Iyer in his recent spell-binding, thought-provoking talk as part of TED, Ideas Worth Spreading. “More and more of us are rooted in the future or present tense as much as in the past. Home is not just the place where you happen to be born, it’s where you become yourself.”

Listen to Iyer’s entire TED talk by clicking here.

TED presents riveting talks by remarkable people, and are free to the world.

By: Susan L. Banovetz, director of communications, The Advocates for Human Rights

Learn about Pico Iyer.

Learn about TED.

Congress: Don’t sacrifice basic human rights in U.S. border communities when reforming immigration

Michele Garnett McKenzie 2011July 9, 2013

America is founded on the ideals that families should stick together, that hard work should be rewarded, that those fleeing persecution should find refuge on our shores, and that our justice system should give due process and a fair day in court to everyone who comes before it.

The immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate last month goes a long way to restoring these values, but trading off increased militarization along U.S. borders for a road map to citizenship sells our American values short.

For decades the United States has poured money into a military infrastructure complete with personnel, technology, even drones. Since 1986 the United States has spent more than $186 billion in immigration enforcement, including $11.7 billion to border security in 2012 alone – an 85 percent increase in spending since 2005. Today over 21,000 border patrol agents (in addition to 20,000 other U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency employees) are stationed at our borders, subject to scant oversight on use of force, racial profiling, or community policing. Over 650 miles of fencing have been built, at a cost of billions of dollars and the waiver of over 30 environmental protection laws.

Today the rhetoric – and the lobbyists – of war permeate the discussion around border policy as defense contractors, looking for new opportunities, push hard for defense technology applications in the immigration reform bill. So far, they have been rewarded with $46 billion allocated in the Senate bill to border security.

Building a commonsense immigration system that reflects American values won’t be easy, but the essential elements are no mystery. Read about these elements and more in The Hill.

By: Michele Garnett McKenzie, director advocacy with The Advocates for Human Rights



It’s About Time

Michele Garnett McKenzie 2011Immigration reform has been a long time coming. It has been decades since the United States last tackled the issue in a comprehensive, coherent manner.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill which deals with the tough issues – including what will happen to the 11 million Americans in waiting – and outlines a commonsense policy to take the place of the current patchwork of laws, policies, and practices that have evolved over the past quarter century.

The game changer this time around is the DREAMers—young people who came to this country when they were children, now stepping into the light, organizing, and advocating for a system that would work for them and their families.

It is time for us to recognize that migration is a natural part of our human existence in this global economy, in this world today, and historically for all time, said Michele Garnett McKenzie, director of advocacy for The Advocates for Human Rights, in a June 29 interview with the New York City CBS radio station, WNOW, and host Bob Salter.

The values of equal rights and dignity and that one can work hard to build a good life are at the bedrock of our country, and it’s time that these values are reflected in immigration laws and policies, she said.

“Having an immigration policy that doesn’t move with our economy, that doesn’t meet the needs of our families, that doesn’t meet the needs of our businesses, that doesn’t fulfill our obligation to provide protection to people fleeing persecution are failures we can correct, and we need to move forward doing just that,” she said.

Garnett McKenzie urges people to pick up the phone and call or email members of the U.S. House to urge them to move forward with humane immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship.

To listen to the entire interview, click here.

By: Susan Banovetz, communications director, The Advocates for Human Rights