“Holding ICE Accountable” by The Rev. Kaji Douša
On January 2nd of this year, I did something that I’ve always done, which was to cross the border and go and help, and pray for, and advocate for people seeking refugee status in the United States. I met with migrants, I met with people who were supporting migrants. I prayed for them. I listened to their stories, and I tried to help them to figure out how to articulate them more clearly as they present themselves for what we call the “credible fear interview,” or the legal process by which people show up to an assigned port of entry into the U.S. and argue their case in front of an asylum officer. As I did this work as I have done for many years, in fact, I then tried to cross back into the United States, with my passport, with my global entry pass, and I was stopped by Customs and Border Patrol as they pulled me into what’s called “secondary inspection,” and interviewed me, interrogated me, detained me, and eventually released me. Later, I found out that I was part of a group of others including journalists and humanitarian workers and lawyers – all people who go to help others on the southern side of the border – who were flagged … had our passports flagged, and travel restrictions imposed just because of our work. And my belief, my contention is that we are being targeted because we expose the truth. Because we tell people what we see with our own eyes and we have credibility in this, because it’s true that the crisis that we have right now at our border is manufactured. It’s not a crisis of too many people coming, it’s a crisis of shutting things down so that people get hurt. And now, all of a sudden – and you do have to realize that this is new – people are dying, and it’s because we are letting it happen. And when people like me speak up, this government has decided to retaliate against us. And so I’ve decided to retaliate back, which is why I’m filing suit against the Department of Homeland Security, against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, against Customs and Border Patrol because we need to be able to be free. We talk so much as Americans about being the “land of the free and the home of the brave” – what is brave about being afraid of a migrant family who is coming as they flee persecution at home? What is brave about turning away somebody who is hungry? What is brave about prosecuting people who leave water in the desert? There’s nothing brave about that. And if we want to call ourselves free, then we need to be free to serve, and free to do the right thing. And hopefully, my suit will allow this country to realize that there are ways to say no to all this evil that is being perpetrated in our name. I hope you’ll support us. Amen.