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Fair Treatment on the Farm, Part 2

“The Harvest” by Ivan Kolesnikov (1922), National Museum in Warsaw (Accession No. M. Ob. 1188), Source Digital Museum http://cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl/dmuseion/docmetadata?id=23551&show_nav=true (PD)

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4: 1).

Across the globe, refugees, displaced persons, illegal immigrants, children under the age of legal employment, and others work as day laborers [1A]. Such people often find work in landscaping, agri­culture, and piecework manufacturing.

Both undocumented migrants and those employing them are operating outside the law.  Motives for this may vary.  But, in the long run, employers benefit more than employees.

Employers can rationalize paying less than minimum wage, providing poor living conditions, and even denying such basic necessities as rest, shade, and water.  This is not, however, Christian conduct. Read more…

Fair Treatment on the Farm, Part 1

“A Harvest Scene” by James Ward (c 1800), Yale Center for British Art, Author Google Arts and Culture (PD)

Apples, oranges, cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, garlic, spinach, asparagus, and almonds are among the foods still planted, nurtured, and/or harvested by hand [1].  But American agricultural businessmen are confronting a growing labor shortage [2A].

Some are making difficult choices about abandoning key fruits and vegetables; importing workers under special visa; replacing workers with machinery, where available; or moving their operations overseas [2B].  A few have already begun raising wages well beyond minimum, to no avail.

Despite all this, the myth remains that illegal immigrants are depriving Americans of jobs which should be legitimately theirs.  And the treatment undocumented migrants receive is frequently below par.

Illusory Wages

“Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey [2C].”

One major reason Americans disdain seemingly high wage farm jobs is that such wages are illusory [3A].  Farm work is seasonal.  Farm workers alternate between months of 60-hour weeks and long stretches of unemployment [2D].

California in 2015 had 705,000 farm workers who earned an average $17,400 (58% percent of what a full-time worker would have earned) [3B].  The largest category of farm workers – those 293,900 employed by labor contractors – earned an average $9,900 (no more than 44% of what a full-time worker would have earned).

Physically Demanding Jobs

“ ‘[T]he impact of immigrant labor on the wages of native-born workers is low… However, undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do.’ ”

-Brookings Institution, Senior Fellow, Vanda Felbab-Brown [4]

More often than not, undocumented workers do the disagreeable and physically demanding jobs that native-born Americans prefer to avoid [5].  Gutting fish and picking fruit at an unrelenting pace in 95 degree heat are among these.

Read more…

Jediism

Star Wars logo, Author User:KAMiKAZOW

There is today a religious movement by the name of Jediism.  Over 390,000 people in England and Wales stated their religion as Jedi in the 2001 census, exceeding Buddhism and Judaism there [1]. Another 70,000 did so in Australia.

Based on principles derived from the Star Wars movies, Jediism reflects the desperation of people searching for meaning in their lives…searching for God [2].

The Force, the energy from which everything is said to derive, does not require prayer or worship.  Belief in the Force is, of course, futile. 

God – the real God, the only God, the God of the Bible – has never been lost.  Any other god is false.

“…[There has] been a legal religion in the United States since 2007 and tax exempt since 2015…

They follow the Jedi code, consisting of 21 maxims, as the starting point for the Jedi belief system.

The Jedi Code:

…There is no Emotion, there is Peace…There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge…There is no Passion, there is Serenity…There is no Chaos, there is Harmony…

The 21 Maxims:

Prowess:  To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a Jedi.
Justice:  To always seek the path of ‘right’.
Loyalty:  To have faith in your Jedi brothers and sisters.
Defense:  To defend the way of Jediism.
Courage:  To have the will.
Faith:  To trust in the ways of the Force…[Continued at https://realitydecoded.blog/2018/08/26/fact-jedi-from-star-wars-is-now-a-real-religion/?c=600#comment-600%5D.”

[1]  Wikipedia, “Jedi census phenomenon”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jedi_census_phenomenon.

[2]  Fandom, Religion Wiki, Constructed Religions, “Jediism”, http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Jediism.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

A Burden Lifted

This is an update from Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia (CLCP) https://www.clcphila.org/, a faith-based non-profit whose predecessor I helped found years ago.

CLCP is a legal ministry serving the poor of Philadelphia.  (Additional information on Christian legal aid can be found above.)  Please, pray for this worthy cause and consider donating, if you can.

“Matt and Deborah have been embedded in North Philly this summer through the InterVarsity Gateway program working for CLCP as our summer interns.  Deborah is from New Orleans and will be a junior this fall at Villanova…Matt is from Scranton and will also be a junior this fall…[He] is studying actuarial science at Temple…

Matt and Deborah got to experience our clinics where Deborah who is also fluent in Spanish helped as a translator.  Deborah shared how she has learned that ‘God can use [her] identity as a First Generation Latina in the U.S. to participate in His mission of justice by working as an interpreter and breaking language barriers alongside incredible people seeking justice with the love of God.’

Matt was surprised to discover that not all consultations have a happy solution.  He has seen how messy situations can be and how the lawyers seek to make the best of a bad situation,..[H]e has learned…how many things there are to consider involving the client.  He was encouraged ‘watching clients come into clinics with desperation and hopelessness, and then watching them walk out with a burden lifted from their shoulders.’ Read more…

Laminin

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1: 17 NIV).

Wikipedia describes laminin as a class of proteins comprising the extracellular matrix, molecules providing structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

Urban Poverty and the Vanishing Middle Class

 Abandoned factory, Detroit, MI

Image courtesy of Seph Lawless, author of “Autopsy of America”, https://www.documentingreality.com/forum/f236/americas-rust-belt-139882/

There is a growing divide between rich and poor in this nation.  Caught in that divide is a vanishing middle class.

Median income levels in Bridgeport and Stamford, CT – cities just 22 miles apart – reflect the disparity.  Bridgeport’s median stands at $41,050.  Stamford’s is five times higher at $205,688 [1].

Lost Manufacturing Jobs

A large part of the reason is the decrease in manufacturing jobs.  Both automation and corporate relocation overseas have played a role in this.

As of June 2016, the average wage for manufacturing jobs in the United States was $64,400.  This compares favorably with an average wage of $48,700 for all occupations [2].

Map of United States showing “Rust Belt” states in red, Source Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

But as many as 7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since the 1980s [3].  Metropolitan areas in the “Rust Belt” (Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York) have been particularly hard hit [4].

Today, many of the technical jobs that remain require advanced training or a college degree.  Alternative positions as home health aides, cashiers and retail sales personnel, housekeepers, child care workers, and food servers are among the lowest paid [5].

Urban Poverty

A. Detroit, MI

Once the nation’s auto manufacturing hub, Michigan has lost 83,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 15 years.  Detroit followed Chrysler and GM into bankruptcy [6].  The per capita income there in 2016 was $15,562.  The poverty rate is 39.4%.

B. Hartford, CT

Nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World”, Hartford was the wealthiest city in the nation following the Civil War.  But it has fallen on hard times since the 1990s.  The per capita income in 2016 was $18,365.  The poverty rate is 31.9%.

C. Rochester, NY

Formerly known as “Kodak Town”, Rochester, too, suffers from the drain of manufacturing jobs.  The per capita income in 2016 was $19,830.  The poverty rate is 32.8%.

Mayor, Lovely Warren, explains the situation this way:

“Many of the executives and the upper management that worked in…larger companies, they lived in the suburbs.  The people that lived in the city were those individuals that worked on the line…When manufacturing left…the decline in the inner-city, in those families losing their income and having to struggle, and then the next generation under them not having…a manufacturing floor to go into, became greater [7].”

Read more…

Miracle Baby

Roman Dinkel is a 2 y.o. boy with myelomeningocele, a congenital defect of the backbone and spinal cord.

The majority of children diagnosed with this severe form of spina bifida are terminated before birth.  At 25 weeks of gestation, however, Roman had surgery while still in the womb.  His parents were cautioned not to expect too much from the surgery.  But Roman is today able to walk with the aid of crutches.

His joy is infectious.

[1]  CBS News, “2 year-old who overcame the odds and learned to walk inspires millions” by Jeff Glor, 8/8/18, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/2-year-old-who-overcame-the-odds-and-learned-to-walk-inspires-millions/.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Wealth and Safety

Gold bars. Author Stevebidmead. Source https://pixabay.com/en/gold-ingots-golden-treasure-513062. (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

The world is not a safe place.

We may, at times, delude ourselves about that.  We may make material things our security blanket, convince ourselves that wealth and luxury translate into safety.  We may view self-assurance and independence as guarantees of success, confuse the strength God has lent us for our own.

But there will always be circumstances to teach us the foolishness of this.  Celebrities may have the means to buy mansions.  But despite his bank account, the rich man can lose a son.  Despite her jewels, the rich woman will grow old.  In the end, neither will escape death and judgment.

Worldly security is false.  It is temporary.  When we rely on it – especially to the detriment of those less fortunate – we miss out on God’s offer of real security.  And we misuse God’s gifts. Read more…

Refuge, Part 3

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing unaccompanied minors at Texas border, Author Hector Silva, Source CBP (PD as work product of federal govt.)

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 22: 21).

A nation unquestionably has the right to maintain its borders.  There is an acknowledged distinction between illegal immigrants and legal refugees.  And the threat of terrorism is both real and substantial.

But there are issues related to immigration which have nothing to do with political affiliation or party loyalty, and everything to do with morality and adherence to law.

Repatriation

Both the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and the US Refugee Act of 1980 provide that applicants for asylum are not to be returned to a place where their life or freedom is at risk [1A][2].

Forcible return (known as “refoulement”) is against international law.  Unlike political asylum, which applies only to those with a well-grounded fear of persecution, non-refoulement prohibits the return of any and all asylum seekers to war zones and disaster areas.

Despite that, Human Rights First has documented at least 125 cases in which Border Patrol agents unlawfully turned asylum seekers away without a hearing (some individuals many times over) [3A].

Other refugees are acknowledged to have been repatriated to countries with ongoing civil wars and/or extended disruptions in police protection [4A][8].

Penalizing Illegal Entry in Search of Asylum

Refugees must be at the border to apply for asylum; the law does not permit them to apply from a distance.

For that reason, the UN Refugee Convention expressly forbids parties like the United States from imposing penalties on refugees for irregular entry, if they present themselves to the authorities without delay [1B].  This is commonly interpreted to mean that illegal entry should not to be prosecuted.

In fact, the Board of Immigration Appeals (the highest immigration tribunal) has since 1987 consistently instructed immigration judges to forgive irregular entry [3B].

The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy under which anyone who crosses the United States border will be prosecuted, therefore, flies in the face of settled law [5A].

Changing the Standard

Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions unilaterally changed the standard for asylum in two respects.

Sessions eliminated gender-based asylum claims (for instance, claims related to genital cutting) from consideration altogether; and raised the standard for asylum to require that an applicant’s home not only be unwilling or unable to protect him or her from harm, but that the government condone persecution by non-state actors [3].  This is a far higher standard of proof.

Separating Parents and Children

The United States has as many 10,000 children in detention – holding them at Dept. of Health & Human Services shelters an average of 56 days [6].

Typically, children who enter the country alone (“unaccompanied minors”) are released once a parent or guardian is properly identified [13].  Instead, some 3000 children were separated from their families at the border [4B][12]. Read more…

Refuge, Part 2

Aspiring migrant from Mexico into US at Tijuana-San Diego border. The crosses represent the deaths of failed attempts. Author Tomas Castelazo, copyright (c) Tomas Castelazo, http://www.tomascastelazo.com (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

However dire their economic situation may be, there is a critical distinction between migrants who illegally cross the border of the United States in search of employment, and refugees who legally present at the border seeking asylum on humanitarian grounds.  Those legally seeking asylum have violated no laws.

Building on the Past

Built on the earlier Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted at the close of WWII, the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is a multilateral treaty which defines what it means to be a refugee, and outlines the rights of individuals granted asylum [1][2][3].

“Refugee Defined”

The Refugee Convention defines a “refugee” as:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Limitation on Number of Refugees

The US Refugee Act of 1980 uses a similar definition, laying out explicit procedures for how to deal with refugees and setting a limit of 50,000 refugees/fiscal year (roughly 1 refugee/6500 Americans).

Together, the Refugee Convention, a subsequent 1967 Protocol which expanded its geographic and temporal reach, and the US Refugee Act of 1980 govern those legally seeking asylum [4A].  The United States, also, in 1977 signed (then in 1992 ratified) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, giving it the status of federal law [8A]. Read more…