Thursday, June 14, 2018

Their Journey Is Our Journey

Stories from the Bus Station Ministry compiled by Jan Olsen

(This week we republish this relatively unfamiliar take on U.S. criminal efforts to discourage immigration with permission of La Voz de la Esperanza, San Antonio, Texas.)

If you walk by the Greyhound Bus Station in Downtown San Antonio on any day of the week, you will see an amazing sight…..seated in one area are mothers and children who are seeking asylum in the United states after their release from Family Detention Centers. All their possessions are in two grocery bags as they await their buses to take them to sponsors in cities all over the United States. Moving among these families are volunteers from the
Bus station volunteers
Interfaith Welcome Coalition. This is a group of very passionate and dedicated volunteers who make up the Back Pack Ministry.  You will find them at the downtown Greyhound bus station and the San Antonio airport seven days a week. They are there to welcome and offer support to the women and children after their release from the family detention centers at Dilly and Karnes. These families have endured unbelievable hardships to get to this point so expressions of “bienvenido”, smiles, backpacks, lunches and explanations of travel are moments of much needed kindness and compassion. In addition to the Bus Station ministry, IWC also has volunteers at the San Antonio International Airport where they offer the same support to families who are traveling by air.
The work of the bus station volunteers is greatly supported by the Greyhound Bus Station staff. Everyone from the General Manager, the ticket sellers, cafeteria workers and the custodial staff  are welcoming  and kind to our families. They go out of their to way to make sure our families receive the support that they need.

The Organization that supports this ministry is the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. The IWC, a San Antonio area based coalition of faith communities, organizations, and individuals, works collaboratively to welcome to our community refugees, asylum seekers and at risk immigrants, particularly women and children, and walk along side them in their journey.  

One of the projects of the IWC is the Back Pack Ministry which supports their goal of providing material support for asylum seeking mothers and children as they journey from the family detention centers to their final destinations within the United States.
These are the stories of some of our volunteers that convey the challenges, the joy and the deep satisfaction of this work.

Simple but profound a joyful walk Sandy Enders


I have been an Interfaith Welcome Coalition bus station volunteer for almost one year. My anger and grief over the election results of 2016 were the catalyst that indirectly led me to this touching, fulfilling, yet heartbreaking ministry. Until this time, I was content in my insulated, safe environment, naïve toward the entire immigration process, especially people seeking asylum. The hardships that these women and children endure have humbled me and opened my eyes to the injustices in our world and our country.
Their appreciation of this ministry is very touching.  Another volunteer and I frequently take the families waiting for an evening bus on a short stroll along the San Antonio Riverwalk. One mother sincerely stated that this walk was the best thing that she had experienced during her entire two month journey toward asylum.
“Whenever we do not understand what’s happening in life, just close our eyes, take a deep breath and say:  “God, I know you have a plan. Just help us through it”. 
I offer this prayer for the mothers and children and all the volunteers. 

Officials from U.S. Immigration & Customs Reinforcement 

A day in the bus station ministry Sister Denise La Rock 


Serving at the Greyhound Bus Station offers help and support to asylum seeking mothers and children, most of whom are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. This direct service is very rewarding so it is difficult to know which of us receives more from the ministry, the families or the volunteers.
The Bus Station Ministry is part of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. The IWC  gives me travel money to share with families who will be on a two or three day bus trip.
Recently, a few women were in touch with their families to request money through Western Union. All but one was able to receive the transaction. I took that one aside and gave her some money because she had none. I was concerned about her long trip with her children and having no money.  I offered her the money and she asked how she was going to be able to pay me back. I told her it was a gift from the churches. She began to cry and hugged me and cried in my arms.
Later that day, I received a call from American Airlines. One of the mothers seeking asylum and traveling by plane was at the airport and was too sick to travel and had to be taken to the emergency room. I met up with the mother and her child there. After being tested and treated for strep throat and tonsillitis, she was released from the hospital. I provided overnight shelter at my house to her and her son. My job at the hospital was at first to calm the mother and entertain her 2 year old. I enjoyed playing with him. As his energy became too much for his Mom’s ER room, we went for a walk after buying some Doritos. After he ate most of them, we walked outside for a while.  He was very inquisitive as we walked and tested out every bench. Several times as we were walking, he placed his hand in mine for me to hold it. In holding his hand, I felt that connection that unites all of us.
It is such a blessing to know that in our outreach, we can support others so they feel safe and cared about.
(Sister Denise La Rock of the Daughters of Charity is the Director of the Bus Station Ministry.)

Reflections from yesterday’s shift…Michele Rembault 


I started volunteering with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition’s Bus Station Ministry around December 2016. This was my response to the election results. I shared with my family some impressions from those early days.
I arrived at the bus station at 1pm, fresh from Travis Park United Methodist Church, which serves as our group’s supply unit.  My trunk is filled with backpacks and sack lunches and the rolling suitcase filled with clipboards, itinerary and map sheets, over the counter meds, toys and diapers.
I sit down in “my spot” to the side and away from the main hub. I settle in, organize my stuff, wonder who might show up today…….I look around and, holy cow, there is a mass of  women and children refugees sitting right there in plain sight, somehow I miss them walking in!  So I walk over, introduce myself and what I am doing and begin the now familiar process of “triaging”, figuring out which ones have busses leaving soon, then working through individual intakes and conversations. Just as I finished that group, I look up to see incoming new refugees. Just as I finished that group, my new friend, Robert, the station manager, gives me a heads up, there are about 30 who just landed. The work is non stop for hours.
Here are some of the memories I took home with me from the dozens I served yesterday….
So many adorable, curious, eager, beautiful children
The boy with the huge, gorgeous brown eyes
The ten year old girl with no front teeth and  a big grin
The teenagers, the babies
None seem to complain, just accept
The 30 year old Guatemalan women who was going to see her mother. Wonderful, I said, when is the last time you saw her? Twenty -seven years ago. She had to leave when I was three.
The young mother with the grinning ten year old tells me that she had to leave her home in Honduras. The man who had been trying to kill her had been let out of jail and she know her chance to survive was to leave. The stateside friend who offered to sponsor her told her she could bring only one child so she decided to bring the ten year old and leave behind her seven month old with her fifteen year old daughter. It was either that or certain death for her and probably all of her kids.
Around 5pm, most had already departed and only three families were left. I took them to eat at the bus station cafeteria….fried chicken and hot dogs. Just then a new family arrives and I am out of backpacks, medicines, and exhausted. I try to give then the best advice possible and then I leave. It’s like the kid who is trying to save starfish on the beach – you can only do so much and hope that you could at least make a tiny difference to that one.
Throughout the day, the constant CNN news flashes about making America Safe Again, securing our borders, ensuring terrorists are returned home. There are no terrorists here, only mothers and children seeking safety and survival.

This work breaks my heart, but also heals it Carly Leech


After I learned that most of the women leaving the immigration detention centers are dropped off at the bus station with next to nothing, having exhausted their travel funds, there was no turning back for me. I need to show up for them. It’s hard work, but the women bring me strength and keep me from drowning in my own personal struggles. One woman who I will never forget was dropped off late in the afternoon by ICE with her two children. I had already been there for hours helping other families, and I had run out of sandwiches. Luckily, I still had two backpacks with supplies and snacks. When she realized she had to take three buses and would not reach her destination for two full days, she panicked, tears rolling down her cheeks. Immigration officials had somehow given her the impression she would only take one bus and arrive the same day. She didn’t know what city we were in. She had no idea how far away California was from Texas. She had no money and had no way to get money to feed her children. Desperately, she showed me the commissary number on her immigration identification, wanting to be able to spend her remaining balance. I explained to her that it only worked in the detention center, which only increased her panic. Then suddenly, she rallied, calmed herself down, and told me, “Voy a aguantar con esta comida.” ...I will get by with this food. She was finally able to smile and she thanked me. She said she didn’t know what she would have done if I hadn’t been there. This work breaks my heart, but also heals it.

An Act of Compassion Treedy Chapa


I was raised to believe in compassion for those in need. I learned of the Bus Station Ministry almost a year ago. This was a venue to practice compassion and share my time.
I joined the group of volunteers that help the asylum seekers that cross the Texas border and stop at the  San Antonio Greyhound Bus Station. We assist the Mothers and their children reach their next destination in the US safely. The majority of the women are young, vulnerable and very frightened. Sadly,  there are many people out there ready to take advantage of them during their journey. Many of them have been traveling for months with little or no food or means of transportation. Once being released from the detention center, having been sponsored by a family member or friend, they begin their journey to the unknown. These ladies have left everything that was familiar to them; family, friends, language, customs, culture and community in hopes for a better life for themselves and their children The majority of them are under 5 years of age.
I have witnessed the strength and resilience of the young women, their character and humility. One example is when one of the mothers asked me how to buy a soft drink in the restaurant and when I showed her how she immediately asked if she could buy me one as well, she who has so little and I who have so much.  Many women have shown some of their vulnerability and fears yet they fight for a better life for their children and themselves. These women are amazing and a testimony of the value of human life and the pursuit of safety and well-being . Please don’t forget the value of human life and the worth of our youth.

Everything Heals Jan Olsen


One of the memories that will always be with me is of a mother who came up to me and asked,
“Do you have any medicine to erase from my memory all the horrible things I have seen?”  - Jan Olsen
I have been a volunteer with the Bus Station Ministry for about a year and a half.  I tell my family and friends that the time spent at the bus station is the most peaceful and joyful of my day since it is the chance to “live compassion” in these most troubling times.
One of my jobs at the bus station is to give out medicines. One of the memories that will always be with me is of a mother who came up to me and asked, “Do you have any medicine to erase from my memory all the horrible things I have seen?” I told her   this is the only medicine I can offer and I just stood and held her while she cried. She then smiled at me and said thank you.
My heart and my spirit are healed every day at the bus station by witnessing the courage, resilience and joy and that I see in these women and children in spite of all they have endured to get to this point.  My hope is that what we have to offer them in this brief encounter will heal a little part of them. 

"It's like a jail for children." NY Times

 This week In Immigrant Detention

  • Senator Merkeley reported that in one ten-day period in May, ICE took away 658 children from their families. He expressed outrage that children were being kept in cages. "In McAllen, TX, I witnessed...a large warehouse facility with cells constructed of fence posts and chain link fencing—like dog kennels or large cages."

    As the hours passed, it dawned on the mothers the kids were not coming back. They were told their children were being taken for a bath.  Heard that one before.

    One man was reported to have died in immigrant detention for refusal of proper medication. 

    The administration wants Congress to overturn legal limits on incarcerating children in family detention jails to free its hands to separate children from their families.

    Kids were reported left stranded with baby sitters after 114 Ohio workers were seized in an ICE raid

    Trump looks to erect tent cities to house unaccompanied children. 


    It you employ or know vulnerable people (Latinx or Muslims)
    please either go to or suggest they go to to get the red card in Spanish & English, advising them of their rights.

    Asylum-seeker and teen son reunite after separation since last August.

    Judge temporarily blocks pizza delivery man’s deportation.

    San Francisco high schoolers skip senior trip, visit Afghan boy in ICE detention center instead.

    Already 35 of the 54 people who were shipped out of Tennessee after a work place raid, and held in immigration detention have been released on bond and are back home with their families.

    In Durham County’s  Democratic primary, Clarence Birkhead defeated incumbent Sheriff Make Andrews who upheld honoring 287(g) ICE detainers.

    Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) led a sit-in demanding an end to Trumps family separation policy.

    Federal judge stops Indiana from implementing controversial voter purge law.

    Judge calls for evidence for Pruitt’s climate denial.

    Poised to cancel the program, Zinke reversed himself from shutting kids out of national parks.

    ABC news reported anti-nuke protesters are hopeful following the historic summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

    CLG news reported Kim commits to “complete denuclearization of Korean Peninsula.”

    Bilal Abdul Kareem, a U.S. journalist, has won the right to challenge his inclusion on the Tuesday “Kill List,” the list of people the U.S. targets for assassination by drone. 

    IKEA bans all single-use plastics.

    French farmers block refineries to protest palm oil import.

    Canada will soon provide low-income families with $10 per-month internet.

    Canada commits $400 million in new funds for girls’ education.

    The UK is set to protest a marine area 8 times the size of London.

    Biggest UK asset manager seeks removal of eight company chairs over climate change.

    Mayor Randall Woodfin pledges to transition Birmingham to 100% sustainable energy.

    21 Native American tribes win big as the Supreme Court protects their salmon rights.

    The UN schedules an emergency meeting on protecting Palestinians.

    Israeli Court orders Israelis to leave Palestinian lands.

    Jordan abandons nuclear station deal with Russia.

    Berkeley City Council aims for fossil fuel-free Berkeley by 2030.

    Samsung commits to 100% renewable energy after global protests.

    San Diego Gas and Electric approves projects doubling grid-scale energy storage to enable adoption of more renewables.

    Maine voters uphold new instant-runoff voting system in a victory for election reform.

    In May, Democrat LaToya Cantrell was sworn in as mayor of New Orleans, the first black woman to be elected in the city’s 300-year history.

    Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams became the first black woman to be nominated for governor by any major political party.

    In South Fulton, Georgia, every one of the criminal justice department heads is a black woman.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Play On...

This week in Berkeley both local music lovers and out of towners got together for the bi-annual Baroque Music Festival and Exhibition. (The event occurs on the East Coast on alternative years.) And those of us lucky enough and demented enough to attend concert after concert, most of them conducted in venues with which we have developed a familiarity over the years living here, sat through innumerable concerts, studying the backs of the heads of the mostly greying audience in attendance in those few (or many) rows in front of us as we reveled in the glorious music of the 11th through the 18th centuries, And while we did so, to our sometime distress, we heard the deafening sirens of the “serve and protect” people swerving and detecting in the streets outside wherever they found people walking vertically, or loitering horizontally.

And we asked ourselves, is this normal?  How long has this been going on? What does it sound like when they make their arrests?  When they cuff people for “loitering?”  or being brown? When the beatings start? (And I do know what it sounds like:  I hunkered down in the Castro Theatre at the time Act-Up hosted a neighborhood “visitation” by ranks of San Francisco’s finest armed with their batons.) When the bullets begin to fly? Because the sound of those sirens is becoming more frequent. And, amidst the waving flags, each year the budget for those flashing lights (red, white and blue) is growing by leaps and bounds. And the lutenists are smiling awkwardly and with greater frequency as the outside alarms interfere with the peacefulness and contemplation that music always brings, especially in these years of cop-on-black murder, and frenzied deportations, and family separations, and the disappearance of upwards of 1400 children. 

And the announcement by the Progressive Turnout Project today that House Republicans approve Washington's staging its flag-waving military parade, and Common Dreams announces that an Ohio ICE raid, after 114 workers were arrested, left their children stranded with baby sitters, and day care teachers, and that 40 million Americans already live in poverty.

Is this normal?  Is this the new normal you want to see?

(Every one of these Actions—except the last one—requires the click of a mouse—the mouse that roars.)

Share graphic on Facebook and Twitter.

The Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition announces that, despite Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords, states comprising 35% of the U.S. economy are taking steps to put a price on carbon pollution; over 100 companies have announced emissions reduction targets, business of all sizes invested in a total of 2.8 gigawatts of renewables, and hundreds of cities are already committed to the Paris climate goals.

With Tesla powerpacks, electric cars can now charge day and night on sunlight with battery storage.

350 announces that with activist support, their endorsed candidates and initiatives won by defeating California Proposition 70, a Big Oil push to put climate programs at the mercy of corporate lobbyists.

Instead of using pesticides Japanese farmers are using ducks to eat the weeds and insects, and leave the rice alone.

Apple announces it will attempt to frustrate Facebook tools to automatically track web users with its next version of iOS, and Mac operating systems.

Among its recent victories, the ACLU announces Senate passage of police misconduct and use of force records SB 1421, Senate approval of SB 923 establishing eyewitness identification standards, Assembly passage of AB 2601 mandating equal sex education for charter as well as other public school students, and Assembly approval of AB 3131 making sure local communities weigh in before local “law enforcement” acquires military equipment.

Mariano Rajoy, fascist president of Spain, falls.

Anti-nuke Nobel winner, ICAN, offers to pay for Trump-Kim summit.

Dame Catherine Healy of New Zealand, a former sex worker, is being recognized for her work advancing the rights of sex workers. 

Tuesday’s results include victories for Jeramey Anderson in MS-04, and Harley Rouda in CA-48.

California Democrats are not shut out by ranked voting in Districts 10, 11, 22, 25, 39, 45, 48, and 49.

Progressive Jason Anderson wins the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s race.

Earlier this year, the NDRC announced 12 electoral target states for 2018: Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada among them.

Argentina’s national soccer team cancels their upcoming match with the Israeli national team. Israel pointed to BDS  activists as responsible.

Trump grants clemency to one lifer, non-violent drug offense prisoner 63-year-old  Alice Johnson.

Slamming family separation as “brutal, and offensive,” a federal judge rules ACLU lawsuit can proceed.

One more defendant in the Inauguration Day Protest was found not guilty, and three more are still waiting for jury verdicts.

 (None of these cartoons appeared in Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette, despite Rogers being the paper’s full-time staff political cartoonist.)



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Stealing Candy From Babies

The ad says: With Father’s Day right around the corner, we’re sure you’re already thinking about what to get the fathers and father figures in your life. Even if it hasn’t crossed your mind yet, we’ve got your back -- and front! Our Tax March t-shirts are American-made, super-soft, fit dads of all shapes and sizes.
Another says: Next Weekend: Classic Star Wars Film Gets an Adult Makeover at The Warfield.

The Caption reads "Bawdy burlesque to Star Wars.
This is America in the trumpfirst century.

But a headline (from Common Dreams) gets real: ‘Thousands arrested nationwide as Poor People’s Campaign Demands ‘End to the War Economy.'” The article cites the Pentagon budget “which [steals] resources that could be used to provide healthcare and food [not to mention housing] to the poor at home [while] killing innocents abroad, and quite frankly it’s killing us, too, because it’s a vast mechanism of upward wealth transfer.  A recent publication  addressing that very issue is titled: Stop Thief!: the Commons, Enclosures and Resistance (by Peter Linebaugh). And Kathy Kelly’s report, Scourging Yemen, where starvation and disease have been enlisted as weapons of war, tells it like it is, and can be read here.

And steal it does.  Almost every outing, I discover new settlements of tent cities in the town in which I live. In another decade, our cities will vie with those of 80s India: Bombay, especially. How did they get that way? What historical processes, created such a desperate housing crunch? Meantime, here is the pie chart representing the administration’s Discretionary Budget request for 2019:

How hard does the American worker have to work to pony up taxes in support of this Gargantuan war programme? More than workers of most industrialized countries, American workers produce the greatest amount of goods for the maximum numbers of working days.  If the American  worker worked as little as Norwegian and Danish workers, he or she would enjoy nearly 2.2 months of paid vacation.  Instead American labor works way more than, say, Denmark’s while suffering huge levels of inequality, poverty and material deprivation.

Conclusion: Stealing from poor Americans is like taking candy from a baby. But some of us get it.  According to Common Dreams, the Poor People’s Campaign unveiled a series of demands last month ahead of launching its 40 days of action, rolling over more than 30 states:

“We demand a stop to the privatization of the military budget and any increase in military spending. We demand a reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, healthcare, jobs, and green infrastructure needs, and strengthening a VA system that must remain public.” Surely modest, routine demands appropriate to any industrialized country not owned by oligarchs and governed by elites, especially those who prefer to lose an election rather than go against the interests of the bankers and corporations that buy their sycophancy year after year.

 “The really critical thing,” wrote Howard Zinn, “isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who’s sitting—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens.” Does it seem to you as though Capitalism is not working for you? And that it may be time to create whole new systems for making things work sustainably?

In “Needed Now: A Real and Radical Left,” Chris Hedges advises investing “our energy in building parallel popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power…including unions, community development organizations, local currencies, alternative political parties, and food cooperatives” a list which should be expanded to include state and city banks, cooperative production through worker owned coops, with a vision based in harmony, rather than exploitative of the natural environment.

We need a serious Left, one not atomized by identity politics, and capable of sticking around for the very long and steep haul.

To join the Poor People’s Campaign. Visit

Petition congress to stop Trump from attacking North Korea by going to

Petition congress to stop Trump from starting a nuclear war by going to

Toffiq al-Bihani has been stuck in Guantanamo for 16 years without charge or trial.

Congress attempts to shut down war plans for Iran with an amendment now attached to the national Defense Authorization Bill.

Following the worker revolt there, Google ends drone technology contract with the Pentagon.

Nationwide #KeepFamliesTogether rallies demand the administration halt cruel border separation of parents and children policy.

Stockton CA Michael Tubbs, the nation’s youngest mayor  experiments with a universal basic income.

Chile joins Kenya and Morocco becoming the first Latin American country to ban plastic bags,

Iran enacts massive and meaningful drug reform.

Toshiba withdraws from South Texas nuclear power plant project.

Mid American Energy becomes first investor-owned utility in U. S. to generate renewables equivalent to 100% of its customers’ annual use.
Despite intense opposition from big polluters backed by the global north at the recent international meeting in Germany to advance the Paris Agreement, activists helped pressure the EU to side with people and with climate justice. 

Congress introduces legislation to protect California swordfish industry.

Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvardo, announces a ban on fossil fuels, placing his country as a major trailblazer in the fight against climate change.

The 2018 Freedom Flotilla arrives in Gaza with desperately needed food! medical supplies! and other aid!

In a win for sustainability, reducing military costs, and promoting water security, the House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved Rep. Salud Carbahal’s water amendment.

Prosecutors drop charges against a half dozen people the government had sought to imprison for decades for their roles in planning an anti-Trump march.

Former felons nationwide use their past connections with the incarceration system to restore voting rights to the disenfranchised.

Andy Tsege is pardoned after nearly four years on death row in Ethiopia and rejoins his family in London.

The nation’s largest union of federal workers files suit against the administration over an EO that seeks to deny workers the right to job site representation.

Despite fierce lobbying from ISPs, net neutrality bill passes in California.

Candidates backed by the Sanders revolution achieve early success in the primaries.

The Virginia Senate votes to expand Medicaid and provide health care to nearly 400,000 Virginians.

The California State Assembly votes for the first time to require Ethnic Studies as a statewide graduation requirement.

Illinois ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment, making it the 37th state to do so.