Islander and human rights attorney Molly Matter will offer the presentation “Bridges not Barriers: Immigrant Crisis on our Watch” at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Land Trust Building.
Matter will tell stories of her personal experience with asylum-seeking refugees and others at the United States/Mexico border as well as at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
Matter, the sole proprietor of Amend Law and the chair-elect of the Washington State Bar Association’s Civil Rights Section, has investigated voting rights and children’s human rights abuses. Last August, she volunteered with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law to take declarations from children either still separated from their parents or who had come to the country as minors. There are now 15,000 children in prison, she said, choosing the word “prison” intentionally, saying “they are places that function and appear exactly the same as punitive centers” and are sometimes worse.
She plans to address the historical context of what is currently happening at the southern border; provide a political and economic framework to understand it; explain what the current rights of asylum-seeking children are within the United States and in other countries; discuss laws that govern the protection of children, and share some personal stories from inside the prison-like holding centers.
She stressed that she will not share anything confidential that pertains to ongoing litigation with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, including specific accounts from the children she interviewed at the border. But she will speak on her work overall and share stories from her work at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma with detainees on a hunger strike.
Also, she said, she wants everyone who comes to leave with one practical task of service and a direct action item. As examples, she cited developing a pen pal relationship with someone in a detention center and providing financial support to relevant organizations. She also wants people to leave with practical and simple ways to heal themselves as they witness what is taking place.
“Just as the children need care and compassion, we also need it for ourselves today,” she said.
The event is offered in collaboration with Vashon-Maury SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), Vashon’s Immigrant/Refugee Rights Group and the Vashon Resettlement Committee.
“Molly has great heart and commitment as well as knowledge, and we felt she would do a great job conveying the travesty of our immigration policies and practices as well as motivating audience members to inspired action,” said Janie Starr of SURJ.
— Susan Riemer