Ride for Human Rights: Joey Goes to Seattle

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Joey contemplates a Pacific Coast redwood.

Joey here.  Kangaroo Court Puppet.  Stuffing for brains.  A pound (half kilo) of dead weight.

Since 2011, Jeffrey Heller and I have pedaled over 10,000 miles (16,000 km) through 37 states, listening to thousands of people and telling them the truth about immigration, refugees, and asylum law.  Through our project, kind people from around the world have donated over a quarter of a million dollars to support Human Rights First.

Jeffrey—lawyer, professor, registered professional nurse, cyclist—has volunteered with Human Rights First since 1983.  Then, as now, this nonprofit recruited and trained lawyers to represent asylum applicants for free.  Human Rights First also works to improve human rights abroad to stanch the flow of refugees.  It takes the lead in holding America to its promise to end torture and to respect human rights and the rule of law.

In 2018, we intended to cycle from San Jose, California, to Seattle.  Illness cut short the trip.  After Jeffrey recovered, we biked from Indiana to Louisiana; from Washington, DC, to George Washington’s estate at Mt. Vernon, Virginia; and in and around New York City to make our annual minimum Ride of a thousand miles.  Scroll back through this blog and see stories and photos from our 2018 journey in CA, IN, KY, TN, AL, MS, AK, and LA.  Here are glimpses of the final miles in NYC.

Above is our street as we pedaled the last blocks home.  Below we’re in downtown Manhattan with Brittney Bartlett, our ground control at Human Rights First.

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L to R: Brittney, Joey, Jeffrey

On February 19, Jeffrey and I will fly to San Jose, California.  Our friends Julie, Nattie, and Jennifer will shuttle us to Valley Ford, where we left off last March.  We’ll pedal a thousand miles: north along the Pacific coast, inland to Portland, then on to Seattle.

Come with us!  Meet new friends!  See the sights!  And learn more about people fleeing persecution and America’s response to them.

This year, in America, innocent people exercising their legal right to request asylum are jailed and forced into court without the help of a lawyer.  Human Rights First is standing strong against this un-American injustice.  Please click here to support Human Rights First and stand with them as they work to keep America, America.

And this year, if you can, without diminishing your support for Human Rights First, please click here to support the Interfaith Welcome Coalition of San Antonio, Texas.

The IWC is one of many nonprofit groups across the USA working desperately to mitigate the harm inflicted by our government’s jailing of families seeking asylum, then putting the families onto the street without providing any support.

Why the IWC?  Jeffrey belongs an immigration law professors’ listserv.  Another member, Rubén Rumbaut, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, wrote about his sister Michelle’s work with the all-volunteer IWC.  Jeffrey learned that Michelle is one of dozens of dedicated volunteers who coordinate coverage, 7 days a week, to receive asylum seekers bused from immigration detention to the San Antonio Greyhound station. Michelle and other volunteers help destitute mothers and fathers who face multiday bus trips to join their sponsoring families.  Among other things, volunteers give out $10s and $20s from their own pockets.

Meet Michelle, helping a refugee at the San Antonio bus station.

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In Michelle’s words, here’s a bit of what the IWC provides to asylum-seeing families each day:

A welcome, smile and offer to help when they are dropped at the bus station. This often is the first friendly word these parents and children have received since fleeing their homes. • Travel help. Imagine not understanding English, facing a bewildering, frightening multi-day cross-continental bus journey. • Food, and over the counter medicines for coughs, fevers, headaches, and nausea. • Backpacks for each family, including snacks, coloring books and crayons, toiletries, blankets and toys. Few of these immigrants have more than the clothes on their backs. • Overnight shelter for families whose travel is delayed. • Cash assistance of $10 to $20 as possible. Imagine traveling with children from Texas to Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, Miami, without a dime. A bit of cash in hand helps alleviate fear and gives confidence that the parent can provide for their children and handle an emergency.

Jeffrey and Nancy used to live in a big old New Jersey house.  Lawyer Jeffrey got refugees out of immigration jail, but law alone doesn’t repair the world.  Jeffrey took the people home.  Nancy, Jeffrey, and their three children provided shelter, food, pocket money and companionship until their new friends could move on.  In their own small way, the family played the roles of Human Rights First and the IWC.

We don’t live in Texas.  We don’t speak Spanish.  (A kangaroo puppet, I don’t speak at all.)  We’re grateful that the IWC is doing what we would do, should do, if we lived in San Antonio.

We don’t like to talk numbers.  People do what they can.  But we’ll make an exception to show how seriously we take the IWC’s work.  Jeffrey and Nancy give a significant annual sum to Human Rights First, and they absorb all the costs of each year’s Ride.  On top of that, last year they donated over $2,000 to the IWC, every penny of which was handed to poor refugees, in $10s and $20s, to help poor innocents get on with their lives.

Please consider what your means allow.  Then click on these links to join us in supporting the Interfaith Welcoming Committee Travel Benevolence Fund, and in supporting Human Rights First.

Come back soon!  We’ll post occasionally in the coming weeks.  As on the past 8 Rides, we’ll post an illustrated essay every night from the road.