My Presidents’ Day this past Monday was filled with powerful prayers, arms of blessings, and Bishops, clergy and immigrant leaders kneeling down in front of the White House holding signs that said “Not One More Deportation,” and “Praying for Relief.” Together we sang songs – Amazing Grace, We Shall Overcome and Marching in the Light of God – interspersed with chanting “Two million – too many!” We prayerfully escalated our movement to stop deportations by following the example of prophets before us who spoke truth to power.
Faith leaders joined immigrant leaders in a prophetic witness of civil disobedience to send the message to the White House that two million deportations are two million too many. Family separation continues to devastate our communities and congregations. Mass deportation programs that President Obama supports like the so-called “Secure Communities Program” encourage racial profiling and push local police into detaining immigrants, which is constitutionally a federal responsibility. These policies have led to record numbers of deportations, including the parents of more than 200,000 U.S. citizen children in the last two years alone.
Faith communities have a moral responsibility to take action and stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters. We cannot sit by and watch our communities divided and our families torn apart by these inhumane immigration policies. This is why I joined my colleagues from the National Day Labor Organizing Network and faith leaders from many CWS member communions, including the United Methodist Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church – USA, in addition to Catholic partners like Franciscan Action Network and the Columbans.
As we were piled into the police van after being arrested, our wrists hurting from plastic cuffs pulled tight, and then crowded into a small and filthy detention room, all I could think about were the 1,100 people deported everyday, and friends who have waited years in detention, just to get their immigration case heard. Stories like that of Hermina Gallegos whose sister and daughter are currently detained in Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. Hermina was part of this prophetic Civil Disobedience and is planning to be part of a two week hunger strike to petition their release. We were only detained four hours, but our solidarity and commitment for this movement grew in the jail cell as we planned out our strategy to move forward with a national day of action on April 5th to say Not One More Deportation.
People of faith are a pillar in building the movement for immigrants’ rights. We have advocated to our members of Congress and held thousands of vigils, but still there is little movement forward in the House of Representatives. We will continue to push for just and humane immigration reform at the legislative level, but we don’t know how long families will have to wait until victory comes. If President Obama truly supports common sense immigration reform, why would he continue the failed theory that more deportations will bring conservative votes forward? The time has come to take actions consistent with our moral and ethical values, and to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to all undocumented persons, and to stop all deportations until immigration reform is achieved. We will continue to call on both Congress and the Administration to do their part to alleviate the suffering of our community members, and to help us build a more welcoming nation that respects the dignity of all people.
Noel Andersen, Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants’ Rights