“Children should not have to carry the burden of our broken immigration system.”
~ Bishop Minerva Carcaño, United Methodist General Council
Bishop Carcaño gets right to the point. Children, families and parents are suffering because our immigration system is badly broken. With every deportation of a parent, another child is traumatized, another family fractured and left in a swirl of grief, confusion, fear and trouble. In the last five years, over two million people have been deported with devastating consequences. Now, some elected officials want to deport the thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at our borders. That point of view is hard for us to comprehend. The children are coming here to save their lives. According to the United Nations, the majority of the children likely would qualify for international protection if they had access to attorneys. The thought of vulnerable children deported back to the violent and resource poor circumstances they fled breaks our hearts.
That is why we went to Washington, DC to participate in the “Pray for Relief : Not One More Family Separated” Action and Faith Summit on Stopping Deportations. We were there to urge President Obama to stop the deportations. Please support our action and add your name to this petition to the President. We brought our nine month old son with us to the rally because we know that we would cross a border to save his life, if we felt that were our only choice. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform want to say this is a story about crime. We believe this is a story about love. We believe this is a story about parents, children and families who love one another so much they are willing to take incredible risks so that their families might thrive. As a queer couple, we know the fear of losing our child if something happened to one of us because we still are not seen equally in the eyes of the law. Our hearts break for the parents who have been deported away from their children. Our work for immigration justice comes from our faith that all families should know both justice and mercy and be held with love.
We saw that love in action at the Faith Summit and Not One More Deportation march. Evin was arrested in front of the White House with 111 other immigration justice activists and faith leaders from a variety of religious traditions. It was the largest ever civil disobedience at the White House for immigrant justice. Across the street, I, Melissa, and our son joined 600 supporters who sang, chanted, prayed and witnessed in support. I know that for Evin and some of the other faith leaders, the civil disobedience was a small risk. But, for the undocumented immigrants who participated, the risk of arrest was a bold one with so much more at stake. Many more undocumented people marched on Saturday under the banners of Not One More Deportation and Deferred Action for All and were joined by a Standing on the Side of Love contingent of 50 people. These banners were raised by pole climbers at Freedom Plaza in a bold action of civil disobedience.
Standing with the undocumented immigrants risking arrest moved me, Evin, to tears. Before our action, a Mexican man from Philadelphia stopped me with tears in his own eyes to say thank you. He said, “For so long we thought we were all alone.” The point of us being there was to join with courageous immigrants caught in a broken system and take a stand to let them know they are not alone.
It was a privilege for us to be in the company of so many passionate, faithful and courageous people last weekend. We know that there were lots of folks who were with us in spirit. An action like this is the work of so many. Carolyn Howe from First Parish Northborough in Northborough, MA was also arrested. On her shirt and hat she carried the name of each person who helped make it possible for her to be there so she could be wrapped in their energy. Each of us has a vital role to play—whether financially assisting others, spreading the news on social media, organizing meetings at home, or making coffee for those meetings. It truly takes everybody and there is a role for all, because none of us can do everything.
President Obama has signaled that he will consider taking executive action on immigration in light of congress’ failure to act by the end of this month. Please sign this petition to the President calling for Not One More Deportation. We must continue to join others in raising a moral voice in defense of children, parents, workers and families. Look for ways that you can reach out in love. Contact your congressional representatives and attend Town Halls while they are on recess to let them know what you think. Join actions at detention centers in your area. And if leaders in your community are considering offering shelter to unaccompanied immigrant children, we hope you will speak out to say they are welcome and find a way to make your welcome and support visible. Love is under attack. May we be love’s defenders.
Evin and Melissa Carvill-Ziemer
Evin is the Program Coordinator for the Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts of the UUA
Melissa is the Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent
P.S. Funds are still needed for the fines that were paid to release people who participated in the civil disobedience at the White House. Help support SSL’s ongoing immigration work by donating here.