“Hello, my name is Gaby and I am an undocumented student.”
That is how I have introduced myself to Florida congressional offices, Georgia Police Chiefs, the South Carolina Secretary of Education, and countless everyday folks along the Trail of Dreams I am walking from Miami to Washington, D.C.
Then, I hug them.
Something happens when I hug people. In their eyes, I am no longer an alien. They see me as a person, a person with love to give.
My friends, Juan, Felipe, Carlos and I are nearing the end of our 1,500-mile journey, during which we have shared our stories with thousands of people. When we arrive in D.C next week, we hope to meet with President Obama to share our stories yet again.
I would tell President Obama how my otherwise supportive university would be required to report me to Immigration Enforcement if I fell behind on my tuition payments. Felipe could share how he was accepted to several major universities, his life-long goal, and then discovered he couldn’t attend because he doesn’t have a social security number. Carlos would tell the President about how he was prepared to join the military and fight for the country he has lived in since he was two, but how his lack of legal documents made him ineligible.
President Obama has the power to set us free from fear today. He can institute an executive action halting detentions and deportations of undocumented students for two years, and halt removal proceedings for undocumented individuals with immediate family members who are U.S. Citizens. These immediate measures are an important first step towards larger and longer lasting reforms.
The Trail of Dreams will end on May 1st. But we will continue walking and standing on the side of love, until we grasp our dreams.
Thank you for your support,
Walker, Trail of Dreams
Dozens of faith leaders, immigration and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) activists gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds on April 14th to deliver a message to Congress: Americans Stand on the Side of Love.
During that period, nearly 15,000 people signed either the Petition for Full Equality for GLBT people or Immigration Cards for Congress. Those signatures were delivered to Congress, and the unique gathering held large blue signs stapled with the immigration postcards to spell out, “WE STAND ON THE SIDE OF LOVE.”
This event brought together two issues that are not clearly related, but often intersect: immigration and equality for GLBT people. The Standing on the Side of Love campaign works on both issues and many others – standing with anyone who faces exclusion, oppression, or violence because of who they are and lifting them up with the power of love.
John Crestwell, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis and Campaign Spokesperson, summed up the sentiments of those gathered, “We stand on the side of love with our neighbors who are shut out, dehumanized, or attacked just because of who they are,” said Crestwell. “No one is ‘okay to hate.’ We are all God’s children and all have inherent worth and dignity.”More >
Over sixty people answered the call to join the Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) witness at this morning’s Tea Party rally on Boston Common. Our invitation read:
Standing on the Side of Love is calling for civility and respect in the public dialogue. We stand on the side of love with all those who are being shut out, oppressed or attacked because of their identities, from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community, to immigrant families, and people of color. We believe there is room for political discourse for everyone, including the Tea Party, but what there is no room for is racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, fear and hatred. And there is certainly no room for name calling, spitting, and physical attacks. Love can overcome hatred and fear and bring our communities together.
About thirty people gathered on the steps of the Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters. We carried a large SSL banner down to the rally and placards reading “Harness the power of LOVE to stop oppression, exclusion, and violence,” “Standing on the side of love for LGBT equality,” “Standing on the side of love with immigrant families” and “Standing on the side of love and civility in public discourse.”
We were later joined by another thirty people; some came looking for Standing on the Side of Love and others found us. We were Unitarian Universalist members and clergy from congregations in Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Lexington, Medford, Jamaica Plain, Salem, Waltham, and Wayland. We were joined by Episcopalian ministers from Cambridge, Catholics from the Paulist Center, and congregants from a United Church of Christ congregation, as well as by community peace activists, faith labor leaders, and students.
There were several people with whom I talked and whose stories resonated with me. An African American minister said that she had been afraid to walk through the Common to a meeting she had planned later in the day and had told a friend. The friend then sent her a Facebook message about the Standing on the Side of Love witness at the Tea Party. The minister decided to join us, put on her clerical collar, and grabbed an SSL sign to take with her and hold.
A young self-identified lesbian asked if she could stand with us as she walking by and saw the banner. One of the Tea Party demonstrators came up to tell us that he was for immigration reform. Many people thanked us for being there.
Our group was quiet and friendly. We talked with lots of people and handed out wallet cards, brochures, buttons, and bumper stickers (we didn’t have t-shirts and so many people wanted them!) Our spokespeople were interviewed by the Associated Press, Fox News, the Boston Globe, and community newspapers.
I told the Associated Press that public discourse is great – there’s room for the tea party – but there’s no room for racism or homophobia or anti-immigrant sentiment. I was thrilled when they picked up that quote and now people all across the nation – Fresno, Dallas, South Carolina – know that we were there, standing on the side of love.More >
Immediate Release – April 14, 2010
CONTACT: Adam Gerhardstein | 513-313-0073 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Faith Leaders and Advocates Show Congress Love
Campaign Asks Lawmakers to Harness It’s Power to Stop Oppression
WASHINGTON, DC – Dozens of faith leaders, immigration and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) activists gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds today to deliver a message to Congress – Americans Stand on the Side of Love.
“We are bringing words of compassion and love to Capitol Hill, not homophobic and racist slurs,” said Adam Gerhardstein, campaign manager for the Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) campaign, referring to the treatment that some members of congress faced on Capitol Hill prior to the district work period.
During that period, the SSL campaign gathered 10,000 signatures on a petition for full equality for GLBT people and an additional 5,000 signatures supporting immigration reform. Those signatures were delivered to Congress this morning, and the unique gathering held large blue signs stapled with the immigration postcards to spell out, “WE STAND ON THE SIDE OF LOVE.” With one letter per sheet, the message stretched 50 feet.
“We are delivering petitions and postcards to lift up the importance of love for each other,” Gerhardstein said. “We will not allow extreme voices and acts of violence to overshadow the needs of the Americans who are most vulnerable and urgently need the protection of the law.”
This event brought together two issues that are not clearly related, but often intersect: immigration and equality for GLBT people. The SSL campaign works on both issues and many others – standing with anyone who faces exclusion, oppression, or violence because of who they are and lifting them up with the power of love. There are unique challenges faced at the intersection of identities, but those challenges can be overcome by love and respect.
“Unlike straight married couples, John could not sponsor me for legal permanent residency because we happen to be gay,” said Erwin De Leon, the immigrant half of a local bi-national couple who spoke about his experience during the event. “I need Congress to stand on the side of love with my family by passing comprehensive immigration reform and provide equality under the law for GLBT people.”
The SSL campaign is working to ensure that people like Erwin and his husband are taken into account and their concerns are addressed by Members of Congress. John Crestwell, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis and Campaign Spokesperson, summed up the sentiments of those gathered, “We stand on the side of love with our neighbors who are shut out, dehumanized, or attacked just because of who they are,” said Crestwell. “No one is ‘okay to hate.’ We are all God’s children and all have inherent worth and dignity.”
Standing on the Side of Love is a campaign sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association and promotes respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We believe that no person of any immigrant status, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, ability level, or political view should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence.
I have been walking from Miami towards Washington, D.C. for the past 98 days. Let me tell you why.
My parents brought me from Ecuador to the United States in 1993, when I was 7 years old. I am living in this country without the legal documents to be here, but this is the only country I have known as home.
I have the same hopes and dreams as other young people, and have worked hard to excel in school and contribute to my community. But because of my immigration status, I’ve spent my childhood in fear and hiding, unable to achieve my full potential.
I am walking with three friends in similar situations. We are sharing our stories and calling on our leaders to fix the system that forces people like us into the shadows, stripping us of the opportunity to participate fully in society.
Walker, Trail of Dreams