Rev. David Carl Olson is Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. His work for social justice involves actions of solidarity with people of Central America and the Caribbean, the world-wide struggle for peace and local congregation-based community organizing. As a minister, he helped found CBCOs in Boston, Massachusetts and Flint, Michigan.
We were seven from First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. We drove to the Beltway in a couple of cars and then took the Metro into Washington, D.C. We would walk to the National Mall and join with the Standing on the Side of Love delegation to show our deep concern that this nation live into its promise.
I got to share a seat on the Metro with a family from Glen Burnie, Maryland, who were excited to be going to the March. Their three-year old son, Juan Carlos, wanted to see out the window, and so he sat in my lap.
I loved the chance to get to know this family better. They are from Guatemala, and have lived in Virginia and Maryland for a decade. They have always worked their jobs, paid their taxes, cared for each other, raised their little boy—and they fear, each day, that they might be deported. “Last week,” the mother said in hushed tones, “there was a raid in our town.” They wonder, “If I am taken, what will happen to our little boy.”
Juan Carlos is a United States citizen, born and raised here by parents who needed to find a better life than they could have in rapidly changing Guatemala. And so they came here, they overstayed their visas, they worked in ways that they could, learned English, tried to build a life here.
I shared with them the story of my own partner. Once he had received an AIDS diagnosis, he knew that he could never get access to the care that he needed in his home country, and decided that he needed to do anything he could to stay here. And so he, too, lived in fear of raids and deportation.
This immigrant family was proud that they were able to do something public. With friends and neighbors from CASA Maryland, they risked exposure to stand with hundreds of thousands who were calling for immigration reform. Mother and father and three-year old marched to say that they were willing to abide by the laws of our country if only they could stay together as a family, if only they could be part of the American dream.
This, of course, is what my own Irish and Swedish great-grandparents and grandparents wanted. My own dad, US-born, used to say, “I started my life in four rooms with a path (a house with no indoor toilet), and now my son has gone to college!” Always made him laugh!
I wonder what little Juan Carlos will say when he has the opportunity to look back on his life with his parents who risked everything for him. I hope he’ll have a chance to remember and appreciate, and even laugh.
Imagine being arrested for having your immigrant neighbor over for dinner.
The Arizona House of Representatives is poised to vote on a bill that would criminalize the presence of the state’s estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants through an expansion of its trespassing law; AND it would make it a state crime to transport or conceal undocumented immigrants. The message being sent is clear: you are not welcome in our state, our vehicles, or our homes.
This is just one example of why we need sane and humane comprehensive immigration reform.
No one knows this better than immigrants.
An immigrant-led coalition is leading a massive effort this weekend to reinvigorate the push for immigration reform.
On Sunday, in Washington, D.C., an expected 100,000 people will descend on the National Mall to March for America. Standing on the Side of Love will be there starting at 1:00 PM, between 7th and 9th streets, and you can still register to join us!
Over a dozen local events are happening across the country at the same time, including one in Arizona. You can check on Reform Immigration for America’s website to see if there is one near you.
Look, I know it is easy to get disillusioned about what is happening in Washington right now. Much needed policy reforms are taking a back seat to mind-numbing politics. But immigrant families can’t wait for reform.
I am not going to miss an opportunity to stand with my neighbors. I hope you will join me in whatever way you can.
P.S. Almost 100 congregations have ordered Cards for Congress. Thousands of people will be signing their cards this weekend to call for comprehensive immigration reform. The last day to order cards will be Sunday, April 4th, so order your cards now.More >
This is the fifth and final blog in a series chronicling the adventures of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign in San Diego between Thursday, February 25th and Sunday, February 28th. This blog is written by Daniel Stracka, founder of Unitarian Universalist Refugee and Immigrant Services and Education (UURISE), a non-profit agency dedicated to justice for immigrants and refugees and chair of the San Diego County Unitarian Universalist Network (SUUN), a cluster organization.
Our immigration laws are creating chaos and fear in the lives of immigrants and citizens. Our current members of Congress must look deep into that well of wisdom, which Stephen Shick suggests our founders of the United States of America had done by crafting dreams of democracy out of chaos. Elected officials must change the immigration laws that break families and break hearts, and stand on the side of love with immigrant families.
This standing on the side of love and walking the talk of justice can be exhausting but oh so satisfying! I am proud of having participated in the Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families Public Witness Rally in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the Federal Building in San Diego.
Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube of First UU Church of San Diego offered an opening prayer in which he invoked the inherent worth and dignity of each person. Rev Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, drew the distinction between immigration as a legal issue and a moral issue. He reminded us that throughout our history there have been laws that, while legal, were immoral. I hear a call!
Bishop Brenda Evans Cooper of Christ Chapel World Ministry provided an interfaith perspective that none of us and no immigrant should give up hope in a quest for freedom. I realized that interfaith does not mean we all believe alike, but we can all join in upholding the right of all persons, regardless of place of birth, to freedom.
A litany was presented by UU ministers, Rev Kathleen Green and Rev David Miller, to which the crowd responded “I stand on the side of love.” The power of public response was transforming for me. It reminded me that I am not in this alone and that together we do make a difference.
Enrique Morones, founder of Border Angels, called on all of us as citizens of the world to recognize that those seeking refuge in the United States of America are human beings and should be treated humanely regardless of the route their journey as taken them. I am emboldened by his passion for human rights, not as an ideal, but as a practice. Border Angels provides water and clothing for migrants in the desert. Over 4000 people have died since 1994. The image of one woman, Leticia, who died in the arms of her 15 year old son while crossing through the desert will not leave me.
Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson of Palormar UU Fellowship provided a closing prayer in which she invoked that love and compassion should be our guide, and that sometimes breaking a law while standing for love is a result of unjust laws.
I have been transformed by the events over four days of witness in San Diego. What I hold most in my heart is a five year old U.S. citizen child, who well could have been the child of Jorge, the man whom Adam, Kathy, Dick, Mar, Michanne, and I met at the border in Mexico, who came up to me and with all the courage she could muster, looked me directly in the eyes and asked “When will you bring my papa home?” I am standing on the side of love for this child and all the immigrant families who are broken by our broken immigration laws.
We were entertained by Greg Brown and Dave Ploeser of North Crust Blue-geois Band, and by singer/song writer Chris Hassett, who wrote a song, “A Strange Kind of Gratitude” for the occasion. See the lyrics at www.chrishassett.com.
Join the National March for America in Washington, D.C. on March 21st. More information here.
This is the fourth in a blog series, chronicling the adventures of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign in San Diego between Thursday, February 25th and Sunday, February 28th. This blog is written by Martin Kruming, who is building bonds between churches to become more effective justice advocates. On Saturday, February 27th, he helped organize a gathering of six local Unitarian Universalist Congregations for a Social Justice Conference.
I’ve always realized the power and impact of a penny. When I spot one on a sidewalk, in an airport or at a grocery store, I’ll pick it up. By themselves, pennies don’t buy much these days; but you put them with other pennies and now you’re on to something. Pool them with nickels, dimes, quarters and even a $20.00 bill that my wife found in the bushes during a walk, and you’ve really got something. It’s the same story with Unitarian Universalist churches and social justice work. Each one is powerful and can get things done but together a Cluster or group of them can do so much more for the homeless, marriage equality, immigrants, the environment – you name it. And when Unitarian Universalists link with other churches, people and groups, the possibilities soar.
Saturday, February 27th, some 30 Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay leaders spent five hours together at Palomar UU Fellowship in Vista, about 40 miles north of downtown San Diego to talk about social justice and what we could do together that would have an impact on the entire county. What if we made bowls and fed homeless families? What if we read to grade school kids at nearby Camp Pendleton whose Marine moms or dads were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? What if we gathered clothes, computers and more for colonias in Tijuana? Imagine what six churches together rather than one church alone – sort of a 6 vs. 1 concept. Toward the end of Saturday’s 1st Annual Social Justice Conference, we had the plan as well as the vision. We’ve had a San Diego County Cluster for four years but social justice has always been an individual church story – until today.
Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson, the minister at Palomar, probably put it best: “It’s obvious that we can do more together than we can do alone. We can continue to be that liberal, progressive beacon in San Diego County. This is a special and auspicious day.”
I was fascinated to hear UUs in the room share their passion for social justice and the words they used to describe it. Caring and need were at the top of the list. As we listened to Adam Gerhardstein talk during lunch of Subway sandwiches about the Standing On the Side of Love Campaign, we knew how powerful this 6 vs.1 concept was and how our work in San Diego is really all about love. Ironically, during our Social Justice Weekend a noose was found hanging in the library at the University of California at San Diego campus, just a few miles south.
Pennies. They’re the building blocks; they’re the connectors; they’re the “little people” in the world of millions, billions and trillions. Later that week, as I headed to a meeting in downtown San Diego, I spotted a penny on the sidewalk. I bent down, picked it up and when I got home dropped it into my 2010 Trader Joe’s coffee can of coins.More >
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Jorge’s son went to kindergarten this morning, but Jorge didn’t kiss him goodbye. Jorge is in Tijuana, on one side of a wall stretching 800 miles, and Jorge’s son is on the other side of the wall in San Diego.
I crossed that wall for the first time in my life last Friday and Jorge was the first person I met. He was standing at the border wall where it runs into the sea.
I was traveling with five immigration reform advocates from four different churches in San Diego. Jorge shared his story with us so that we could share it with you.
Please listen to Jorge tell his story and then take action for immigration reform by ordering Cards for Congress.
As I spoke with Jorge, any hang-ups I had previously had about who should or shouldn’t be allowed to continue living their lives in the United States melted away. The pain in his voice when he spoke of his family moved me far beyond any thoughts of the documents he lacked.
I wish you could have met Jorge. I wish you could have traveled with me into the downtrodden neighborhoods of Tijuana.
I know that many people who are a part of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign have mixed feelings about how to reform our immigration system. That is okay. What is not okay is, in the face of human suffering, to hide behind laws humans can change.
The Spirit of Life and the Love of God cross every border. Our Love can as well.
P.S. Don’t forget to register for the March for America on March 21st in Washington D.C. Help reach our goal of 150 people marching under the banner of Standing on the Side of Love. Register now!More >