by Helen Gray, First Universalist Church, Denver, CO
Calling it “half good news,” Judy and Raul Cardenas of Denver, CO, emerged from Raul’s deportation hearing with one of the outcomes they were hoping for – a continuance of Raul’s case until November.
Raul and Judy, married since 2002, have captured the attention of UU members and clergy, and immigration activists around the country because of their their efforts to keep the family from being torn apart by Raul’s potential deportation back to Mexico. They are parents to their seven-year-old daughter, Pamela, and to Judy’s teenaged sons from an earlier marriage, Billy and Sammy. They also care for Judy’s 90-year-old father, Wayne.
“This is the first time in my memory where a UU family has been touched so strikingly (by the immigration laws),” said Rev. Nancy Bowen, District Executive of the UUA Mountain Desert District. “This is a desperate situation. It’s up close and personal.”
“These are our children, they were dedicated in our church, they are part of our religious education programs,” Rev. Bowen said. In explaining why the Cardenas case has become a rallying cry for the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, Rev. Bowen said it’s about family integrity. “To take a family that’s intact and raising children successfully and doing so well in every aspect of their lives, and to tear them apart based on an act that happened 10 years ago, is not the way we should be treating people, any people.”
A decade ago, Raul Cardenas, who was single at the time, came to the United States to work, but without any documentation. His marriage to Judy, a US citizen, was not enough to grant him legal residence status or a work permit. The Department of Homeland Security brought him up on violating immigration laws in 2009.
For the hearing, Rev. Bowen and 19 other UU clergy from Colorado and Utah and Idaho and Montana came en masse to Denver Immigration Court of the Department of Justice. They were joined by a cluster of supporters from Judy’s home church, First Universalist of Denver, representing the church’s Immigration Justice Task force.
The hearing itself lasted only eight minutes. The immigration judge, Eileen Trujillo, determined that the two key documents, an approved marriage petition and a request for “prosecutorial discretion,” had not made their way through the legal and paperwork maze at the Department of Homeland Security yet. The continuance buys the family important time.
“Now there’s time for something else to happen,” said Judy. “That’s what we need, is time.”
The “something else” she referred to could be official recognition of all the community support that has come out for Raul’s case. Thousands of people around the country who have signed petitions through the Standing on the Side of Love website, and through Change.org. Nearly 4000 people have signed petitions directed to the Department of Homeland Security, sent faxes or emails to local elected leaders urging them to intervene, or made phone calls. A You Tube video of their story, “This is What Undocumented Looks Like: Raul and Judy Cardenas,” has had almost 4300 hits.
The family has gotten some support from the Colorado congressional delegation, but not enough to get Raul the Green Card that would allow him to stay in this country permanently.
For the hearing, the clergy, who were on a ministerial retreat in northern Colorado, all wore their colorful liturgical stoles. The small immigration hearing room, which normally has two or three people watching the proceedings, was filled to capacity with the Cardenas supporters. Judge Trujillo noted the crowd’s presence for the court record.
Rev. Bowen estimated the clergy represent at least 2500 UU members in congregations across the Mountain Desert District.
After the short hearing, the ministers posed outside for photos with the family while holding a large yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” banner. They broke into song, singing “Love Will Guide Us,” and embraced Judy and Raul.
The Immigration Justice Task Force at First Universalist Church in Denver came about a year and a half ago exclusively because of Judy Cardenas, a longtime member of the church. According to task force chairman Dr. Pete Peterson, the task force designation has allowed the group to do things with the authority of the church behind them; things like using the church’s name when they go out to talk with lawmakers or other citizen groups, or getting money for related activities.
Peterson said one thing other churches can learn from the First Universalist’s experience is that a task force empowers people. Members of the task force, he said, take it upon themselves to do things on their own that bring attention to the larger issues.
As for Raul Cardenas, the man at the center of the story, he is in legal limbo until November. Although he remains with his family, he doesn’t have permission to work, nor can he return to Mexico to visit any of his relatives there. After the hearing, he appeared stunned and not quite sure what to make of the legal posturing. “I’m just waiting for a solution,” he said.More >
Maryland has passed a state-level DREAM Act!
The Old Line State’s legislative session ended at midnight last night, and passage of the measure to help undocumented young people that want to attend college was a nail-biter. The University of MD Diamondback reports the measure “passed in a last-minute vote yesterday, after students and other activists prayed, cried and lobbied their legislators well into the night.”
Under the new law, students will pay in-state tuition if they graduated from a state high school, complete 60+ credits from a community college and can provide income tax returns for themselves and their parents for the last three years.
Standing on the Side of Love provided some clergy support for the legislation. In addition, we made this video last February of a Casa De Maryland press conference for the legislation:
In the absence of federal movement, Maryland’s new DREAM Act is a very positive development.
Ten states — including Texas, California, Kansas, New York, Wisconsin and Illinois — currently offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students.More >
Dan Furmansky is the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Manager.
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Monday, April 11, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Over these past few months, so many of you have opened your hearts to Judy Cardenas, her husband, Raul, and their children. You have taken the time to learn about this family’s plight, and how you could help. You have placed phone calls to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and urged them to halt Raul’s deportation from the United States. And you have sent faxes and emails to elected officials to urge them to intervene so that this family will not be torn apart. Thank you.
Over the next 24 hours, Raul and his family’s fate truly hangs in the balance. Tomorrow is his hearing in Federal Immigration Court.
Will you take action one more time to make sure that Raul isn’t separated from his wife, his daughter, his stepsons, and from their home and the life they have built together in Denver?
I am so thankful that this family has such a tremendous community to support them. Accompanying Raul and Judy to Federation Immigration Court will be friends and family, fellow congregants at First Universalist of Denver (including members of the congregation’s outstanding Immigration Justice Task Force), and an amazing group of up to 20 clergy led by Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland of First Universalist Denver, and Rev. Nancy Bowen, UUA Mountain Desert District Executive. These clergy will be at the hearing Tuesday with the Standing on the Side of Love banner – a banner that connects Judy and Raul and their children to thousands of us across the country that will be with them in spirit.
Our broken immigration system is shattering lives every day – tearing families apart, leading to unchecked vigilantism and Draconian laws, and allowing unspeakable human rights violations to take place. We can’t fix these problems all at once. But we can start with this one family who have asked for our help…who need our help…and who love and depend on each other and simply can’t bear the thought of being separated.
Please take action today for Raul and Judy and their children – it WILL make a difference. Let ICE officials know that the country will be watching Denver tomorrow; that we are standing on the side of love with Raul and Judy and their children; and that we want this family to stay intact.
Standing on the Side of Love
Dan Furmansky is the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Manager.
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Friday, April 8, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Earlier this week, seven DREAM students in Georgia — young people who grew up in this country but are undocumented residents — put their own futures on the line in order to stand up for the right for all undocumented students to get a college education.
In October 2010, the Georgia Board of Regents explicitly barred undocumented youth from admission to many public universities in the state. This is wrong.
In response to the implementation of the ban on higher education, this week, these seven students publicly identified themselves as undocumented immigrants and participated in a sit-in at Georgia State University. Their goal is to draw attention to the plight of thousands of undocumented youth just like them and call on GSU President Mark Becker to not implement the ban on undocumented students. The students were arrested and spent a night in jail for their civil disobedience. Let’s make sure their efforts were not in vain.
Can you join with Standing on the Side of Love and DREAM students everywhere to make sure that undocumented students have the opportunity to go to college?
Every year, more than 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in this country. These young people deserve the opportunity to get a college education.
Several states, including California, New York, and Maryland, are seriously considering state-level DREAM Acts that would grant undocumented students in-state tuition if they graduate from high school in that state and their parents are tax-payers. Unfortunately, Georgia is moving in the wrong direction by blatantly supporting educational discrimination.
These seven undocumented students — Dulce, David, Andrea, Dayanna, Maria, Georgina, Viridina and Jose Rico — have sent a strong message with their actions. They are risking their own future dreams to make sure that thousands of other undocumented students like them can believe in the American Dream and the promise of a college education.
Please join with us to speak out against this injustice, and ask your friends and family to join with us as well.
In partnership and solidarity,
Standing on the Side of Love
Since January, local groups in Kansas have been working together to defeat three egregious anti-immigrant bills: a repeal of current state law that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students who grew up in the state; a Voter ID bill; and legislation modeled after Arizona’s Draconian SB 1070.
On March 13, a large interfaith coalition attended the hearings to oppose the legislation. Local ministers, including Rev. Lisa Romantum Schwartz of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka and Rev. Jill Jarvis of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, were joined by members from their congregations as well as members of All Souls, Kansas City, all dressed in their yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts.
“There was lots of opposition to the bill, and some religious group there passed out stickers featuring Leviticus 19:34 (on loving the stranger/alien), and most of us UUs wore those, too,” said Rev. Schwartz. “I never thought I’d be in a group of socially conscious UUs, all sporting a quote from Leviticus! But it actually felt really good to be able to stand on the side of love with people who are religiously different from us.”
Rev. Schwartz explained one key reason why her congregation was so concerned about defeating this legislation: “The main thing that got my ire up was a clause that said anyone providing shelter or support to undocumented workers would be violating the law. The Topeka Fellowship does work with undocumented people by supporting with money and volunteers with VIDA ministries, a Presbyterian-sponsored organization that provides ESL classes with child care, a community garden, computer classes and more to latino/a people, regardless of their ‘legal’ status.”
Written testimony was submitted by the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, KS and their minister, Rev. Jill Jarvis, offered testimony at the hearing. In addition to Rev. Jarvis, UU Angela Ferguson of All Souls Kansas City, an immigration attorney, also gave testimony.
The bills were defeated in the House. Angela Ferguson explained, “We were successful because of the broad base of our coalition. The business community had a coalition of 35 associations, ranging from Chambers of Commerce to the Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association. We had ACLU, churches, students, schools, and immigrant rights organizations.”
In the midst of the flurry of hearings in March, an Interfaith Prayer Vigil was held at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS on March 22nd to pray for tolerance, respect, and peace regarding immigration in Kansas. Members from St. John’s Catholic Church, Central United Methodist, the Jewish Community, the Islamic Community, Peace Mennonite Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Plymouth Congregational Church, and Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence all gathered and held candles and prayed. (For more pictures, see the Facebook page.)
Kansas and Missouri congregations plan to continue standing on the side of love with immigrant families. Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, with their interfaith allies in Lawrence Action Network for Diversity (L.A.N.D.) and members of All Souls, Kansas City, will participate in a peaceful witness at University of Kansas on April 12 when Secretary of State Kris Kobach is scheduled to speak. The UU Fellowship of Topeka is reading Death of Josseline and planning a study group of the book, and the congregation continues to support VIDA ministries in Topeka and their ‘sister community’ in Talpetates, El Salvador. All Souls, Kansas City is planning an Immigration service on May 15th, focusing on No More Deaths, and continues to be active in their interfaith coalition, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation.
Kansas UU’s are a model for how to stand on the side of love with effective results!More >