I sat with Juan Carlos, I marched for America
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.