Lift Up Your Voice in the National Days of Witness
The message below went out on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
This week, many of us commemorated a profoundly tragic anniversary. On May 28, 2010, 42-year-old Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was tased and beaten while in Border Patrol custody. He died shortly thereafter. A San Diego resident since he was a teenager, Anastasio was captured at the U.S.-Mexico border while trying to return to his wife, Maria, and his five children after having been deported. The incident, captured on camera, offers a chilling glimpse of his screams and pleas for his life as a dozen agents stand over him. Border Patrol has refused to release the names of the agents responsible or reveal whether those involved have been disciplined. More than 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for justice. But Anastasio is not the only victim. According to a PBS investigative documentary on Anastasio’s death, in the past two years, Border Patrol agents have killed at least 8 people from San Diego to Texas.
Anastasio’s story has been weighing on my mind and my heart as we approach Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in just a few short weeks. I know he is just one of countless individuals who have died or been killed at the border, in detention, or in the desert. Still, when I see his face, it is a searing reminder of why we are so committed as a denomination to seeking justice for all people living in our country, regardless of where they happened to be born. On June 20, over 3,500 of us will join our friends in the Southwest to shine the light of justice on the crimes being committed in the name of the U.S. government, and to flood our country with love. We will raise our voices to demand better.
Many of you will not be joining us in person, but will certainly be with us in spirit. If you cannot make it to Phoenix, please consider taking part in our National Days of Witness for Justice, June 20-24.
There are millions of reasons why advocacy for migrants and their families is a core part of our social justice work. In April, Alfonso Martinez Sanchez, 39, died in the Sonoran desert along the Arizona border while trying to return to his wife and children. Hundreds die in this desert each year while trying to reunite with their families. From January to June 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 46,486 undocumented parents who claimed to have at least one child who is an American citizen. It is for all these reasons, and many more, that we are going to Phoenix. We are going to Phoenix to demand the reform of our system of mass detention and deportation; to call for oversight for Border Patrol, which is daily committing human rights abuses; and to lift up our voices against the shameful spate of SB1070 copycats springing up across the country and in favor of compassionate laws that allow families to stay together.
I’m fortunate to be able to take the time to be in Phoenix and stand in solidarity with those mired in this immoral system, forced to choose between being away from their families or being in the country without papers. But wherever you find yourself this third week in June, you can join us—in prayer, through public witness in your local community, by calling elected officials and making a personal plea for an end to the criminalization of entire communities, and by visiting a local detention center and meeting firsthand with those who are trapped in this system, separated from their children, loved ones, and livelihood.
Thank you for all you do to infuse this campaign with such incredible spirit.
Standing on the Side of Love
P.S. I signed a petition to the Justice Dept. seeking answers and accountability for Anastasio Hernandez Rojas’ death. Will you please sign as well? Click here to sign.