This coming Tuesday, February 27, I am traveling to D.C. to take part in the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers. Along with 30+ other women and men religious and 100-200 supporters, I will do civil disobedience in the Senate rotunda, and I will most likely be arrested. I wanted to share with you:
Why am I choosing to do this? What will happen on Tuesday? What can YOU do to support?
WHY: My experience with immigration:
As you probably know, I’ve worked with migrants for more than a decade. I’ve walked with hundreds of beautiful immigrants and learned the ins and outs of our complicated, broken system.
During my sophomore year at the University of Dayton, I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border, and my eyes were opened to the human beings at the center of our country’s debate about immigration. As a senior, I returned to the border to write my honors thesis about the reality of women immigrants. I also traveled to Honduras and Peru, and after college, I spent two years living in Ecuador as an international volunteer. First hand, I saw the “push factors,” why people choose to leave their home countries: unimaginable poverty, violence, lack of education and job opportunities, abuse, political oppression, and much more. My heart was broken and moved to do something.
While discerning religious life, I spent three years in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. I ministered at a shelter for migrants, a Catholic parish of Latino immigrants just a few blocks from the downtown border crossing, and our Sisters of Charity Proyecto Santo Niño center for kids with special needs in Anapra, Mexico. On the U.S. side of the border, I met beautiful families fleeing for their lives and for the futures of their children. In Mexico, I met beautiful families living in dire poverty, able to see the U.S. through the border fences from their tiny lean-to houses on dirt roads, but never able to cross into its prosperity.
Back in Cincinnati, I volunteered at Su Casa Hispanic Center and the Free Health Center in Price Hill, where I began to meet local immigrant families. I worked in the Catholic Social Action Office where I taught about immigration and helped to organize for justice. Now, I’ve been the Bilingual Pastoral Minister at Holy Family Parish for two and a half years. Our congregation is more than half Guatemalan. These immigrant parishioners are amazing people – beautiful, tight-knit families, so dedicated to their faith and communities, and yet living every day in uncertainty because of their legal status. I’ve traveled to Guatemala and met the family members that our parishioners had to leave behind. I held Guatemalan mothers who will probably never see their children again, and I felt their tears drop on my shoulder.
Through all of these years and experiences, I’ve grown to know the U.S. immigration system inside and out. I know that people can’t “just come the right way.” For most immigrants that I know, there is NO legal way for them to come to the United States. I’ve learned about the treacherous journeys moms, dads, and kids undertake to escape their desperate situations: saying goodbye to their loved ones, maybe forever; riding on the tops of trains; getting assaulted and raped; walking through the desert for days with nothing to eat or drink. They do this for thousands of miles. If they make it to the U.S., they live in falling-down apartments in dangerous parts of town. They work back-breaking jobs with long hours and unfair wages. People judge them, discriminate against them, and target them for crimes. I’ve learned about the winding court cases people deal with for years, often only to get deported at the end. I’ve watched pregnant mothers walk around with ankle monitors, and I’ve watched Immigration Customs Enforcement tear apart families through deportation.
WHY NOW? D.A.C.A.:
Over the last few years, I’ve followed the journey of the Dreamers, immigrant youth granted temporary status in the U.S. through D.A.C.A. (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). These are young people whose brave parents (the people I’ve been talking about) brought them to the U.S. while they were still small children. They have grown up in the United States, and now they are in high school, college, and beyond. They are studying and working while often serving as the breadwinners and chauffeurs for their families since D.A.C.A. allows them a work permit and a driver’s license. Most of them don’t remember their home countries. They are Americans.
In the fall, President Trump announced that he would cancel D.A.C.A., putting our beloved immigrant youth at risk of deportation, back to countries that they don’t even know. He said it was up to Congress to fix the program by March 5th. The courts have since blocked his action, but we can’t count on a resolution. Our immigrant youth need protection, without legislation that would harm their families and other immigrants.
Recently, I’ve done all I could to support the movement for justice that brave Dreamers are leading across the country: call and visit my legislators, join rallies, write op-eds, and participate in an Ohio letter campaign that collected 17,000+ letters. Our elected officials are not listening. Protecting our immigrant youth should be a no-brainer, and yet Congress fails repeatedly to do their job. I'm ashamed and outraged by the immoral inaction that holds Dreamers and their families in limbo.
WHY GET ARRESTED? Deciding to do civil disobedience:
A few weeks ago, friends at Faith in Public Life called to see if they could fly me to D.C. to participate in nonviolent disobedience in support of Dreamers. I knew I had to take the invitation seriously, and I felt drawn into deep discernment. Of course, I felt strongly about the issues, but was God indeed calling me to risk arrest? Did the action make sense strategically? Would Dreamers support us doing this? I spent much time in prayer. I felt the tug of words from our Sister of Charity Vision statement: "We will strive to be persons who...risk being prophetic in church and society.” I had conversations with trusted friends and mentors: partners on the ground in D.C., sisters who have participated in civil disobedience and those who have chosen not to, and, most importantly, José Cabrera, my sister Andrea’s co-worker who is a Dreamer. They all helped me to sort through motivations, hesitations, passion, and prayers.
In the end, the call became clear. I must put love in action. The Gospel tells me that everyone is my neighbor, my brother, my sister. As a follower of Jesus, I cannot sit idly by while our country oppresses young people and uses them as bargaining chips. I’m sure of it: God is urging me to stand with other Catholic leaders to tell Congress, again, that if they want to be on the right side of history, they must protect our immigrant youth. Our Dreamers aren't giving up the fight, and I want them to know that we won't either.
WHAT will happen on Tuesday:
On Tuesday morning, 2/27, all of us participants will begin the day in a private Mass with Lexington bishop John Stowe. At 10:30a.m., we will have a press conference outside, across from the Russell Senate building. At 11:00a.m., we will begin our prayerful action. Those of us risking arrest will stand in a circle in the middle of the Russell Senate building rotunda. The supporters will gather in a circle around us and on the balconies. Bishop John Stowe will bless us, and then we will join in song and praying the rosary. All Catholic Senators and Representatives have received invitations to the demonstration.
Because we are drawing attention to ourselves and making a scene in a public place, the police will be called. They will ask us to move, and we won’t, so they will arrest us one by one and take us to local police stations to process. We’ll each be charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” a misdemeanor. We have the option of “post and forfeit,” which means that we can pay a $50 fine, and our charge will be dropped to something minor. We won’t go to court, and we won’t have criminal charges on our records. We’ll sit in jail for probably anywhere from two to six hours.
We hope to draw media attention and raise awareness of the urgency. It is our hope that this large, collaborative effort among Catholic faith leaders will prick the consciences of our legislators and people across the country.
When I risk arrest, I will carry in my heart the hundreds of immigrants I know and love dearly. I will stand for José, all Dreamers, and their families. I will stand for my fellow parishioners at Holy Family Church who live in daily uncertainty because of our unjust immigration policies. I will stand for Maribel Trujillo and all the families that have been torn apart. And I will stand for all those who have given their energy to this movement across the country.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?:
I need you to know why I am going. I need to you to know that this issue is important enough to me to risk getting arrested. And, most importantly, I am asking you to do a few small things to help our effort be successful:
1) CALL your legislators! Please, really, call. Even if you have never called before. It takes less than five minutes. Call at least twice, once Monday, once Tuesday. If you can call every day until March 5th, that’s even better!
· Monday: TOMORROW is the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ National Call-in Day for Dreamers.
o Call 855-589-5698 to reach the Capitol switchboard, and press 1 to connect to your Senators. Once you are connected to each Senator's office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver this simple message:
"I urge you to support a bipartisan, common-sense, and humane solution for Dreamers:
"I urge you to support a bipartisan, common-sense, and humane solution for Dreamers:
§ Protect Dreamers from deportation and provide them with a path to citizenship.
§ Reject proposals that undermine family immigration or protections for unaccompanied children.
§ As a Catholic/person of faith, I know that families are not "chains," but a blessing to be protected.
§ Act now to protect Dreamers, our immigrant brothers and sisters.
o Please call 855-589-5698 a second time to reach the Capitol switchboard again, and press 2 to connect to your Representative. Once you are connected to the Representative's office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver the same message as above.
· Tuesday: We are urging people to call in solidarity with our action! Call your Senators at 1-888-410-0619; call twice to reach both your Senators. Call your Representatives at 1-888-496-3502. Tell them that your friend/relative is participating in the action at the Senate, and tell them to protect DREAMERs. Continue to call these numbers every day until March 5th!
2) SPREAD THE WORD: Please feel free to forward this blog.
· On my Facebook page, I’ll be posting a video that you can share.
· On Tuesday, you can watch the action LIVE on PICO Network’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PICOnetwork/. Please share that video as well. We need thousands of people to know this is happening and call their legislators!
· You can follow #Catholics4DREAMers on social media.
3) PRAY: I go to D.C. in hope that through our action, the Holy Spirit may change hearts. I count on your prayers, for us, for DREAMERs, and our legislators.