As I have done on a number of occasions through my work with the Immigrant Justice Action Team of the UU Justice Ministry of California, this past weekend I took an incredible group of travelers on a Justice Journey to Tijuana as part of our UUBorders program to learn firsthand the injustices of the US immigration laws. The six UU travelers included three ministers and one Christian priest from Argentina. As often happens Miracles can appear. We visited a cafe and community center associated with Food not Bombs. There we met Nicole Ramos, an immigration attorney and tireless advocate for asylum seekers (and a former guest on UURoundtable). She had been working with the LGBTQ Migrants who had completed an arduous and dangerous journey across Mexico. Each hoped to apply for asylum. In our conversations Nicole shared that 14 members of this community of Migrants, seven couples, would like to get married. Would we be able to marry them? And of course with great joy we said YES. We were deeply grateful that this community of courageous Migrants welcomed us and trusted that our three ministers and a priest could create a deeply moving wedding ceremony in Spanish. And indeed they did. Although the marriages would not be recognized by Mexico, they would be recognized by the UU Church of the Larger Fellowship, an international congregation known around the world. But our Faith leaders were not the only hands at work. A member of our group found a jeweler to provide silver rings; others provided wedding cakes, others provided bouquets. And still other hands created a beautiful altar in front of the cafe with flowers and a Rainbow Flag draped with exquisite effect. So four hours after Nicole's request, a wedding with seven ceremonies began. As each couple married, the joy and love they had for each other was visible in their smiles, laughter and affection. And the love and support they received from their LGBTQ Migrant Community who surrounded us was amazing. Yes the Miracle of what love can bring grew and intensified with each marriage and filled this plaza and touched us all. We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but we who were so fortunate to witness and experience this evening. We will carry with us this gift of a Miracle from an amazing and courageous community.
~Dennis Brown, co-chair Immigrant Justice Team, UUJMP.S. Our Faith Leaders who performed the ceremony were Rev. Leslie Takahashi, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, Rev. Rodney Lemery, Father Hugo Cordova Quero and Lay Minister Mar Cárdenas Loutzenhiser.
Today the UU Justice Ministry of California, through our Immigrant Justice Action Team, endorsed the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE. For some people the proposal to ‘abolish’ a part of our government seems a step too far. For others it is long overdue. I want to speak to those who consider the abolition of ICE an ask that is too much for our Unitarian Universalist faith. I want to tell you that I, too, was once someone who felt that we cannot simply abolish a wing of our government. How will we have any ‘control’? How will we implement an effective immigration system? Is this the same as open borders? If so, is there any way it can pass? I was a skeptic. Then I spoke to people. I spoke with a mother who’s son was taken at night and put in a van. He was pulled out of his home at 4am with his son and daughter weeping as he was handcuffed. I heard of a Honduran woman who came to seek asylum with her 23 month-old granddaughter. It took two months for her to find her granddaughter after she bonded out. I learned of ICE raids in communities that strike fear in communities of color and destroy trust. I heard of a victim of domestic violence too afraid to call police because ICE had raided her neighbors house screaming ‘POLICE’ and she feared she would be deported. I learned how ICE has become a paramilitary force preying on our communities of color across the country, not just at the border. But we can’t call for ICE without having a plan to replace it with something. Yes, we can. ICE was only created in March 2003. Many among our congregations have children older than ICE! Our country in its current form existed for a long time before ICE existed. Immigration and Naturalization Services, along with a number of border and revenue agencies, carried out enforcement of laws and policies, albeit without the tanks, helicopters, guns, drones and other paramilitary operations. In abolishing ICE we can and will work with partners and allies in negotiating a more humane system of immigration enforcement that at the very least values the worth and dignity of those in our communities. We must stare our fears in the face and name them. We must challenge our discomfort with what we think is unknown. We must not allow our government to continue the criminalization of people of color. We must have the courage to confront the racially biased and inhumane treatment of our community members. Today the UU Justice Ministry of California joins many organizations already calling for the abolition of ICE. We will be putting out more resources in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, please check out this editorial from the Guardian for some additional information. Thank you for your time and I hope you will consider supporting the abolition of ICE. If you are a delegate to the #UUAGA in Kansas City, we urge you to support the Action of Immediate Witness entitled "End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE". Sincerely, Evan Junker Executive Director
Prayer for Living in Tension If we have any hope of transforming the world and changing ourselves, we must be bold enough to step into our discomfort, brave enough to be clumsy there, loving enough to forgive ourselves and others. May we, as a people of faith, be granted the strength to be so bold, so brave, and so loving. -Rev. Joseph M. Cherry