Monday, July 20, 2009

Reflections of Solidarity-The Mother of An Immigrant

Last week, Don Juan Manuel Patraca shared one of his many amazing poems with us. In it, he shares the emotions of an immigrant and the love that sustains him even in his isolation. To read last week's reflection, scroll down.

Week Three Reflection, Rabbi Leonard Oppenheimer's D'Var Torah

In this week's reflection, Rabbi Oppenheimer discusses the historical context of the Torah's commandments on how to interact with immigrants and how those commandments are still relevant today.

"The Torah gives us a reminder - one commandment, one reminder, for every 11 years of suffering in captivity in Egypt: Not just once or twice, but 36 times, in the most repeated commandment in Torah, we are taught about our obligation to the stranger and the vulnerable"

To read the rest of, and leave a response to, Rabbi's Oppenhiemer's D'Var Torah go to the shrine and light your candle. No registration is necessary to leave a candle or a comment.

Last Week's Reflection

*English follows Spanish
Lo Siguiente fue escrito por Juan Manuel Patraca y esta reproducido de su libro “32 Biografías para Gente Sencilla” con su permisión. Todos sus poesías son escritos en Ingles y Español.

The following was written by Juan Mauel Patraca and was copied, with his permission, from his book "32 Biographies of Humble People". All his poetry is in both Spanish and English.

"La Madre de un Inmigrante-The Mother of an Immigrant"

Te inscribo estas líneas, espero estés bien, día a día
Hoy, como inmigrante estoy en este país extraño.
Añoro y siento la nostalgia de tu sonrisa
De tus religiosos “bueno días” y tacto de la bondad de tus manos.

Como inmigrante; tú no sabes cuan, vulnerable estoy y extraño
Tu mirada; que siempre me regalabas cristalina y bondadosa,
Tu filosofía y sapiencia de tantos años acumulados.
Tu filantropía, que das al moribundo hermano; dispuesta.

En este inmigrante-país me despierto y despliego la pereza,
Con fe e insuperable fervor, doy gracias a mi bondadoso dios;
Por volverme en sí, de mi muerte prematura.
Pero, sobre todo por ser molécula de su sangre y corazón.

Acá; como incontables inmigrantes, vivo en destierro y mucho miedo
He sufrido; discriminación, hambre, sed, granizo, lluvia y nieve.
En ese momento esta tu mirada angelical, que jamás olvido;
Flaqueo y tu cual martillo golpeas y mi voluntad la mueves.

Gracias mil; por tus buenos deseos, bendiciones por ser como eres
Te veo en tus domésticos quehaceres, percibo tu mirada prodigiosa.
Eres un faro inextinguible, estando en la cordillera de Everest,
Ángel, que apareces en mis sueños; rezo, te veo como una diosa.

Desconozco, que futuro espero adverso, como tantos inmigrantes;
Menos aun sé; si en este país, moriré pobre, miserable, o rico.
Cabal; yo sé, si olvido de usted, (10,000 veces) perverso seré.
Moriría en paz, porque de una humilde mujer mexicana fui hijo.

I write you these lines hoping you are well from day to day

I find myself today as an immigrant in this strange country.
I feel and long for the nostalgia of your smile,

Your religious “Buenos días” the tactful goodness in your hands.

As an immigrant, you cannot know how vulnerable and awash I am.
I miss your gaze, crystalline and gracious around my shoulders.

The wisdom, culled from your many gathered years,
Your selflessness, every present at the side of my moribund brother.


In this immigrants-country I struggle to wake and expand myself every morning.

With faith and fervor I give thanks to god’s goodness

For returning me from an early death

But above all, for being flesh, and heart of your heart.


Here, like countless immigrants, I live in exile and fear.

I have suffered discrimination, hunger, thirst, rain, snow and hail

In those moments it was only your angelic sight that I did not forget.
When I stumble, like a hammer, you strike my will to fight and I walk on.


A thousand thanks for your good wishes, blessings, for being who you are.

I see you moving to the rhythm of daily life, pervaded by your grace

You are a torch on my path to Everest

An angel that appears in my dreams and prayers.

Like so many immigrants I cannot know the hard future that awaits me,
If I dies in this country be it poor, miserable or rich,
(How I will be damned, 10,000 times over, if I forget you)

I know that I will die in peace, because I was the son of a humble Mexican woman.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AFSC Guest Column in Des Moines Register: Reunited family is a blessing of immigration

JON KRIEG is a senior administrative associate of the American Friends Service Committee, Des Moines. Contact:

If you're old enough, think back 22 years ago. If my memory serves, I was in Brethren Volunteer Service in Washington, D.C., where I'd often ride my bike to Ethiopian restaurants. Where were you? What were you doing?Michael Madit doesn't have any trouble remembering 1987. Then 7, Michael left his family and fled the violence of his homeland in Sudan for Kenya, eventually ending up in Iowa. It was the last time he'd seen his mother. Five weeks ago, at the airport in Des Moines, Michael saw her once again.

The Iowa office of the American Friends Service Committee has been aiding Michael's lengthy efforts to reunite with his mother. A seemingly endless list of immigration obstacles - including multi-country DNA testing - delayed the process for years.Finally, on June 1, Michael and his wife, Elizabeth, their three children, Reech, Mayen and Abuk, and a host of other Sudanese-Iowans waited patiently for the very last person to get off a plane from Houston (via Dubai and Uganda). After years of letters, phone calls and red tape, Michael and his mother, also named Abuk, were finally reunited. A grandmother embraced her daughter-in-law and her three grandchildren for the first time.

During a recent visit with the Madits, Grandma Abuk showed us the Bible she brought with her from home. She shared family pictures and told us how good it was to be here. Grandkids scrambled across her lap, eager to have their picture taken. Elizabeth recalled that people asked her what surprise she'd have in store for her mother-in-law. Elizabeth's response? "Me!"Jody Mashek, who currently directs American Friends Service Committee's legal services effort, is quick to credit her predecessor, Ann Naffier, for the bulk of the legal assistance work needed to reunite the Madit family. But some version of the Madits' story is played out every day in the lobby of the committee's home, Friends House, at 42nd and Grand in Des Moines.

Each year, American Friends Service Committee's Iowa office helps more than 1,000 immigrants and refugees from dozens of countries. Many people are escaping dire poverty - as my grandparents did when they emigrated from Sweden 100 years ago. Others are lucky to be alive and, like Michael, are eager to reunite the family they still have left. Nine of Michael's 12 siblings are no longer alive.It's easy to lose our moral balance in this nation's debate over immigration reform. Shrill voices scream about legality and economics. Politicians and the blogosphere can be quick to judge and stereotype, but slow to understand. Bureaucrats push paper, but not reform.

Standing in the Madits' living room on a warm June day in Iowa, the questions seem more basic. Don't all people have a right to live? Shouldn't all families be allowed to be together? The details may be complicated, but the truth is as simple as a child in her grandma's lap. It's an image not hard to remember.

published July 11, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reflections of Solidarity-What does love mean?

Last week, Reverend Dunlap searched for the biblical meaning of love at the Reflections of Solidarity shrine. Her reflection is posted below. As I read it, I was inspired to work towards policies that reflect love. I also thought about how I might embody love in my everyday life and actions, even when I'm tired or lacking energy.

Week Two Reflection, Don Juan Patraca
This week's reflection comes from Don Juan Manuel Patraca and is up at the shrine. His poetry describes trial and tribulation and answers whether love can stand the test of time and distance, whether love can sustain us through the worst of times and make us better people. In his poem La madre de un inmigrante-The mother of an immigrant Don Patraca begins this way:

I write you these lines hoping you are well from day to day
I find myself today as an immigrant in this strange country.

To read the rest and light your candle go to the shrine.

Week One Reflection, Pastor Anne Dunlap

Leviticus 19:34 "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."

Let’s cut to the chase: What, exactly, is loving about the way we treat “the alien” among us – the immigrant, the foreigner, the non-native who has left her/his own land because of war, starvation, disease, desperation, and travels to another in hopes to make a better life for her/his family (the meaning of the original Hebrew in this text)?

What, exactly, is loving about building steel walls across a borderline with the express intent to force migrants into the desert, sure that their deaths will be a deterrent to future migration?

What, exactly, is loving about slashing water bottles and shooting water tanks left for migrants so that they won’t die of thirst?

What, exactly, is loving about exploiting immigrant labor by neglecting to pay workers, by not providing for workplace safety, by threatening workers with deportation if they try to organize?

What, exactly, is loving about police harassment of families who contribute to the well-being of our communities?

What, exactly, is loving about workplace and home ICE raids that terrorize hard-working communities, that rip families apart, disappearing partners and parents into a detention system that provides for careless representation of immigrants at best, and no representation at worst? What is loving about leaving children behind with no support, wondering if they will ever see their parents again?

What, exactly, is loving about any of this?

This verse from Leviticus sums up the preponderance of biblical opinion regarding how faithful followers of God’s way are meant to treat the “alien:” just like yourself. The non-citizen should be treated just like the citizen, and be treated with love.

The ways in which God’s vision for the treatment of immigrants differs from current US reality – both in terms of policy and in terms of anti-immigrant sentiment and violence – is vast and hardly in need of repeating here. For those of us who are trying to be faithful to God’s way, God’s vision of communities filled with justice, dignity, and love, the reminder to “love the ‘alien’ as you love yourself” should be the touchstone of our work in solidarity with the immigrant community. For the person of faith, the question is not “What is legal and expedient?” but “What is faithful?”

And the answer to that question is always love.

Let us pray for comprehensive immigration reform that embodies love for the immigrant.

Rev. Anne Dunlap
Pastor, Comunidad Liberación/Liberation Community

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Time for Immigration Reform is Now

Ethnic Media Call for Immigration Reform
New America Media, Commentary, Staff, Posted: Jun 25, 2009

The White House and members of Congress must move quickly on enacting a just and humane immigration reform package that will reunite families, reinvigorate the economy, and remove the term “illegal or undocumented immigrants” from the dialogue in this country. Ethnic media, which reaches over 60 million adults in the United States, calls on Congress to move decisively on immigration reform because there are few issues as important to the nation's well-being as an overhaul of the inefficient, inhumane and economically debilitating immigration system. More importantly, we are also urging our readers and viewers to contact their Senators and Congressmen and let them know that immigration reform must be a national priority.

The immigration system is broken not just for 12 million undocumented immigrants, but also for specialized workers blocked from joining the American economy because of narrow quotas, and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who must wait for years before being reunited with their families.

Our nation needs comprehensive immigration policies that will replace a broken system of raids and roundups with one that protects all workers from exploitation, improves America's security and builds strong communities. It’s time to end the division between workers, which has allowed big business to exploit both sides. Clearly, working-class citizens and immigrant workers have much in common – dreams of better homes, education for their families and quality healthcare. There is more that brings us together, than separates us. United we can be a strong force for change, changes that that bring more workforce safety and humane conditions.

Immigration is often portrayed as an explosive, divisive issue. In reality it's not. Since the repeal of the national origins quota system in 1965, which discriminated against certain immigrants, a consensus has been building towards an immigration system that respects the country's core values. These include economic opportunity, equality under the law regardless of ethnic background, and an embrace of the world's most innovative, energetic and ambitious workers.

Now, with the country facing serious competition from workers abroad, it's more important than ever to create a world-class immigration system. It's good for families, good for communities and good for America.

Editor’s Note: This editorial was produced in association with New America Media (, a national association of ethnic media, and was published by ethnic media across the country to bring attention to the urgency of immigration reform. Ethnic media interested in running the editorial can contact

Monday, July 6, 2009

Faith Action at The Immigrant Detention Center

Online Solidarity
Today we launched weekly online solidarity reflections. Each Monday we'll post a new reflection.

Today's was written by Reverend Anne Dunlap, Pastor of Liberation Community. Follow the link to read the reflection and light your candle.

Faith Action at the Detention Center
35 people met tonight at the corner of 30th and Peoria. The immigrant detention center is just up the street on 30th.

We meet the first Monday of each month to remember the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and neighbors being detained inside. We pray for their families

We meet to pray for our congresspeople and the president that they might find the courage to enact just and humane immigration reform.

We pray for ourselves, that we find a way to challenge the system that criminalizes and splits our communities.

Tonight Sue and Gene Lefevbre from No More Deaths Spoke

Their stories told of increasing death on our border and indifference by our government. Two of their volunteers have been charged and convicted of leaving water for migrants crossing the desert and for picking up trash while doing so. The crime they were convicted of was littering. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials were the ones to ticket them on national parkland in Arizona.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has so far refused to meet with No More Deaths. No More Deaths has invited them to meet and wokr out a plan to keep trash down in the national park and also decrease deaths.

97 people have died alreayd this year in Arizona alone. More than 5,000 people have died crossing our border in the last 10 years. Our policies there don't keep our desperate neighbors from trying to cross. Our policies don't save lives, they end them.

Since the 1990s we've increased the walls and checkpoints along border cities and pushed people into the hottest most deadliest part of the border. They die there. Women, children, men. Of thirst.

No More Deaths saves lives. You can help by supporting No More Deaths with:

  • first aid kits and food kits
  • money
  • letters
The Next Faith Action
August 3rd
30th avenue and Peoria Street, Aurora, CO
email Jennifer Piper for carpool or other information

Friday, July 3, 2009

Familias Unidas Reflection

The following is a reflection on the Familias Unidas Event on Saturday, June 13th, 2009 from Terri, a member of the Interfaith Immigration Rights Coalition of Northern Colorado.

I arrived about 45 minutes early feeling certain I would have many choices in seating. However, I was grateful to procure one of the last chairs near the back. For the next hour people kept pouring in, young and old, Hispanic, Anglo, African American and others who I'm sure I didn't see. Just being in the presence of so many on a pleasant Saturday afternoon coming together out of concern for our current immigration situation caused tears to well up in my eyes from time to time.

Speakers included young children tearfully telling their stories, older children, religious leaders, politicians and those who work with immigrants.

One of the most heart rending stories what that of a young boy around the age of 10 or 11 courageously telling his experience of finally getting to see his parents in immigration detention. And then he said, in between sobs, "I wonder if I will ever be with them again." Other stories by older children told of families being torn apart. They shared their hope and dreams to go to college and succeed but fear they will never be able to because they are not documented. They expressed great sadness for themselves and others like them. Professionals who work with immigrants shared similar stories and expressed regret that they were unable to do more to help.

The religious leaders who spoke included Rabbi Firestone of Boulder, Imam Ali who is of Islam, Rev. Andrew Simpson, Episcopalian, Archbishop Chaput and Rev. Ames. Each shared from their own tradition. The traditions are more alike than different. The theme that is threaded through all is that we must reach out to the stranger in our land and are required to care for those in need with kindness and compassion.

Both Representative Gutierrez of Illinois and Representative Polis spoke powerfully and convincingly of the need for change in our immigration system. They, too, spoke with compassion and care for the immigrant.

Frequently many rose from their seats applauding a speaker and chanting "si se puede" and "yes we can" sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in English.

I went away feeling the positive power that was present there, knowing the momentum is building and in my heart echoing the words si se puede, yes we can. We are not alone in our efforts to stand by our immigrant brothers and sisters. Let us continue to pray and work together so that one day all immigrants are given the rights they deserve, are treated with compassion and are valued for who they are and what they contribute to society.
We encourage others who were present at United Families to share your experience.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Near the Border, A Trail of Tears

Denver Post
Near the border, a trail of tears
By Chandra Russo

It is the threatening hour of the day. At just 10 a.m., we plod on in 100 degree heat under a vicious sun. Even the desert insects have stopped their rattling below the dry burn.

I sip at my water bottle. I find it difficult to quench my thirst without filling my belly to sloshing. My lips are chapped. My joints ache as we continue into our fourth day.

About 50 of us are walking the Migrant Trail, a 75-mile trek over seven days through Arizona's border lands. We follow the general path taken by so many migrants forced into this remote, brutal desert. We begin in Sasabe, Mexico, a mile south of the border, and head toward Tucson, traveling just east of the Baboquivari range and the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Despite the discomfort, I recognize the immense beauty of this place, stark peaks, fierce but glorious cacti flowering everywhere. The land is saturated with the rich history of peoples and fragile ecosystems that have made this place home for centuries.

The Migrant Trail began in 2003 with about 20 members of this border community. After years of setting out water in a helpless attempt to curb migrant deaths, having recovered far too many human remains, these 20 wanted to experience the journey and expose the daily reality out here. They commit to walk yearly until the deaths stop.

In the years since, many have joined them. This year, five students and their professor from Manitoba, Canada, have come to learn more about the other U.S. border. A French sociologist has driven from California, motivated by his own immigration experience and the immigrant students in his classroom. Many are called by their faith to walk — an Argentine missionary living in the Mexican town of Altar, a nun from Chicago, and a Franciscan monk who walks in his robes.

This is my second year on the Migrant Trail. I was invited in 2007 to better understand human rights issues on the border. In returning, I am reminded of the urgency of fixing the nation's broken immigration system.

Our walk comes at a conspicuous political moment. A week ago, 700 people from around the country convened on Washington to meet with Congress, demanding a comprehensive immigration reform package be passed within a year. Yesterday, hundreds packed into a church in Northglenn as Colorado Congressman Jared Polis and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez heard testimony from families torn apart by our immigration system. And this Wednesday, President Obama will pull both parties together to push this same idea. This reform has the potential to save lives.

Here's the bottom line when it comes to sealing our southern border: It doesn't work.

In the decision to cross to the United States, economic forces and familial ties trump walls, material or virtual. Since the mid-90s when we cut off the urban crossing points of San Diego and El Paso, and began implementing the latest in military technology, the number of undocumented in the country has more than doubled from 5 million to 12 million. While the most aggressive and expensive border enforcement has forced migrants into ever more perilous crossings, thousands of deaths have proven to be no deterrent to those facing dehumanizing poverty at home.

Pointing to a recent decline in immigration to the U.S., we see that the economy, not border policy, is the determining factor. Any measurable drop begins about four years ago, when our economy began to decline. There were no dramatic shifts in border policy at that time, making it obvious that fewer job opportunities are what stemmed the flow.

After being out here myself with all the comforts we are afforded as walkers, what is surprising to me isn't that people have died. It's that anyone makes it at all. I remark at this as we pass abandoned backpacks along Route 86, signs of migrants who likely survived many days in the desert to be picked up by vehicles.

We look back over the terrain we have walked on our final morning. "Our killing fields," offers a nurse who regularly resuscitates migrants near heat stroke in her hospital.

There is a policy fix for this. We can allot a realistic number of immigration visas so that needed workers and families can safely cross between countries. We can rethink the way we police our southern border.

Already this year, 79 of the dead have been recovered. The season of death, deep summer, has not even begun.

Chandra Russo is communications coordinator at the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), based in Denver

David McCabe also posted some beautiful pictures from the Walk at the following link:
Tony put up some amazing pictures as well at