Over our three days, our multi-faith delegation had plenty of opportunity to pray with people one on one. Yesterday after spending several hours in Matamoros, we held a collective prayer vigil next to the bridge shortly before leaving. This trip has been an extraordinary experience, especially traveling with such thoughtful, engaged colleagues, government leaders, and immigration activists.
For our prayer vigil, Rev. Eileen Wiviott of the Unitarian Church of Evanston led a beautiful song that said, “Where you go Beloved, I will go. Your people are my people.” Because I knew the most Spanish, I explained in Spanish that we were there to hear the stories and witness what the impact of the Migrant Protection Protocals, only to discover there is no protection provided for migrants seeking asylum. Rev. Ben Lynch of Fair Oaks Presbyterian prayed for strength and peace to be among the people. Rev. Eric Biddy of St Christopher’s Episcopal church prayed for the children’s health and well-being. Rabbi Max Weiss of Oak Park Temple spoke of the current holiday of Sukkot and how it calls for the protection of all people with adequate shelter. Rabbi Ari Margolis of Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills then sang a Jewish blessing from the Sukkot celebration. Rev. Scott Onque’ of St Luke’s Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago and Director of Policy at Faith in Place prayed for God’s blessing on the people here to know they are not forgotten. Rev. Marshall Hatch Jr. of New Mt Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and the Maafa Redemption Project prayed for God to lift the voices of those on the margins and declared that in God’s perspective a government without justice is no more than organized crime. Rev. Ira Acree of St John’s Bible Church led us in singing “Ain’t Gonna let Nobody Turn Us Around” and called for the end of the Migrant Protection Protocols.
Our multi-faith delegation was led by Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Anna Marin, and Betty Alzamora from PASO: West Suburban Action Project. Our delegation also included two Illinois State Representatives, Representative Lisa Hernandez from Little Village and Representative Rita Mayfield from Waukegan and immigration rights leaders Lawrence Benito from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Dulce Ortiz and Megan McKenna from Mano a Mano serving the north Chicagoland area. Paul Goyette documented our trip through photographs.
As we finished the service, a woman fainted, apparently of heat exhaustion. She was unable to walk. She looked like she was in severe distress. Several people sent for medical help but it was 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived.
Just before we left the encampment of migrants, we unfolded banners that said End MPP meaning End the Migrant Protection Protocols that has fostered this refugee crisis. The other banner said Abolish CDP because the development of this force treats human beings in search of a better life as criminals.
We then began to sing Wade in the Water as we walked across the bridge back into the United States. On the very first street corner, the banners were unfurled. Two of the local immigration activists were in tears. They never imagined seeing a clear call to end the policies and procedures that dehumanizes so many people.
Then began the press conference. Chicago WBEZ reporter Maria Zamudio traveled with us. Her amazing story can be heard at https://www.npr.org/local/309/2019/10/17/771001018/chicago-area-activists-protest-conditions-at-the-border She tells our story so eloquently.
For me, this trip was an extraordinary opportunity on several levels. First, to see for myself in a multi-faith circle of trusted colleagues the impact of what is going on at the border. Second, to bring beloved a broad range of colleagues in closer relationship with immigration justice leaders that have been so inspirational to me. Third, to witness the inspirational witness of Team Bronzeville that now feeds 1,000+ people. And lastly, to develop a circle of relationships that gives us hope that our collective voices matter in the face of horror occurring at the border.
More reflection to come as well as specific ways to be of support!