Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Power of " Immigrant Welcoming Congregations"

Photoessay by David Bacon
The Progressive, February 1, 2017

Five years ago, the Reverend Deborah Lee of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity began organizing church vigils outside the West County Detention Center in Richmond, California. Vigil participants have won the ability to meet with detainees inside the prison, offered sanctuary, and have found legal help for families.

"Solidarity is our protection," says Reverend Lee. "We ask faith communities to consider declaring themselves 'sanctuary congregations' or 'immigrant-welcoming congregations.'"

In 2011 people of faith began holding a vigil outside the West County Detention Center, where immigrants are incarcerated before being deported.

A Jewish activist blows the shofar, or ram's horn, outside the detention center, as a call to resist oppression and as part of a prayer service called during a time of communal distress.

One vigil was sponsored by members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which developed a slogan for its work to halt deportations, "Standing on the Side of Love."

A refugee from Central America is comforted outside the detention center where her brother was still being held by a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Berkeley, which has given sanctuary to families threatened with deportation.

The Reverend Izzy Alvaran, who gained asylum from the Philippines a decade ago, leads protesters in a chant outside the detention center.

A Vietnamese refugee describes his personal experience as part of a protest against the denial of amnesty to Central American families, outside the detention center where many are held.

Civil rights veteran Rev. Phil Lawson leads demonstrators during the detention center vigil in a call and response prayer.

A woman begins to weep while talking about the experiences that forced her and her family to leave their home in Mexico, in a detention center vigil organized by Mujeres Unidas y Activas (United and Active Women), an organization of immigrant women in San Francisco and Oakland.

Reylla Denis Ferraz Da Silva, her husband Fabricio, and baby Enzo Gabriel.  Reylla was picked up for deportation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite the fact that she was nursing Enzo, and had been living in San Francisco for eight years as she trained to become a church pastor at the Message of the Peace Church. 

Photographs of the marches against Trump's anti-immigrant orders and detention center vigils:


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