What good are vigils when ICE just keeps on picking people up? It is a good question to which I do not have an easy answer. At the December vigil we were asked to share, "Why am I here?" I said that it is to keep my soul whole and my heart healthy. I think of all the immigrants, mostly undocumented, that are in my heart and mind: Andrea from Argentina; Heidi from Nicaragua; Jessica from Guatemala, Gladys now in Guatemala with her family; Ada and William and the list goes on. I am here because it is one way that I can witness to ICE my profound disagreement with their policy of detaining and deporting people and in the process dividing and destroying families.
Are there other ways to protest? Yes, IMIRJ, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, provides accompaniment to ICE check-ins and court hearings; writes letters of support for immigrants seeking to stay in the United States; organizes faith communities to join the Sanctuary movement and stand with our immigrant neighbors and friends when they are "profiled" or discriminated against.
I am reading an interesting book, This is an Uprising, by Mark and Paul Engler, Nation Books, New York, 2016. The authors analyze social movements that "conduct carefully planned exercise in mass disruption." How can I/we disrupt ICE operations? Strategic non-violence means a variety of tactics: sit-ins, boycotts, marches, mass arrests and legal action and yes, public vigils. The purpose of these tactics is to educate the public about a problem and to encourage others to act.
In 2018 I think that we are called to DISRUPT the normal detention and deportation process. I am not sure how but please send me your ideas and thoughts so that 2018 can be the year of civic resistance. Future blogs will let you know what we decide to do.
Our vigil/rally closed with the statement:
Dear People of Oregon, ICE out of Oregon is what we ask for, We are here to stay, Because this is our only home.
NOTE: There are monthly vigils at the Washington County courthouse and the last Thursday of each month outside the Portland ICE office from 10AM-11AM. For more information, check the website www.imirj.org
The last Thursday of each month the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice sponsors a vigil at the ICE building. It was cold, wet and rainy yesterday in contrast to the July photo in the header.
Havurah Shalom, a Jewish congregation and IMIRJ member, led the reflection remembering the stranger. Each of us was asked to turn to another person and to answer two questions:
When did I/you feel unwelcome?
When did you/I feel welcomed OR How do I welcome the stranger or newcomer?
I shared with a tall man, a member of Havurah. I recalled at age 10 when I was new to a Portland school how lonely I felt. I remember sitting on a staircase by myself eating my lunch and wondering if I would ever be accepted into the group. My new friend talked about a California synagogue which was not warm and welcoming - he and his wife felt like outsiders.
Both of us had lived and worked in Latin America so our answers to the second question was how warmly we were received by Guatemalans and Colombians.
How do we show the same warm welcome to immigrants and other people new to our City? How would you answer this question?
Several people had signs expressing their commitment to stopping deportations.
We marched from the shelter to form a circle at the entrance to ICE. Rabbi Benjamin led us in songs in Hebrew and English. Several times a security guard approached the group to ask them to move away from the driveway as cars and trucks enter and leave. Rabbi Benjamin asked us to silently reflect on what goes on in the ICE building.
At the end of our time together, another moment of silence in which we lifted up people we knew in detention. I thought of my three women friends from Mexico, Argentina and Nicaragua (11/28/17 blog)- and then we sang these beautiful words from Wings of Peace:
Please join us on December 28, 2017 at 10AM outside the ICE building in Portland, Oregon or join an ICE vigil wherever you live.
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?