On Thursday July 27 2017 a number of people gathered next to the ICE offices in Portland as part of the first monthly vigil remembering those in detention and those checking in for regular appointments. "Pat, why are you here?" I looked at the person who asked me that question. Without thinking I just blurted out, "For me, it's personal."
"What do you mean?" Forty eight years ago I went as a young community development volunteer with the American Friends Service Committee, AFSC, to Guatemala. I made friends, learned Spanish, and had my eyes opened to the political and economic realities that forced people to migrate. And yes, the role that my government played in destabilizing that country in the 1954 CIA-backed coup. So, yes it is very personal.
The undocumented immigrants whether they are from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras, are people I lived with, worked with, danced with, sang with and cried with. How can I not be here as a public witness. ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, needs to know that the Portland community is watching how they treat people during their check-ins and that we in the faith community and people of good will are not in agreement with U.S. immigration policy.
The theme of this vigil was water. We sang Wade in the Water with new lyrics: Stand up for Justice, children, Stand up for Justice, God's going to trouble the waters. In our shared litany, "we remember those who migrate today, those in the desert this evening, those on the water tonight .....We remember those who will make it and those who will die on the way. They are with us."
LIGHTING TEN CANDLES
At the end of the hour long vigil we stood in front of the ICE offices. We lit 10 candles for the ten persons who died tragically in the back of a truck transporting them to not freedom and safety, but death. We remembered. We were presente with them.
Join us August 31 at 10AM at the ICE office, corner of SW Bancroft and Macadam in Portland, Oregon. If you want to accompany people to ICE check-ins, contact the Imirj office at www.imirj.org for next scheduled training.
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?