Colorado faith and community members gather to show they stand on the side of love.
On April 2, faith leaders and community members gathered at the GEO Detention Center in Aurora, Colorado for prayer and singing to demonstrate the faith communities’ commitment to inject humanity and compassion into the public dialogue on immigration.
The vigil was lead by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder. The Reverend Howell Lind said: “As people of faith, we are called to stand with the vulnerable and the oppressed. We are called to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger. Our immigration system is taking children from their parents, removing promising students from the only country they have ever known, and tearing our nation apart. Any system that breaks up families is itself broken."
The Rev. Lind continued: "Hospitality is central to spiritual life. We call for new ways of being and relating that will give affected people greater agency and opportunities in their home communities. We call for an end to human rights abuses perpetrated against migrants. We call for an end to laws that spur racial profiling and collectively punish foreign-born individuals living in this country. We call for the passage of humane, comprehensive immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals in this country.”
Children led participants in song as they processed to the front entrance of the detention center. Singing “we are standing on the side of love,” the participants explained that their love was directed both at the employees of ICE and GEO as well as the detainees, believing that the current immigration system hurts all of us.
The church’s President-elect, Jenny Fitt-Peaster, shared her family’s story of immigration: “My father and grandfather were German Jews who fled Berlin during WWII to escape Nazi Germany. As the US was not welcoming immigrants, they landed in Panama and worked in the Canal Zone and were then brought to US detention camps. After the war my grandfather and father wanted to become US citizens. They were told they had not entered the country legally. And so, they had to travel to Canada to re-enter the country legally and apply for U.S. Citizenship, which they did. Lucky for me this was a possibility at that time. When I hear the stories of other immigrants, especially those from Mexico, I feel like they are my family stories. I started the Immigration Ministry in our church to live our social change mission. I tell this story honoring the Unitarian Universalist' first principle, ‘The inherent worth and dignity of every person,’ and with the belief that we can change the world.”
Several immigrant members of the community stepped forward to share their stories and a call to action. Jeanette Vizguerra, a member of Rights for All People, declared: “The impact of this system on the moral, psychological and economic health of our communities is only negative. The only people who benefit are the ones running and investing in for-profit detention centers like this one. I was detained here for 34 days simply because I lacked a driver’s license. I call on all of us here today who care about humane treatment to act to end this system of detention and deportation.”
Mercedes spoke of the hardship her family has faced since her husband was deported last year. “My youngest daughter wraps herself in her father’s coat whenever she feels sad," she said. "My other children’s grades have suffered and my oldest daughter has taken on more responsibilities. We were only working and living here. This separation of our family makes no sense.”
As the vigil closed, Mercedes’ youngest daughter led the group in chanting over and over again, “Una sola gente, un solo mundo, un solo dios!” One people, one world, one God.