Comments for Immigration Community Meeting

June 25, 2011 – Denver, CO

Good afternoon.  Many thanks to Representative Polis for the invitation, and to both he and Representative Gutierrez for their support of this important issue.

I am here today because Unitarian Universalists affirm the absolute worth and dignity of every person, regardless of the ID in their wallet, and because we know no government-drawn line can change the ways we are one human family.

Unitarian Universalist minister Rebecca Parker tells a story about a time she was driving through western Pennsylvania.[1]  She says she was approaching a small town when she noticed up the road, blinking yellow lights, warning, danger, danger, danger!. And then she saw, fields covered in standing water.  Side roads, blocked.  Signs saying, Roads Closed. “Looks like they’ve had a flood here,” she said to herself.  Crossing over a bridge, the river was high, muddy, flowing fast, and sandbags lined the roadway.  She realized, wow, it must’ve been a major flood!

Then, just as she was heading out of town, she rounded a bend. And right there, in front of her, a sheet of water covered the roadway.  The water was rising fast, like a huge silver balloon being inflated before her eyes.  She came to a quick stop, and tried to turn her car around.  But then she realized – water was rising behind her too.  Suddenly, she understood. The flood hadn’t happened yesterday, or last week.  It was happening right here and now.  Dry ground was disappearing fast! She quickly got out of her car, and scrambled to higher ground.  Soaked to the bone, she huddled under a tree.  The cold water of the storm poured down on her, baptizing her into the present, a present she had just a few moments before been protected from by both her car, and her own misjudgments about what was going on all around her.

I think so many of us in this country, we’ve been acting like Rebecca Parker. A lot of us, even our government, our congressional representatives, I mean, a lot of good people, we’ve seriously misjudged what’s going on around us.  Sitting in our cars, looking out, thinking that danger happens to some one else, somewhere else. Especially those of us with lighter skin tones.  Or, those of us randomly born on one side of a made-up line.  We’ve been thinking these stories of broken families, of unjust deportations, somehow these stories happen somewhere else, to people that somehow aren’t like us, or who must’ve done something to cause all those problems.

But standing here today with all of you – we clearly see that wall of water – in front of us, behind us, and it’s coming for us all. Look around – these are all of our stories. Our neighbors, our children, our parents, our own communities, and families, who are in danger. This is us. All of us.

In my own faith community, we’ve learned how our laws are harming Judy and Raul Cardenas and their family, members at the First Universalist Church of Denver. Judy, who is standing here with me, knows all too well the kind of danger we all face. She is a citizen who has been married to Raul since 2002. They are parents to their seven-year-old daughter, and two teenage sons.  And as we speak, Raul is facing deportation. This family is facing the possibility of being torn apart.

Raul is married legally to a citizen. His children are citizens. This family is whole, it’s doing well, these parents are working together to raise their children. Isn’t this an image of family values?

And yet, because Raul came to the US to work without documentation, this family lives everyday wondering what will happen, wondering if they will be torn apart.

Do you see that water rising, all around? It’s coming for us, leaving American families nowhere to turn. It’s time to spread the word – to tell our neighbors, our friends: Call our elected officials, our President! These aren’t someone else’s families, someone else’s children – these are our families! Our children! The unjust deportations have to stop!

And they can stop. If we act together with love and conviction, we can bring the thousands of families with stories just like Judy and Raul to safety. We can build a world where all families can live without a threat of deportation.  We can bring us all to higher ground! With love, Si se puede! We can!

So in this spirit, I invite you to pray with me now. Great Spirit of Life, fill our hearts with love and compassion for all families, and may this love guide and strengthen us in all we do. Together we give thanks because we know, when we let love for all people guide us, we can end these deportations, and we can build a world where all share fully in the gifts of abundant life.  Amen.

 Thank you.

[1] This story is adapted from Rebecca Parker’s essay, “Not Somewhere Else, But Here: The Struggle for Racial Justice as a Struggle to Inhabit My Country,” in Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies in Dialogue, eds. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer-Jones. Some of the words are directly hers – I’ve marked them in bold.

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About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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