by Anna Sutterer 7-19-2019
On July 18, more than 200 people gathered outside the Capitol Building for a Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children. Catholic leaders and immigrant-rights activists called out the mistreatment of families as a violation of human dignity and contrary to religious teachings.
When this gathering took place, 2,000 children were detained in the U.S. without their parents or guardians, according to Vox.
During the event, Fr. Joe Nangle turned attention to the United States’ founding documents, which include soaring rhetoric of freedom and independence, and also to the racism and misogyny present since colonizers and slave owners helped pen the papers.
"Where are our bishops? Where are our bishops?" chanted some in the crowd who expressed their discontent that too few bishops signed the action or made clear statements. Bishops Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., and Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., sent words for the capitol gathering.
Claribel* carried her 17-month-old baby, Clarissa, to the podium and told the gathering how she’s been struggling for seven years to live in the U.S. as a Salvadoran immigrant. She now faces a deportation order and is considering taking sanctuary. Meanwhile, she calls on Congress to stop giving money to ICE, to stop the raids and deportations and support families.
Sr. Carol Zinn, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, summoned the image of the Good Samaritan. She said nations will not be judged by their GDP or success on Wall Street, but how they treat the most vulnerable and marginalized.
It’s costly, the “beautiful robe of justice,” said Ralph McCloud, director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It’s “paid for with tears and sacrifice,” and “sown together with long vigils and witness.”
After reckoning with reports of conditions in the detention camps, and a final prayer, the group moved to the Russell Senate Building rotunda to protest the administration’s immigration policies. The Lord’s Prayer and names of children who’ve died in custody filled the air. Police promptly issued warnings, then arrested 72 people for unlawful demonstration in the space.
Hear voices from the action:
DeeDee Tostanoski from Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, V.a., talks about the sacredness of family and how Matthew 25 guides her action.
Becky Belcore, co-director of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), advocates for the Reuniting Families Act, which would protect the family-based immigration system that is under threat of being changed to a merit-based system that prioritizes higher-educated and wealthy people.
Fr. Gerard Marable of Sacred Heart parish in Camden, N.J., sees national scale conversations like this come to head in his parish, which includes a merging of three churches: one predominantly Latinx, one predominantly black, and one predominantly white. He challenges people to pull in more context to their fight for justice and be willing to die to themselves in the process.
*Claribel withheld her last name.
Photos by Kayla Lattimore