Immigration Rights Activist Arrested Delivering a Letter to Florida Congressman

On Friday, Eliseo Medina, a prominent immigration rights activists was arrested after trying to peacefully deliver a letter to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) district office. Eliseo, who is part of the “Fast for Families Across America” bus tour advocating for Congressional action on fair and commonsense immigration reform was denied entrance by local police into the Congressman’s public office.

The arrest comes on the heels of constructive meetings with Minority Leader Nancy Peolosi and Rep. Joe Garcia in Miami.

Read detailed events here.

Living with 'An Illegal:' How a Friendship Changed My Perspective on Immigration

Stacey Schwenker/Sojourners

The Immigration Reform Now rally. Stacey Schwenker/Sojourners

I don’t know what came over me. Was it what Noel Castellanos (CEO of CCDA) had said? What Jim Wallis (President of Sojourners) had said? Perhaps. I couldn’t keep the tears from coming. Walking up Broadway Street in Los Angeles in the middle of a Saturday afternoon as a crowd of people blew horns, held signs, and chanted, “Immigration reform now,” I wept. It was because of Ivone. I was even wearing my Faith is Greater Than Fear shirt but lurking along the sidewalk, not intending to get involved. But it's too late for that. I love Ivone like a sister, I’m already knee deep in it.

Jim, Noel, and Jenny Yang (World Relief) had just been speaking on a panel at the Justice Conference about immigration reform. Jim said that we had to pass comprehensive immigration reform now, before the summer recess. And I knew in my heart that he was right. Because if we don’t, then Ivone will continue to lie in limbo along with 11 million other aspiring Americans, perhaps being deported in a couple of years. We will both continue to live in uncertainty and fear.

#Fast4Families Bus Presses on in Week 4 of Tour

Courtesy Fast for Families

The #Fast4Families bus stops in Aurora, Colo. Courtesy Fast for Families

Entering its fourth week on the road, the Fast for Families bus continues its journey across the country getting closer to its final destination: Washington, D.C. on April 9.  

Continuing the call for fair and humane immigration reform, fasters visited Arlington, Texas last week on the southern trail, connecting with members of Congress who shared their goals for immigration reform.

“The trickiest issue is what do you do with people that are here [undocumented]?” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who is drafting his own immigration bill and hopes to introduce it in late spring or early summer. “We need to weed out the bad apples and send them back home or put them in jail. But the others whose only [unauthorized] act is coming to this country [undocumented], we sort them out and put them on a legalization path, and minors on a citizenship path.”

For One Great Prayer

Courtesy Fast for Families

Vice President Joe Biden visits the Fast for Families tent in November. Courtesy Fast for Families

I became a member of Young Koreans United (YKU), a Korean American grassroots group providing solidarity to the people’s movement for democracy, human rights, and reunification of Korea in 1986. YKU was instrumental in forming the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); established 20 years ago to build a progressive Korean American voice on major civil rights issues. I joined the NAKASEC board a few years back. Throughout this time, I have tried to provide a clergy presence whenever I can to show that ending the suffering of immigrant families, including that of the 1 out of 7 undocumented Korean Americans, is also a concern of persons of faith.

Obama Requests Review of Deportation Enforcement Policies

Feeling the pressure from some immigrants’ rights groups on the record-breaking number of deportations under his administration (2 million by early April), President Barack Obama recently requested a review on his deportation polices. The goal is to see if enforcement can be applied “more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said Thursday.

The decision comes after a recent meeting Obama had with three leading Hispanic leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The CHC, which is trying to formalize a resolution directed at Obama against deportations, capitalized on the opportunity to vocalize the outcry from the immigration-rights community on the inflated number of deportations that separate loved ones.

“It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the President,” Gutierrez said in a later statement. “The CHC will work with him to keep families together. The president clearly expressed the heartbreak he feels because of the devastating effect that deportations have on families.”

Acknowledging the detrimental effect of deportations, “The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system.”

The president called on Jeh Johnson, DHS Secretary to administer a review of the current enforcement policies.

Obama has also requested a scheduled meeting on Friday with top immigration activists who have been pressuring him to act on immigration. Although the president and his staff has frequently said using executive action is not an option, advocates remain hopeful that the increasing pressure will result in action and see the review as a step in the right direction.

Read full article with details here.

#Fast4Families Embarks on National Bus Tour for Immigration Reform

Fast for Families/Flickr

Fasters prayers in front of Rep Ted Poe's office outside the bus near Houston, Texas. Fast for Families/Flickr

Building on the momentum from last year’s fast on the National Mall, the #Fast4Families campaign has entered into its next phase: a cross-country bus tour. Keeping with the theme “Act; Fast; and Pray until just immigration reform is achieved,” #Fast4 Families kicked off its national bus tour on Jan. 27 from California, where hundreds gathered in support.

The tour across America includes two buses heading through approximately 155 cities in more than 75 congressional districts on northern and southern routes. At each of these 100+ stops, fasters will engage with pro-reform advocates, including faith leaders, who are keenly aware of the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system.

14 Faith Leaders To Watch In 2014

3. The “Fast for Families” participants mobilize on behalf of immigration reform legislation. Of the various faith-led protests for immigration reform in 2013, few garnered as much attention as the “Fast for Families” campaign. Organized as a partnership between labor groups, religious organizations, and immigration advocates, a rotating band of participants fasted for weeks in a tent on the National Mall to pressure the House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Led by the storied labor organizer Eliseo Medina, fasters hailed from a variety of professions and backgrounds and included several undocumented immigrants and DREAMers. But organizers also listed a fair number of high-profile religious leaders as participants, such as Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.

Walls That Divide

Prayer ribbons hung on the wall in South Korea, meunierd /

Prayer ribbons hung on the wall in South Korea, meunierd /

Walls exist between U.S. and Mexico. A few years ago, I took a class to the Mexico-U.S. border through BorderLinks, an organization that provides educational experiences to connect divided communities, raise awareness about border and immigration policies and their impact, and inspires people to act for social transformation. We visited the metal wall that separates the United States from Mexico at Nogales, Mexico.

The walls went up in 1994.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), established in 1994, was supposed to help with trade and the economic status of Mexico. However, it failed to do this. It backfired and made the economic situation worse for the people of Mexico. Rich corporations and companies that benefited from the Free Trade Agreement as they were able to move their factories down to Mexico where the labor was cheap and profits higher. As the economy of Mexico suffered, more people made their way, without documents, to the United States to seek work so they could support their families.

In 2006, the United States responded with the Secure Fence Act. As President George W. Bush signed the bill, he stated, “This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform.” The act included provisions for the construction of physical barriers — walls — and the use of technology to these ends.

This wall is under constant surveillance to prevent people from entering into the U.S. illegally. Ironically, it is a wall built from the remaining metal landing scraps of the Gulf War. The border is highly militarized with patrols who treat migrants as “prisoners of war.” It symbolizes militarization, greed, xenophobia, hatred, pride, nonsense, and fear of the other, a reminder of wanting to protect what is yours and not sharing what God has given you. Walls continue to go up along the border as the people of the United States continue to fear that undocumented people will take away jobs. These fears may devastate the lives of the poor in both countries.