Commentary: Immigrant Rights Sunday

Commentary: Immigrant Rights Sunday

They look hopeful, these good, longsuffering people. When they come around to empty the waste baskets and to vacuum the office, they seem to have more energy. They smile more widely at the bus stop when someone says, "Buenos dias!" Yes, hope is a great tonic, a giver of life.

Frankly, my trust in the U. S. Congress is not exactly robust. I still do much more praying than hoping. The pettiness of the debate, the absurd demands regarding the border, the vindictive calls for fines and punishments - as if they have not already paid too much - are difficult to listen to. But listen, we must. 

The opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform is real. It may not be what advocates had hoped for, but whatever legislation may pass in this session of Congress will bring millions of sisters and brothers out of the shadows and into a better life.

Can we imagine how life without fear can restore a human soul?

People with valid identification can refuse to be exploited and demand a fair wage. Young people can afford college, if they don't have pay out-of-state tuition. Victims of domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape, can bring charges against the perpetrator. Imagine that! It must be exhilarating to have basic human rights for the first time in one's life.

But we are not there yet. Some will demand more punishment of those without documentation - more money poured out to build additional miles onto the border wall, more posturing to appease the fearful. Unnecessarily perhaps, since pollsters tell us the majority of Americans support immigration reform. But amongst those who don't support reform, opposition is fierce.

This is a good time to preach, a wonderful time to teach Sunday school, a golden opportunity to parent. We haven't had such an opportunity since the halcyon days of the civil rights movement. As a denomination, we have done a lot of preaching, teaching and congregational study about LGBT issues, much to our credit. But perhaps we are not up to par on immigration. We have to teach our children that Jesus was an immigrant. They need to know that the holy family had to flee to Egypt in order to save his life. We must assume that Joseph was allowed to work, though he probably didn't have a social security card. We probably have to remind the adults too. Many of us have forgotten that.

This is also an excellent time to call your members of Congress and tell them to support fair immigration reform.

The first Sunday in May, this May 5, has been designated Immigrant Rights Sunday within the United Church of Christ. Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries are urging congregations to lift up immigrants on this day - to learn about their concerns, honor their contributions to our country and communities, hear their pain, pray for their well being, and listen to hear where God is leading us regarding issues of immigration. On the first Sunday in May, congregations are encouraged to include stories about immigrants in their worship services. This is an opportunity to learn their stories and share them. Learn more.

The Rev. Mari Castellanos is the UCC's minister for domestic issues.

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