Although the Rev. Linda Jaramillo has taken immersion trips across borders before, she is reminded with each experience both of the work ahead in immigration reform and of the strength of the religious interfaith community effort to welcome strangers.
"I have been on immersion trips across the border into Tijuana several times and each time I go I am deeply impacted by the numerous ways in which our immigration policies are affecting people," Jaramillo said. "This time I heard from children who were born in the U.S. (citizens) and are now experiencing random deportation. Hearing how this is affecting their family unit was especially heart-breaking."
Jaramillo, Executive Minster of Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, was one of four representatives of the UCC in an interfaith group of 25 that visited the United States-Mexico border Feb. 26-27.
The delegation of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders crossed the San Diego–Tijuana border to experience the border environment in an effort to better understand the complexities and challenges of immigration reform. Jaramillo joined UCC colleagues the Rev. Felix C. Villanueva, Conference Minister of the UCC's Southern California Nevada Conference, Keith Clark, Executive Associate Conference Minister of Southern California Nevada Conference; and Rev. Carlos Correa, Director of the UCC's Romero Center in California on the trip.
"I am very encouraged by the strength of the voice of religious leaders," Jaramillo said. "This trip was a clear demonstration that we can and must come together as children of the same God to expose the human rights violations and speak boldly about what is fair and just."
While in Mexico, faith leaders met with immigration reform advocates, public policy experts and an immigration attorney. They heard personal testimony from people who are affected by American immigration laws – particularly those displaced from family still living in the United States.
The group started their tour, crossing the U.S. border at San Ysidro, Calif., the world's busiest land border crossing. In Mexico, the delegation visited a number of deportee communities, surveyed the "border fence" between countries and visited Casa de Las Pobres (House of the Poor), a safe haven for women and children affected by deportation and separated from family members in the U.S.
The delegation brought together more than 25 faith and community leaders, including Jaramillo, Villanueva, the Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, Episcopal Diocese; Father Alexei Smith, Catholic Archdiocese; Rev. Linda Culbertson, Presbytery of the Pacific, the Rev. Gary Keene, United Methodist Church, and Rabbi Mark Diamond, the president of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders and regional director of AJC.
The Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders includes judicatory officials from: AJC Los Angeles (The American Jewish Committee), the Armenian Apostolic Church - Western Diocese, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Pacific Southwest Region, the Church of the Brethren Pacific Southwest Division, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southwest Synod, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the United Church of Christ Southern California Nevada Conference, and the United Methodist Church Los Angeles Area.
The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming the dignity of immigrants and working for comprehensive U.S. Immigration policy. Since 1995, General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – has repeatedly called for a fair and human approach to U.S. immigration policy that protects families and respects the humanity of our immigrant brothers and sisters.