Last week I participated in an act of civil disobedience with 120 other women, including 20 undocumented women. We were led to engage in this action to urge members of the House of Representatives to move beyond stalemate and political gamesmanship, and take meaningful action on comprehensive immigration reform. It was an incredibly humbling experience to join with women who were willing to risk so much for what they believe in their hearts to be right and just. For the sake of their families and their communities, they literally put their own lives on the line.
Despite the risk, their eyes were full of hope for the possibility of repairing a broken immigration system, reuniting separated families and creating an inclusive pathway to citizenship. The work and struggle of immigrant women often goes unseen, yet they are the ones taking care of children and the elderly, working to support their families, and contributing to their communities. Through it all is the hope that they may one day be able to live without the fear of being separated from their families and communities by the threat of detention and deportation. That hope led to profound action last week.
During the process of our arrest, we shared stories, sang songs and passed along information with translation in English and Spanish, but courage needs no translation. Can members of Congress hear the language of courage? What does it take to translate partisanship and political self-preservation into courage and the political will to act for the common good?
Immigrant families and advocates for a fair and humane immigration system are waiting for Congress to act, and time is running short as the legislative year heads to a close. There are many others waiting for Congress to act. Nine months after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT, advocates for legislation to help end gun violence continue to walk the halls of Congress, calling for Congress to act. Thousands of children who can no longer attend Head Start programs and will go to bed hungry as a consequence of the automatic spending cuts under the sequester are waiting for Congress to act. Thousands of people who may lose access to vital services through further spending cuts under the threat of a government shutdown are waiting for Congress to act.
Too much is at stake to continue with business as usual, to accept political gridlock and partisan posturing as the “new normal.” If a small group of women can risk so much, surely members of Congress can risk action that moves beyond catering to special interests and self-serving partisan gain. As we hurtle toward yet another showdown over the federal budget and the debt ceiling, it is incumbent upon us as constituents to hold our elected officials accountable to a higher standard of governing, one that strives for the highest level of cooperation for the common good and not the lowest common denominator.
The United Church of Christ has more than 5,300 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.