In a massive act of civil disobedience, more than 130 faith leaders and immigrant rights activists from across the United States will risk arrest to demand that President Barack Obama put an end to mass deportations of men, women and children that result in the separation of immigrant families. The Rev. Linda Jaramillo, the first Latina national officer of the United Church of Christ, will be among those rallying outside of the White House on Thursday, July 31, calling for just and humane immigration reform.
"The crisis surrounding our country's immigration system has reached a breaking point and now, more than ever, faith leaders need to stand together and make our voices heard," Jaramillo said. "The United Church of Christ is proud to be among the hundreds of supporters and advocates ascending on our nation's capital, and I hope our government's leadership hears our call for justice."
Jaramillo will join a group of bishops, nuns, rabbis, pastors, workers and immigrants for a prayer service and press conference in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., to urge Obama to immediately stop deportations, expand relief for immigrant families and workers, and protect unaccompanied children who have sought refuge in the U.S. Alongside a crowd of more than 500 expected supporters, the group will then engage in civil disobedience in front of the White House in hopes of drawing attention to the 1,100 immigrants deported each day by the Obama Administration.
"Whether they are fathers and mothers here to provide better lives for their families, or young children escaping violence and persecution in their homelands, we need our government to act with compassion and treat those coming to our country with dignity and respect," Jaramillo said.
Several other UCC pastors will also take part in the action. Crystal Silva-McCormick, an ordained UCC pastor pending a call, resides in El Paso, Texas, and has had close access to the immigration crisis and the needs of immigrants. Discouraged by President Obama's inaction on immigration reform and by the Administration's record-number of deportations, Silva-McCormick says that deporting immigrants is not only inhumane, but it also fails to address the root problems in Mexico and Central America that cause people to flee their homelands.
"The [Obama] Administration's inaction and penchant for deportations in inhumane and does not at all address the underlying reasons that force migration, nor does it address the United States' complicity in the problems that people from Mexico and Central America are fleeing," Silva-McCormick said. "After many unanswered pleas, it is not only time for a unified group of voices to take bold action, but also for immigrants to see that there are indeed Americans who are not welcoming them with hate, selfishness and fear."
The Council for Hispanic Ministries of the UCC will also be represented during the action. The organization, which monitors UCC boards and ministries that deal with concerns and issues of importance to Hispanic people, is particularly engaged in supporting the unaccompanied refugee children coming to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America, and released an official statement on the situation July 30.
Other prominent faith leaders risking arrest include Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church; the Rev. John L. McCullough, CEO and president of Church World Service; Sister Eileen Campbell, vice president of Sisters of Mercy; the Rev. Kathleen McTigue, director of the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice; and the Rev. Sharon Stanley-Rea, director of Refugee & Immigration Ministries for the Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
"It is my desire to take part in the civil disobedience to be one of those voices, among many, and to be one of those who will loudly proclaim advocacy for immigrants," Silva-McCormick said. "I do so with the awareness that I have more power and privilege than these immigrants, so the best I can do is to pray and to use my power and privilege to speak boldly on their behalf."