UCC immigration advocates continue fight for reform despite House delays
Written by Emily Schappacher July 16, 2013
Photos from the Inside Out Project going up in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the National Council of Jewish Women.
As the U.S. House of Representatives stalls the progress of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, UCC immigrant rights advocates continue to make their voices heard. Various grassroots efforts will take place this week to keep the momentum behind the movement alive, despite Republican Speaker John Boehner's pledge not to call a House version of the immigration bill to a vote without majority support of his party, and the growing belief that the reform effort is dwindling.
"Throughout our history, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has spoken prophetically on justice issues related to our federal immigration and border policy," said Mari Castellanos, UCC policy advocate for domestic issues in Washington, D.C. "The most recent Synod reaffirmed the church's commitment to justice in immigration policy by adopting a resolution in support of immigration reform, and called on us to protect the human rights of migrants."
Immigration advocates in communities throughout the country will participate in the National Day of Action Against Border Militarization July 17. Sponsored by the Border Network for Human Rights, an organization that works to promote human and civil rights in border communities, the event is calling for immigration supporters to say "no" to the increased border militarization called for in the Senate's version of the immigration reform bill passed in late June.
Rallies are planned in El Paso, Houston, San Benito and Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Tucson, Ariz.; San Francisco; San Diego; Las Vegas; and Milwaukee, Wis. UCC supporters are also encouraged to participate by writing their representatives to express their concerns about increased boarder militarization.
"This event is happening because people who live on the border can't stand it anymore," said Castellanos. "The place used to be wide open and beautiful in a desert sort of way. Now there is nothing but fences with barbed wire, soldiers patrolling, and helicopters flying over your head constantly. It's awful."
The Senate's version of the immigration reform bill would allocate an additional $47 billion to increased border security. Among other measures, it would include 700 miles of new walls, 20,000 additional border patrol agents, 85 watch towers and 18 drones. According to the Border Network for Human Rights, this would affect more than 7 million U.S. citizens, residents and families who live in border communities from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas.
"Let's not shut the door on our neighbors' faces," Castellanos said. "Our southern border is sufficiently secure. We need those enormous financial resources for more important needs, like education and healthcare."
Inside Out/11M is another grassroots event taking place this week to lift up the voices of those most affected by the proposed immigration reform legislation. On July 16-17, people are encouraged to go to various locations throughout Washington, D.C., to get their photo taken at mobile studios. The black-and-white photos of immigrant men, women and children will be printed on the spot and assembled into large-scale art installations outside of the Children's Defense Fund building, the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool and the Department of Education Plaza.
Inside Out/11M is a nationwide effort by the award-winning French artist JR and the Inside Out Project to create a portrait of America that includes immigrants and their descendants.
"I'll be there," Castellanos said. "With a Cuban flag."