Sandy Sorensen of the United Church of Christ joined about 100 women — 20 of whom are undocumented immigrants — outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday morning, Sept. 12, blockading the intersection outside the House of Representatives as a public protest to the House's inaction on comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform that treats women and children fairly.
"We decided to risk arrest to tell the House of Representatives at this critical moment to keep immigration at the top of their agenda and pass immigration reform that reunites separated families and creates an inclusive pathway to citizenship for our undocumented community members," said Sorensen, director of the UCC Washington office, in her editorial that was published by the Huffington Post.
The non-violent civil disobedience in Washington, D.C., brought together women of many faiths, leaders from the UCC, Unitarian Universalist Association, the National Council for Jewish Women to stand beside 20 undocumented women. The event was organized by the We Belong Together campaign, a national effort to advocate for women in immigration reform. In addition to a path to citizenship that keeps families together, the group is calling to protect survivors of violence, prevent workplace abuses and promote the health and wellbeing of women and children.
"Today's witness is an important reminder that, while many challenges face our nation and world at this time, efforts to seek agreement on a fair, humane and just approach to comprehensive immigration reform cannot be abandoned," Sorensen said before the demonstration. "The lives and stories of immigrant women and children lifted up today remind us of what is really at stake in this debate. We cannot give the House of Representatives a pass on this."
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minster of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries and the first Latina officer of the church, was proud of Sorensen's courageous act of witness.
"Many of our UCC congregations are on the frontlines of meeting the needs created by a broken immigration system, and have tirelessly advocated to improve our nation's immigration policy. And as people of faith, people called to extend extravagant welcome and hospitality to those on the margins, these efforts are at the core of our calling, echoed throughout Scripture," Jaramillo said. "We move forward in solidarity with our colleague Sandy Sorensen, who has joined this courageous action."
Once the civil disobedience concluded, children delivered "red hearts of courage" to members of the House leadership and key swing representatives as a way of asking them to act on comprehensive immigration reform. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who spoke at a news conference before the demonstration, said that one in every four persons deported from the country is the parent of a U.S. citizen. That injustice, Sorensen said, is a burden carried by immigrant women.
"Women bear the burden of a failed immigration system, but the struggle of immigrant women often goes unseen," Sorensen said. "Every day we are the ones taking care of business: looking after the elderly and our children, working to support our families and contributing to our congregations and communities."
The UCC 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.