In January 2018, our congregation started a weekly vigil for immigration justice outside an unmarked ICE office to offer a theological response and public witness against family separation and the violence of deportation. We still today continue that witness alongside friends across the theological spectrum, including Catholics, United Methodists, atheists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Unitarian Universalists in front of the USCIS field office in Oklahoma City.
In addition to the vigil, we regularly accompany our neighbors who are undocumented to their check-in appointments with ICE and students who are renewing their DACA status. One example is our advocacy for a mother under deportation orders that would have deprived a young child, an American citizen with cancer and autism (non-verbal) of his mother, who served as his primary caregiver. Had she not been granted a stay of deportation, her son would have been placed in Oklahoma’s foster care system, which already has over 9,000 children in custody, or would have resulted in the deportation of a U.S. citizen and the disruption of his cancer treatment if she had taken him with her. We are currently working to reunite a father with his family after he was picked up in a routine traffic stop. His detention has left dozens unemployed and his own family in emotional and financial distress.
We also meet migrants arriving on buses at the downtown Greyhound station, who are on their way to connect with family and/or sponsors. They are often in need of food, diapers, hygiene products, and other support because the journey is so long. We communicate and collaborate with similar groups across the country, learning about numbers, needs, and travel times (buses can be late by as much as 12 hours) from the stop in front of us, and in turn pass on information to the next destination so that they can be prepared to offer care.
the Rev. Lori Walke is a minister at Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City