UU Clergy Join Other Faith Leaders in D.C. to Advocate for the DREAM Act
Report by Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate
On Tuesday, faith leaders came to Washington, D.C. from all over the country and from different theological persuasions in support of the DREAM Act. They joined dozens of DREAM Activists who have been holding vigil in our nation’s capital for the past week. The intent was to support the DREAMers and to lobby key senators in anticipation of what will be a very close vote, which is scheduled for tomorrow – Saturday, December 18.
The Interfaith Immigration coalition, of which the UUA is a member, called specifically for clergy from the states of our target senators. Rev. Fred Small came from First Parish Cambridge UU in Massachusetts to speak to Senator Scott Brown. He was joined at the press conference and prayer vigil by several local UU ministers — Revs. Lyn Cox, Cynthia Snaveley, and Rob Hardies. Given only a couple of days’ notice, more than 100 clergy came to urge the Senate to do what is moral and just – pass the DREAM Act.
The day started with a press conference in the United Methodist Bldg. Nationally known faith leaders such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Peg Chemberlin of the National Council of Churches, and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center all spoke powerfully.
But some of the most stirring testimony came from local clergy from the target states. Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, a UMC minister had just come from being arrested outside of Sen. Kay Hutchison’s office.
She shared with us that DREAM Activists in San Antonio have been on a hunger strike for over 30 days and some are in danger of organ failure.
Troy Jackson, an evangelical pastor from Ohio, started by saying that Evangelicals believe that conversion is possible. He then told us the story of Bernard Pastor and how, upon hearing the injustice of Bernard’s situation, person after person had a “conversion” and now favor the DREAM Act.
The press conference ended with Rev. Small leading us in song as we processed out of the chapel and onto the street. Walking hand-in-hand, we circled the senate office buildings. Then, in a park near the senate, the DREAMers huddled together in the bitter cold air while clergy circled around, laying hands on them in blessing, and taking turns leading the group in prayer. Moving one last time, we convened in the atrium of the Hart Senate Building where again clergy formed a circle and took turns in prayer and song.
After lunch, the “Massachusetts delegation” met in front of Sen. Scott Brown’s office where we had a meeting with the staffer in charge of immigration.
We consisted of Rev. Small, myself and two DREAMers – Juana Garcia and Efrain Trujillo. Juana has been in the U.S. since she was one year old. She sounded like any other American young woman as she told us about her hopes and plans to give back to the country that she loves.
Efrain told us about how his family was forced off the land in his native Mexico by NAFTA and with no means of support had no choice but to come to the U.S. He was seven when he crossed the border.
I wish that I could report more positively about the actual meeting with Sen. Brown’s office. The senator’s staffer made it pretty clear that Brown would be voting No. But that doesn’t mean that our efforts were wasted. Advocacy for the DREAM Act has been going on for a decade now. A week ago, the House of Representatives historically voted in favor. The votes in the Senate are close, closer than it has ever been.
One of the speakers said on Tuesday that the only reason why the DREAM is still alive is because of the DREAMers and faith communities.
The Senate wanted DREAM to go away but we would not let it die.
DREAMers have been camped out on Capitol Hill all week – vulnerable to both the cold and to deportation. So please, let’s do our part by calling our senators and inviting them to be on the correct side of history. If they are already a committed yes, call the senators on the target list.
BREAKING: The Senate will likely vote on DREAM Saturday morning.
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