Faith sustains the fight for immigration reform

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The decision to conduct and participate in a civil disobedience is never easy. The stakes are even higher when the people engaging in a protest they know may lead to their arrest are undocumented and could face deportation as a consequence of their action.

Yet that’s what we planned on May Day. We knew we were asking many to risk their freedom—for some maybe even their lives—but we made the decision to move forward as people of faith.

We fight an unjust and oppressive immigration system that destroys families and communities. Our fear, while real, is nothing compared to the fear that we have in our day-to-day lives that something as simple as a broken headlight can mean never seeing our families again. Still, we know “no more fear.” We won’t live in the shadows anymore.

We are leaders of La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (“Asamblea”), a Minnesota statewide faith-based non-profit that organizes immigrants from predominantly Latino congregations to build power for changes in the immigration system and the underlying political and economic structures behind it.

We traveled the state on a pilgrimage, visiting three of our Congress members’ offices to remind them the need for comprehensive immigration reform and rallying along the way. The pilgrimage ended with a large rally and civil disobedience, in which we sat down in the middle of a busy intersection outside Hennepin County Detention Center in Minneapolis.

Just before the protest, Chief Clyde Bellecourt, director of the American Indian Movement joined us and we prayed together as he “welcomed us home.” Then, an angry driver tried to ram his van through our civil disobedience, forcing our leaders to stand vigil directly in front of it, protecting those of us taking action in the civil disobedience.

In the end our faith upheld us. There were no arrests made during our action. “We don’t know what to do with these guys,” one Minneapolis officer told our local Fox TV news reporter.

The police didn't arrest us, and our message was received. We know this was because of our faith and prayer. Our goal was to raise our voices, to raise our community’s voices, to demand an end to the deportations bleeding our communities dry. Our mission for the day was accomplished, but the work for a just and comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship continues.

By Antonia Alvarez and Cirien Saadeh, leaders of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, a nonprofit faith-based advocacy organization in Minnesota.

Image: Rafael Montoya