On July 31, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for several days of intense advocacy for immigration reform. Why did I go? Initially, because my heart broke looking at the pictures of frightened, undernourished children arriving at our borders seeking safety and sanctuary. My heart broke as I learned that they were being met with hostility in the form of shouting and even gun-waving American citizens. My heart broke knowing that their welcome to the land of the free came from uniformed and heavily armed officials rather than warm and loving arms.
The more I educate myself about this situation, the more I understand that this is not a policy issue but a humanitarian issue. My Unitarian Universalist faith teaches that every child, no matter his or her ethnicity or country of origin, every child is born with inherent dignity and worth. These children deserve a compassionate welcome, a fair hearing process, and the chance to be reunited with their families in a safe place -- a place where they will not be recruited into drug gangs, sexually exploited, or tortured and murdered.
I was joined in Washington by hundreds of clergy from many faiths: in addition to Unitarian Universalists there were United Methodists, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, American Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Catholics and Jews. We came from the border states, from the heartland, and from New England. I was pleased that there was a significant delegation from Connecticut. Although we came from different faith traditions, we were in agreement that it is morally reprehensible that families are broken apart because they are seeking a life of safety for their children.
We faith leaders joined with immigrant leaders in asking President Obama to immediately stop the expedited deportation of unaccompanied minor children and of families. This would provide immediate administrative relief for these vulnerable children and their parents. What a wonderful first step in fixing our broken immigration system!
Our various faiths call us to love our neighbors and to treat them with respect and dignity. Right now our immigration policies and practices dehumanize people who arrive at our borders seeking relief from dangerous and violently destabilized lives. Our moral obligation is to insist, in words and deeds (more than 100 clergy and others committed civil disobedience in front of the White House last week), that this policy be revised so that it reflects the American values of liberty and justice for all.
I was inspired by what I learned and by the small part I was able to play in the ongoing actions to bring about a fair and just immigration policy. I will continue to advocate for the children, for the families, for the workers. They are our children. They are our neighbors.
Rev. Roberta Finkelstein
Interim Senior Minister
Unitarian Church in Westport