At the 233rd annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts (meeting in Hyannis on Saturday, 3 November 2018) two among us were asked to attend to testify in support of a resolution encouraging faith communities to be advocates for immigration justice. Unfortunately during the deliberations the time for debate had elapsed, and neither Pam nor Roz were able to speak. What follows is the statement each would have made. On behalf of the entire parish I thank them for making the time, for engaging with our friends at Episcopal City Mission, and for making our church strong!
From Pam Chester
I’m Pam Chester from Epiphany-Winchester. We gather on the I-93 overpass so the ICE detainees can see us. They reach toward us through the bars and press their hands against the glass. We reach toward them. They hold up handwritten signs: WE ARE NOT CRIMINALS. WE LOVE YOU. With the Burlington cluster, we field requests from immigrants and attorneys. We coordinate “Jericho walks.” We circle the ICE office where the business of enforcement and removal is conducted. We pray for all those involved, and conclude with a trumpet blast & a hope: May the walls of division and violence come tumbling down! Through his attorney, one detainee thanked us for our presence, amazed that “all those white people are there for us.” We are mostly white, yet not oneof the undocumented people we’ve seen has been white. This injustice flies in the face of our Christian convictions and American values.
A sanctuary parish asked us to partner. We needed two coordinators and our core immigration justice team was at full stretch. Yet two people who had never taken leadership roles stepped up.
This work has become an energy source that allows parishioners to exercise our rights and freedoms, following the call that we discern in the teachings of our faith. Some of us are compelled by our religious and moral values to stand with the stranger and the alien. Yet all have the opportunity to stand together, even amidst our policy differences.
Our world is torn by pain and fear, driving us to attack each other. This resolution allows us to come together across divisions, to see and celebrate our collective humanity, to form bonds that break down isolation, and live in the light of God’s love.
From Rosalyn Nazzaro
Pam Chester has spoken to the work our faith has led and inspired us to do through the Immigration Justice Ministry at Epiphany and beyond. I want to address some of the economic implications involved in immigration. Contrary to the messages we are bombarded with every day:
Immigrants bring a diverse set of skills and educational backgrounds to this country. Rather than compete directly for their jobs, many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity.
Immigrants are not a net drain on the Federal Government Budget. Taxes paid by immigrants and their children—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the costs of the services they use.
Immigrants start new businesses thereby creating jobs.
Immigrants are consumers thus contributing to the growth of the economy
We are not condoning the exploitation of immigrants by highlighting the economic benefits for the United States. Many immigrants, and refugees seeking asylum, come here to escape violence and poverty. “Sending them back” is to return them to these inhumane conditions that we have escaped due to the good fortune of where we were born.
Our family has fostered two “Unaccompanied Minors who lived with us while attending high school - Mou, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and Cheng, from China. Both graduated high school while working part-time at Stop and Shop and Burger King. Mou works two jobs, is married and contributes to building a school back in his village in Sudan. Cheng has a good job, is a homeowner and he and his wife have a baby. They are obviously contributing to the our economy. More importantly to us, they have bought joy and enrichment to our family, and humility. What a gift to be part of these fine men’s lives. Meanwhile, the agency that brought the boys to us has had their staffing level drastically cut due to the low number of refugees being allowed into the US under the present administration.
Faith and economics cannot be separated – I urge you to support the Resolution.