The DREAM 9: Nine Prophetic Voices for the 1.7 Million Without Voices
by Stephen Pavey and Maryada Vallet
What does it mean to welcome the stranger in this moment of the immigration debate? On the morning of Monday, July 22, nine young undocumented immigrants arrived at the Nogales port-of-entry of the US-Mexico border and asked customs and border agents to allow them to return to their homes in the United States. They are now asking President Obama to immediately grant discretion and release from the Eloy detention center.
The courage and faith represented by the participants, risking their lives and well being in order to stand up for the most vulnerable of immigrants and the 1.7 million separated from their families through deportation under President Obama's administration, represented the generous gift and freedom of the kingdom of God.
Southern Arizona faith leaders were asked to accompany the young adults, representing multiple denominations, including Presbyterian, United Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic and evangelical churches. As the young men and women were preparing to slip on their caps and gowns, symbolizing their home and education in the USA and the DREAMer movement, the faith leaders took a moment to say a blessing over the action.
Forming a circle around the DREAMers, we laid hands on their shoulders and prayed. We prayed for their safety and that they would not suffer any abuse at the hands of US agents or officials. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill them with the peace of Christ and the courage of prophets. And we prayed that the broken immigration system would be divinely opened to let them in, like the parting of the red sea that freed the Israelites from slavery.
We then accompanied the young men and women to the port-of-entry, with a faith leader assigned to walk with each DREAMer. It was at this gate that each person presented themselves and an application for humanitarian parole, knowing they would more than likely be taken into custody immediately and then detained.
The beauty and bravery of this action was even more powerful because of the setting at the border that showed the extremes, the paradox, of calling for a welcome of immigrants amidst the deadly and harsh border wall and enforcement that separates so many families.
These are the stories of a few of the DREAMers that must be brought home: Adriana left Phoenix, Arizona, three months before the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) was announced because she was tired of worrying whether her mom would come home to her or end up in one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails. Luis Leon left North Carolina in 2011 because he was banned from attending the community college system. Maria Peniche, of Revere, Massachusetts, left with her younger brother and parents just three days before DACA was announced, because Maria too had dreams of one day attending college. Claudia Amaro came to this country because her father was murdered in Mexico; she lived in Kansas for more than 17 years before being deported with her 5-year-old US citizen son. Ceferino Santiago was forced to leave his family in Lexington, Kentucky, because he needed a $21,000 surgery; his life depended on his leaving, and now, just like the rest of the DREAMers, he is ready to come home and re-unite with his community.
The DREAM 9 are currently being held in immigration detention in Eloy, Arizona. Please pray for their release and for the reunification of families separated by deportation.
Maryada Vallet stays busy as a humanitarian, health professional, and evangelical agitator on the border. For more on border humanitarian work, go to NoMoreDeaths.org. Vallet wrote "Living Out Faith in the War Zone of the Borderlands" in the Summer issue of PRISM.
Steve Pavey is an applied anthropologist & missiologist engaged in activist scholarship as a Senior Research Scientist at the One Horizon Institute, Lexington, Kentucky. He utilizes collaborative and participatory research methods alongside activism with communities organizing for immigrant justice. He is a member of the steering committee for the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, as well as close ally to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. He is co-author, with Marco Saavedra, of a new book to be released in December 2012, Shadows then Light. This book, based on over two years of activism and research with undocumented youth, explores the meaning and practice of the diverse forms of civil disobedience in support of immigrant justice.