For years immigrant communities and their supporters have been marching, canvasing, writing letters, lobbying politicians, holding educational events, telling their stories and praying for an end to the pain, suffering and fear caused by our broken immigration system. In spite of all this effort nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants have been forcibly deported leaving nearly 3 million children without a parent.
In the face of so much preventable human suffering there comes a time when good order must be interrupted so the cries of children can be heard. This is why I joined 141 immigrant activists in blocking a major intersection in downtown Chicago on November 6th. We are calling on the Obama Administration to suspend deportations and we are calling on Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed in the Senate.
It was a privilege for me to participate in this action with so many gifted young immigrants and other supporters of immigration reform. As we sat in the street awaiting arrest we joined in many familiar chants.
The one that struck me the most was the chant, “This is what democracy looks like!” I have joined in this chant on many occasions for many different causes. It is a powerful reminder that citizenship in a democracy is more than a spectator sport. It is a solemn commitment to engage in the political process in order to form a “more perfect union” in our communities, our nation and around the world.
But in the midst of this chant a new variation arose. This mostly young immigrant crowd began to chant, “This is what America looks like.” Yes indeed! As I looked over this multi-cultural community of social justice activists it was clear to me that these are the faces of America’s future; and to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear – these young activists are the future of our Church.
These gifted young organizers of color and their white allies represent the best of who we are. They are the ones we have been waiting for. As a middle-aged white male activist it is clear to me that my role is to follow their lead; to trust in their judgment; and to offer what wisdom I have if asked.