A Mother’s Day Vigil

mothers-day-vigil-2017

Ninth Annual Mother’s Day Vigil at the Northwest Detention Center

By Teresa Burciaga & Dick Gillett

Dick and Teresa’s original article was published in the newsletter of Seattle’s St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PNA. Please feel free to comment and join the conversation.  

On Saturday, May 13, more than 100 people gathered in Tacoma’s shabby industrial area, alongside the barbed wire-topped chain link fence surrounding a starkly nondescript prison: the Northwest Detention Center. After the crowd had laid down a mound of Mother’s Day bouquets near the fence, a Latino group played music and we prayed and chanted, hoping the prisoners inside would hear us and take heart. “No, No, No Basta Rezar,” the group sang, and we responded (No, it is not enough to pray).

We were gathered at the behest of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, and the Washington Community Action Network. This was the 9th Annual Mother’s Day Vigil at the prison. The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma is owned by the GEO Group, one of the largest security firms in the world—the same corporation that runs Guantanamo Bay.  It is the nation’s second largest for-profit prison operator, with a capacity for more than 1500 persons at the Tacoma facility.

“They are mothers and fathers who have lived alongside us. They are our neighbors.”

Emboldened by new policies under the current administration, the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency has stepped up raids. These sweeps include men and women who have no criminal record— mothers and fathers who have held jobs for over 20 years; who have American-born children—that are being detained and deported. Civil rights don’t extend to these immigrants being held at the Northwest Detention Center. They can be held there indefinitely.

“They are mothers and fathers who have lived alongside us,” stated Teresa Burciaga. “They are our neighbors. Their children go to school alongside ours. They hold jobs, sometimes as many as three to make a living—and pay Social Security and Medicare tax. They shop at our supermarkets and stores and pay sales tax. They are good, law-abiding people. Now their lives are in jeopardy.”

There were testimonies at the Vigil. One young mother spoke of her hope for a better life for herself and her family. Another mother, a United Methodist lay woman, told us she was there to remember and pray for her son, two years after he was deported to Mexico. Many immigrants come to this country to escape chronic poverty, criminal violence and government corruption. The prayerful community gathered at the Vigil stood in solidarity for love, justice and compassion. As their signs proclaimed, “Love has no borders, ” and “No one is free when other people are oppressed.”

We have an opportunity now to stand up for them and create more sanctuary cities and states. And we’ve recently learned that St. Mark’s Cathedral is proceeding to become a sanctuary church. Meanwhile, we in the faith communities might work to eventually close down this private prison, the Northwest Detention Center.

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Author (Rev. Canon) Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village, a retired Episcopal priest, and a regular contributor to our PNA Village Connections blog. His many previous articles include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”“”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming.”

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Martín’s Journey to the White House

Sky above the Truman Balcony of the White House Sep 29 2009. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

By Dick Gillett

Across the alley from our church, the four members of the Martínez family to whom St. Andrew’s has given shelter for the past twelve months will be moving on by the end of October. Their sponsor, Compass Housing Alliance, has provided excellent logistical and counseling support. The parents, Martín and Natividad, have both been thoroughly immersed in training and English language courses to equip them for the next phase of their lives. Their youngest son, Brandon, 15, will be a sophomore at Roosevelt high this fall and is on the football team. Martín Jr., 20, has just graduated from Everett Community College and begins this fall as a full-time student on scholarship at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. He has also been working full-time this summer for a construction company and is saving up for college expenses as well as putting money into the bare-bones family budget.

Says Deacon Anne Novak, our early liaison with the Martínez family, “They have been wonderful occupants of Brighton House—very self-reliant, and have never asked for a single thing. I’ll be extremely sorry to see them go,” she says. Those of us who have had a small part in offering moral support and encouragement to them are humbled by their determination and resolve despite tremendous personal obstacles.

#Not1MoreBut this story is primarily about young Martín, whose outstanding achievements at Everett, and enrollment at EWU this fall are only part of this young man’s story and his keen sense of responsibility for his family, his fellow Latinos, and the larger community. In a recent extended conversation with him I learned that he helped organize a trip to Washington, D.C. this past June with some of his fellow students. Their purpose: to advocate in front of the White House for two days, for comprehensive immigration reform. On August 8 I interviewed Martín again at length about this trip and about his own future aspirations.

I should note that Martín is a “Dreamer”, the informal name for the granting of legal status to those who came at a young age across the border to the United States, and who have been in school here for at least five years. Two years ago President Obama established this category by executive order under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals Initiative (DACA). Martín qualified.

Q. Martín, while you were a student at Everett Community College you helped organize this trip. Who went, and how did you get there?

A. There were eight of us, and we drove in two cars. Together we raised all the money for our transportation expenses, sleeping in our cars en route across the country. We also paid for a pretty shabby apartment, sleeping there on the floor as well as the beds.

Q. Why did you go, and what did you want to accomplish?

A. As young Latinos now living and studying in the United States, we wanted to go in front of the place where the president lives, to create more awareness of the critical need for immigration reform. But I also can’t deny that on the way we enjoyed some sightseeing as we crossed the country for the first time, and I wondered later whether we might have done more than we did.

Q. Say a little about the experience of demonstrating in front of the White House.

A. We were there with our placards for two days, for five hours each day. As we started protesting, several people gave us dirty looks. We listened to verbal abuse—“You’re not supposed to be in this country,” “Go home, wetback”, “You people take our jobs away”, “You don’t pay taxes”, and worse. It felt really bad to actually hear this face to face. But some other people gave us high fives and joined our protesting cause—especially college students. We even had over 80 people protesting with us. That felt really good.

Actions are Illegal Never People

Q. Did any of you visit the offices of Washington’s congressional representatives?

A. Yes, we visited the offices of Rep. Suzan DelBene (Dem., District 1), and Rep. Rick Larsen (Dem., District 2). Both representatives spoke personally with us.

Q. What was their response to your advocacy for immigration reform?

A. Rep. DelBene was very supportive; she understood the issue very well.

“Keep pushing for what you want”, she told us. And she reminded us that not only Latino immigrants needed our support, but also those from countries other than Latin America. However, after keeping us waiting for an hour, Rep. Larsen gave us only ten minutes. He told us our cause was useless, that the immigration situation was never going to change.

Q. In this issue of immigration as our country is currently facing it, are there moral or historical reasons why it’s important to you personally?

A. First, this affects me and my family personally. Secondly, immigration reform is basically a human rights issue. We immigrants are devalued as human beings; we are deprived of our human rights due to the lack of a social security number. Another thing regarding the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino”. It was Europeans who used the term Hispanic to designate us, giving it a colonial connotation. Latino is a better term; we ourselves began to use it in preference to Hispanic.

Q. How can we in the churches respond better to the issue of immigration reform?

A. First, understand the issue! Create awareness. Educate people. Also the churches can support or join community and other organizations that are supporting immigration reform.

Q. Martín, what are your own personal goals as you set off for Eastern Washington University as a full-time student?

A. First, to get my bachelor’s degree. My major will be business management and administration, with a minor in psychology. At Everett I was president of MEChA, a national student group advocating the rights of Latinos. At EWU my classes begin the last week in September. I’ve already contacted the MEChA chapter there, and they’ve asked me to be a leader in their group.

Q. Finally, what would you like to do now to continue furthering the cause of immigrant rights?

A. I have a dream: to organize a large event for immigration reform that actually places the students themselves in the leadership of the event, as opposed to just participating.

Thank you sincerely, Martín! It’s been a special privilege.

Martín & Friends in front of White House June 2014

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This article by fellow PNA Village Member (The Rev. Canon) Dick Gillett was originally published on the blog of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. To see the original posting, please visit:  http://www.saintandrewsseattle.org/martins-journey-to-the-white-house/

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More June Events!

Kshama Sawant event

There are some great events blooming across Seattle in the next couple of weeks, from the continuation of our beloved Phinney Farmer’s Market and the PNA Summer Blood Drive on the 20th, discussions about raising the minimum wage sponsored by the One World Group/St. Andrew’s Episcopal on the 24th, and the ever-popular Greenwood Car Show on the 28th!

See details for each event below:

PNA Summer Blood DrivePNA Summer Blood Drive
Friday, June 20
1-7pm
Blood Drive in Rooms 1 & 2, street level of our PNA Blue Building

Did you know that PNA partners with the Puget Sound Blood Center several times a year to bring a blood drive to the neighborhood?  Your donation can save up to 3 lives! For more information on how to donate or to make an appointment please visit: https://schedule.psbc.org/DonorPortal/Default.aspx

Phinney Farmer's MarketPhinney Farmers Market
Fridays
until October 3 (closed July 4)
3-7pm
Upper parking lot at the PNA

Kids and dogs welcomed! For a list of what’s ripe and ready each week, see: http://www.seattlefarmersmarkets.org/ripe-n-ready/ripe-n-ready

One World Group of St. Andrew’s Church
Tuesday, June 24
7 pm

111 NE 80th Street, Seattle

Free and open to the public. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will discuss Seattle’s new $15 per hour minimum wage and other civic topics. For more information please contact Will Lewis: lewis.willb@gmail.com

Greenwood Car Show 2014 poster

Greenwood Car Show
Saturday, June 28
8 am to 4 pm
Greenwood Avenue North between North 67th and North 90th Streets in Seattle

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