Refugee Crisis Mobilizes La Mesa Congregation

LA MESA -- More than 50,000 young children have sought refugee status this year.  Some are fleeing gang violence and drug trafficking, others are escaping grinding poverty or trying to reunite with family already in the United States.  Many have paid large sums to smugglers and made dangerous journeys atop trains to get here, only to be placed in overcrowded, often unhealthy holding facilities while awaiting determination of their status by understaffed courts.  Some have also endured the verbal abuse of militant protesters seeking to banish them back to the horrors from which they fled.

Inspired by The Rev. Kaji Douŝa’s sermon (photo right) on Sunday, July 13, 2014, members of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa gathered to discuss the child immigration crisis and how we, as a justice-oriented church, should respond.  Following the guidance of Jesus in Matthew 25 (“...to the extent that you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”), we searched for ways that we could help to resolve the crisis and add a progressive Christian voice to the debate.

A letter-writing campaign, directed toward our congresspersons and enthusiastically endorsed by the congregation, started us off.   We eagerly anticipate their responses.  Our next step was to request a meeting with Representative Susan Davis, a valued opportunity to further express our concerns.

An ad hoc committee, consisting of Becky Motlagh, Dick and Karen Hatch, Jack Gillespie and Doug Brunson, met with Representative Susan Davis on Friday, July 18.  In that meeting we:

  • Thanked her for her support of refugees and other justice issues.
  • Expressed our concern over the current debate that is focusing on sending the children back while we believe it should be focusing on the care and safety of the children.
  • Conveyed the sense of urgency in our congregation for our justice-oriented voice to be heard and action taken by Congress and the Administration to meet the children’s needs.
  • Asked how we could be helpful to her as she works to resolve this emergency in a very polarized political environment.

We presented our Christian Perspective and Policy Recommendations sponsored by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-California and others (refer to documents on the church web site at http://tableucc.com/witness/sign-the-petition-central-american-refu... for an opportunity to participate in petitioning our elected officials to take those steps needed to adequately serve the needs of these children – providing, among other necessities, safe and humane living conditions, medical care, mental health support, access to visitation ministries, pastoral care, appropriate play and activities, quick reunion with family and legal assistance and representation.  This petition also urges Congress to not approve President Obama’s request to “more expeditiously deport” the children and to provide, instead, the “screening, services and status required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act.”

Rep. Davis, noting that the immigration issues are complex and unlikely to be resolved in the current Congress, expressed the hope that funding for the immediate crisis could be achieved.  She thanked us for our input and invited us to attend her Community Town Hall on July 21st so our rational, faith based voice could be heard in what she considered could be a contentious discussion, a meeting in which our committee was pleased to participate.   UCCLM’s voice will continue to be heard.  We invite other concerned citizens to join us in speaking up for these innocent children.

Coming soon at UCCLM:  A community panel discussion.  Watch for announcements.

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Tags: Kaji Dousa, Kaji Douŝa, La Mesa Church, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Rep. Susan Davis

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Comment by Batman on July 28, 2014 at 6:53pm

What this church is doing is compassionate and commendable. What our government is doing is not necessarily so. Separating children from their parents like this is evil, period. Our immigration service should put all these children on airplanes straight back to their home country to be reunited with their parents, along with detailed instructions on how they and their parents can legally immigrate to the USA. Whoever is down in Central America encouraging this activity needs to be hunted down by our CIA or other covert agency and dealt with severely.

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