These last two days I’ve been in Washington, DC with other members of the National Sanctuary Collective. This is a group of 8-10 people in sanctuary and their supporters that Edith has been communicating with regularly. The Collective shares a common strategy of being very public with their stories as a way of gathering broad support and catching the attention of elected officials. This time in DC builds on previous advocacy efforts with members of both parties to use their influence in whatever way possible to improve the chances of each person in sanctuary returning home to their families.
There are about 20 of us here this week from St. Louis, Austin, Philadelphia, and Columbus. We are clergy, organizers, attorneys, supporters, and family members of those in sanctuary. I pulled Lily out of school for a different kind of educational experience. Although I wasn’t expecting to run into any other Mennonites besides our fantastic hosts (former CMC members Mary Hershberger and Dave Kraybill – who send their greetings), we have been joined at various times by three: Pastor Cindy Lapp of Hyattsville Menno in DC, Pastor John Bergen of Germantown Menno in Philly where Carmela Hernandez is in sanctuary, and Tammy Alexander from the Mennonite Central Committee DC office.
Tuesday morning, before our office visits, we joined a large demonstration outside the Supreme Court in support of DACA.
Our meetings with high profile folks have been with staffers of Senators Warren and Booker. They have been tuned in to the cases, including doing some official inquiries into the excessive fines from ICE. They were also clear that conversation had to focus on their bosses’ actions as Senators, not candidates for President.
Perhaps the strongest ally in Congress has been Joaquin Castro, Representative from Texas and brother of presidential candidate Julian Castro. His staffer plans to gather several caucuses and brief them on these sanctuary cases.
A few of us had an hour long meeting with Senator Brown’s office today. His lack of public support for Edith has been frustrating and the organizer working on Edith’s case, Mo, led the conversation in how they might be more helpful.
We’ve also met with several Republican offices, focusing the conversations on family values of keeping families together, and religious freedom without retaliation from the federal government for churches exercising our moral convictions in offering sanctuary.
One of the participants is a regional justice advocate in the Progressive National Baptist Convention – founded by black leaders in the early 60’s during the civil rights struggle. Several of us went with him this morning to their national headquarters to meet with their General Secretary about getting sanctuary on their list of priorities.
This evening a number of us had supper at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland where Rosa Guitierrez Lopez has been in sanctuary for nearly a year. This was a chance to express support for Rosa and the congregation as she considers considers joining this Collective. Rosa is on Lily’s left in the front row, and her son is on the chair at the far right.
Tomorrow (Thursday) morning Senator Brown has an open meet-and-greet coffee hour with constituents, so we’ll start the day by inviting him to come visit Edith at CMC. We’ll then spend some time at the Museum of African American History and Culture before heading home. I’m sending this late enough that tomorrow is now today.