Raise your hands, raise your voices for meaningful immigration reform now!
That was the morning calisthentic lesson and corresponding chant as the ten nuns, known as the "Nuns on the Bus" met with activists, faith leaders, and social justice advocates of all ages, races, and orientations in a cross-country effort to get Congress to adopt an immigration reform bill this summer. Strangely, the crowd of mostly Democratic Party movers and shakers, found themselves having to speak positively about U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, one of the co-authors of the Senate-version of the immigration reform bill. One of the union leaders at the event admitted they disagree with Rubio on "97-percent of what he does," but this time, it was important to get behind him and give him encouragement in the face of much mudslinging from the racist elements in his own Republican Party.
The cross-section of people who came together to follow the nuns on their walk up to the Capitol all agree on one thing: the bill Rubio, and seven others, have put together is a "good start," but it is not, by far, the perfect bill. It will, however, create a better path to citizenship for many in this country, and will allow children, born in the United States but with immigrant parents, to have access to our educational and health care systems in ways that, in some states, have been denied... based upon the parents' status.
One of the glaring neglects in the bill, for me and others, is the lack of inclusion of binational LGBT couples. There are many men and women in same-sex relationships in this country who are treading lightly for fear that, one day, the federal immigration authorities will knock at their door and tell their partner to "go home, you furriner!" There don't have to be reasons; they can just kick them out. And, in a lot of cases, the immigrant partner will be kicked out to go back to a country that will persecute them for being an LGBT person. The organizer of yesterday's event with the nuns acknowledged that, as has happened many times in the political arena, we LGBT people became the casualities in order to secure the votes of people like the Marco Rubio's... and even the nuns. Sounds an awful lot like "living in a crucified place," doesn't it?
Still, having witnessed the nuns in person, and their utter amazement at the rock star status they've gained since they stood up to the male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and insisted that their mission must be about working with the poor and disenfranchised, I think they are not as likely to fall into the stereotype of the Roman thinking. But they know the climate on Capitol Hill, and they know the depth and breadth of the problems that are occuring right now in America with immigrant families getting torn apart because of our lack of clarity on becoming a citizen. And they know you need to get a foundation laid, and then you can build up from there.
Most importantly, they know that what gives them the strength to travel and speak and stand in front of the powerful to make their case is a source beyond themselves. As one of the sisters noted, they think about the parable about the mustard seed. And when they see a room as they did yesterday of many people gathered in support of their lobbying effort, they know the mustard seed is planted, and it is growing into a movement to get things done to make our country more hospitable to the stranger, to the weak, and to the friendless.
"You kind of call us like Johnny Mustardseed, going around planting these seeds, and look what grows up? An amazing opportunity to do comprehensive immigration reform."
And when do we want it? Now!