Oakland church

Prayer Vigil: Humanitarian Crisis at the Border

On August 2 the Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice held their monthly vigil around the humanitarian crisis at the border, where over 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been caught crossing the border fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.

As many of us know, the government is looking for ways to quickly deport them without a chance to fight a case for asylum, despite the fact that U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees released a report claiming that up to 60% of these children can qualify for refugee status.

The purpose: a time of prayer, testimonies and songs, and to make our voices heard on behalf of these precious children to raise awareness to their plea.

Mirtha organized attendance from our church – here is her report:

About 50 people gathered in front of the detention center for introductions. Most of the people were associated with a church but also in attendance were Richmond’s Mayor Gayle McLaughlin; candidate for Mayor, Eduardo Martinez; and a council woman. Catherine Kessler and Michael Armijo came to the Vigil! We sang in English and Spanish led by a guitarist. Three personal testimonies were the highlight of the vigil.

A young man, recent Cal graduate, told his story of being born in a refugee camp in El Salvador when his mom was 14 years old. His father left them as the government wanted to make him “disappear” due to his work to help organize the indigenous people. His father got asylum in the U.S. and then at age 8 he came and finally met his father.  He thanked one of the church people in attendance for helping him when he arrived to this country.

A young woman and her daughter from El Salvador gave their testimony. The mother said her daughter had recently arrived to the U.S. fleeing the gangs at the school who abducted girls and used drugs in front of the younger children. Everyone is to fearful to say anything against the gangs as they will kill you, your family and friends. A school mate of her daughter’s had been killed by the gangs forcing the family to leave their home.

An older Guatemalan woman said she came to the U.S. to escape the gang violence and showed her scarred and gouged leg where she was shot by a gang member.  She said she prayed during her whole journey. She says she feels safe here and doesn’t want to leave.

In closing, we prayed for the children, all those detained, and for government officials to see these children as one of theirs.

We were urged to call Senator Feinstein and Washington DC, as the calls are reportedly 4 to 1 in favor of the quick deportation of the children.

by Mirtha Ninayahuar

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