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Viewpoints: Stand in solidarity with #Buffalo25

By the Rev. Justo González II

I stand on the side of justice uplifting the #Buffalo25. I am vehemently opposed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids targeting workers. Twenty-five men and women were recently arrested at local Mexican restaurants and placed on an immigration hold.

One mother of American-born daughters told me that they were taken away from her. No information about them, their safety or care was provided. She worried about her children, the trauma they were experiencing and if she would ever see them again.

To be clear, their criminal offenses, in essence, were being awesome cooks, preparing great meals that kept us coming back and providing exceptional service. These men and women, who worked seven days a week, were the “criminal element” that ICE removed from our streets. Oh, they also crossed a border to work.

I am the son of immigrants who migrated from their home to create a better life for themselves and to provide educational opportunities for their children. How can I not be opposed to such outrageous raids that deny people their dignity?

These undocumented immigrants are our sisters and brothers, no matter how ICE classifies them. They are our moms and dads. They are our immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents. They are us. We are them. Some of you will protest and say, “They are illegal. They are not part of my family.”

Don’t you get it? No human being is illegal. End of story! We are all children of God and have innate dignity and worth. The Holy See has long articulated its support for migrants. While affirming the borders of countries, the Catholic Church and many other faith communities recognize some are compelled to migrate due to poverty, hunger, injustice, violence and persecution. Spiritual leaders are clear: People can cross territorial borders to escape horrible situations. It is morally and ethically acceptable to cross a border in situations like those of the #Buffalo25. How can we profess to be people of faith, justice and good will, and then ignore the plight of these individuals? I certainly cannot.

Pilgrim-St. Luke’s and El Nuevo Camino United Church of Christ and I, as the pastor, will never abandon immigrants or stand for unjust ICE raids that separate families and make good people criminals. Prosecute the coyotes, employers or companies that use and abuse undocumented immigrants. Leave these workers alone.

The detainees, like you and I, have the right to earn the bread of life. They sacrificed, leaving their families, spouses, children and native countries to be able to earn a living wage, provide for their families, create a better tomorrow for their children and often to escape drug-related violence back home.

The #Buffalo25 have also put their lives at risk traveling the infamous “Death Train” known as La Bestia (the beast). La Bestia is a network of Mexican freight trains that are utilized by U.S.-bound migrants to more quickly traverse the length of Mexico.

The brutality of using La Bestia is well documented; women and men are raped, people are brutally attacked and robbed, some women are forced into sex slavery by human traffickers, and others are held for ransom. Tragically, some die, either falling off or being decapitated as the train crosses through pitch black tunnels with little room to maneuver.

Who among us would not take the risk of crossing a border if it meant putting food into the mouths of our children, caring for our families or escaping the daily brutality of violence or death?

I would cross the border in a heartbeat. Let us not forget that there but for the grace of God go we. Embrace #Buffalo25.

The Rev. Justo González II is pastor of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s and El Nuevo Camino United Church of Christ in the Elmwood Village.

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