Films on Immigration

Perhaps you have a little more time than usual for watching movies at this time of year.  Perhaps you are looking for a good youth group or other small group activity.  Perhaps you are looking for a selection for your congregation’s book and movie group. Here are some recommendations for movies that explore immigration issues. -Ed.

DRAMA

The Visitor (2007) 104 minutes, PG-13
In this fictional drama, an American college professor and a young immigrant couple grapple with the treatment of immigrants and the legal process post-9/11. The film makers are using the film to call attention to issues of due process, detention and deportation. Learn more about what you can do in response. (more…)

The Birth of Jesús

This is an excerpt from the Epilogue of The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, by Margaret Regan.  The book was chosen as the 2010-2011 Common Read for Unitarian Universalists, and has a downloadable discussion guide.

The weekend before Christmas 2008, temperatures dropped sharply across southern Arizona. By midnight on December 21, the border town of Douglas was shivering in the low 40s. By the time a baby boy was born in the desert a few hours later, it was down to 34, so cold the soft earth had hardened and the cactus spines were crackling. The baby’s mother, Lilian Escalante Abrego, had been hiking the wilderness for three days, in a group of quince compañeros caminando, “fifteen friends walking”: five women,a nine-year-old girl, and nine men. Lilian had started out with a friend in their native Honduras, and the two of them had met the rest of the migrants along the way. The journey
lasted weeks, and the travelers had become close. That night they were in the foothills of the Perilla Mountains, ten miles east of Douglas, hoping to make it to a road and a ride. Lilian wasn’t expecting her baby until January. But in the wee hours of December 22, she went into labor.

Unlike those who walked with Josseline, Lilian’s compañeros didn’t even consider going on without her. They shook off their backpacks and spread a yellow blanket on the cold desert floor, trying, vainly, to find a spot free of rocks and prickers. “I lay down on the ground,” Lilian said later, and the wayfarers gathered around under the stars to await the birth of the child. They were in ranch country, and cattle were lowing. With Navidad on her mind, Lilian prayed to the Christ Child.

This was her fifth baby and the labor was short. After only two hours, Lilian brought her baby to the light, lo dio a luz, as the Spanish term for childbirth has it. At three thirty in the morning, near where Silverio Huinil Vail had died eight years before, Arón Jesús Escalante Abrego was born.

“One of the muchachas”—the women—“cut the umbilical cord with a knife,” Lilian said. Both the baby and his mother were in trouble. Arón Jesús was dangerously small and Lilian was bleeding vaginally. She had banged up her legs during the trip, and her feet were badly blistered. “I couldn’t run,” she said. “I couldn’t even walk. I wanted help from la migra.” So someone lit a fire. The birthplace was in lonesome country, and the agents never saw the flames blazing in the winter night. When no help came, ten of the migrants set out to find it.
“A man stayed with me in the desert,” Lilian said. “A Mexican compañero. He told me, ‘I’m not going to leave you alone.’ ” Nicknamed Capulina, he had already teasingly asked the widow Lilian to marry him. She’d teased him right back, saying he was too old, forty to her thirty-nine, but at her moment of crisis he was there at her side. “He cried when the baby was born.”

At daybreak, the others found a solitary ranch house and banged on the door. The owner peered out and, hearing of the birth in the desert, put in an emergency call to the Border Patrol. When la migra arrived, the migrants regaled them with the story of the Christmas baby. The agents hurried out, and in the morning light tracked the walkers’ footprints back to the yellow blanket. They found Arón Jesús and Lilian swaddled in sweaters and trembling in the cold…

On Christmas Eve, the upward arc of Lilian’s story—and the heartwarming tale of the Border Patrol’s rescue of a new baby in Christmas week—spiraled back down. In the early afternoon, I found her dressed and sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, discharge papers in hand. A new Border Patrol agent was standing by. Now that she was medically able to travel, the agent had orders to take her to the station. Never mind that she was a nursing mother with a newborn son in intensive care. And never mind that it was Christmas Eve…

From The Death of Josseline copyright Margaret Regan 2010. Published by Beacon Press.

Read the full story of Lilian and baby Arón Jesús in the Epilogue to The Death of Josseline. It is one of many moving immigration stories from the Arizona Borderlands found in Regan’s book. How have you used Regan’s book in your congregation?  What insights did the book offer to you?  How did it call you to action?  Send us your stories!

All-Church Christmas Pageant: Las Posadas

This begins a series of posts exploring the wisdom Christian and Jewish scripture and tradition offer as we strive to respond faithfully to immigration justice issues. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, AL, presented a Christmas pageant using elements from the Spanish celebration of Las Posadas to highlight the experience of seekers of refuge and a new start throughout the ages and in our own time.- Ed.

The pageant begins:

READER #1 (SHEPHERD): There are many ways to commemorate Christmas. One of them, common in the Spanish traditions in the Southwest, is Las Posadas. The Inns. In some places this is done for nine nights preceding Christmas, in others nine houses are visited in a single night, or nine rooms in a building.  A procession led by figures of Mary and Joseph, the parents-to-be of the infant Jesus, goes from place to place, searching for an inn in which to stay.

READER #2 (WISE PERSON): At the time of Caesar Augustus, a census was ordered. Everyone was required to travel to their own home town to be registered. So Joseph traveled from where he lived in Nazareth to his ancestral home in Bethlehem. His betrothed, Mary, accompanied him on the journey despite the fact that she was pregnant.

READER #3 (SHEPHERD): Scripture tells us that when they arrived in Bethlehem, they had difficulty finding lodging in the crowded town and finally had to settle for an animals’ stable. It was there that the road-weary parents gave birth to their first-born child, and made a bed for him in the hay of the animals’ feeding trough because there were no better accommodations. (more…)

Training the Next Generation of UU Social Justice Leaders

The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California (UULMCA) is paying attention to training the next generation of UU Social Justice leaders.  This fall, they launched a 10-month internship program for passionate, idealistic, and entrepreneurial young adult leaders. Under the direction of Rev. Sonya Sukalski, the program aims to build leaders who are healthy in spirit, mind, and body. They will engage with current campaigns and leaders while also discovering how to sustain a lifelong commitment to social justice via theological reflection, community building and personal spiritual practice. The SALT program flyer invites you to follow adventures of this year’s 16 SALT Fellows on the website of the UULMCA, and to look for them at Justice GA in Phoenix!

“Com-passion:” A Theological Foundation for Intergenerational Worship

Why do we do justice work?  Theologically speaking, we are guided by ancient tradition and covenants that teach us to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”  A more contemporary articulation for Unitarian Universalists would be that to honor the inherent worth and dignity of every person means advocating for all human expression whatever the situation.  Such advocacy is how we honor that worth.  But when we’re crossing cultural boundaries in doing our advocacy work, we need to be mindful that our efforts do not patronize nor our expressions become misappropriation.

In my own anti-racism and anti-oppression work over the last decades, and especially in the early days of that awakening in me, I came to appreciate a way to understand “compassion” more fully.  I am thinking here about the Latin roots of the word compassion:  the prefix com meaning with, and passion meaning to feel.  “Com-passion” equals “feeling with.”   I’m not writing about some action where one in privilege reaches down to alleviate the pain of someone less fortunate.  That is a vapid, empty devaluation of the word itself.  But I am talking about discovering ways to identify with those whose positions we advocate, so that their concerns and their struggles become ours in the most intimate, intuitive ways. (more…)

Modeling Multigenerational Learning and Service

The UUA Mid-South District’s Annual Healthy Congregations Conference focused on Immigration as a Moral Issue.

This  multigenerational conference, presented on October 8, 2011 had a number of tracks, including political, congregational, and social media responses.  The multigenerational faith development track included reflection, an immersion experience field trip and an introduction to a long-term social justice project. For a project, the District has planned a mobile library of bilingual children’s books to be located near an indoor playground. Pat Kahn reports on the multigenerational track written for the Mid-South Faith Development Council. 

Plaza Fiesta!

As part of the Mid-South District Healthy Congregations Conference hosted by Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta on Saturday October 8th, 14 people (5 children ages 6-9, 1 infant, and 8 adults) participated in a multigenerational workshop and field trip.  In the morning session, all ages heard the keynote address by Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO, followed by a workshop during which UUCA member Laura Murvartian (helped by her children Claudia and Nicolas Murvartian-Rhim) shared her own immigration story. (more…)

We Are Not Guests

A Reflection by Rev. Alicia Roxanne Forde

 

Am I a guest here. Here in this House. Are you?

Are we guests here. Here in this House. And, whose House do we inhabit?

In the small world of our lives

the borders between us: easements, fences, gates, hedges – serve to delineate,

to separate us. To remind us of where my property begins and ends.

Where your property begins and ends.


If you cross over: you are a trespasser or a guest in my house.

(more…)

Enacting Justice: Questioning the Paradigm

Whatever the issue area, be it Occupy Wall Street, immigrant integration, or how we are together in religious community, whether we’re conscious of it or not, a paradigm is operative.  A paradigm is a mindset or set of assumptions, often unexamined, about how things happen. It’s the way we shape and understand information; it reflects our perceptions and approach to problem-solving.

(more…)

Enter the Kitchen

There is much buzz in Unitarian Universalist circles about Justice GA 2012 in Phoenix. Here’s what Asha Arora, this year’s GA Youth Caucus junior dean, known as a HUUPER (Hardcore UU Person, Energized and Ready), has to say.

When I was younger I disliked Sunday school. I had to wake up early and I enjoyed my sleep.  That hasn’t changed but something else has- the number of amazing people I know all thanks to COA and YRUU. Everyone in YRUU has helped me feel happy and respected. So when I got the chance to be a delegate and represent the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix at General Assembly 2011 I was thrilled. I was elated to be in an environment created by some incredible UUs. I was so inspired by this experience that I applied to be the co-dean of General Assembly’s next two youth caucuses.  To my surprise, I was selected and I cannot wait for General Assembly 2012.

However, this GA isn’t typical. You’re coming because in my state of Arizona we are having a social justice crisis. Hate seems to always be present. I am grateful that you are coming with the intention of healing this with love. Unfortunately, this anger is spreading. So I ask you spend this time before GA preparing. I know that if we do so, once we gather for 2012 our impact will be even stronger.

We have work to do if we are to accept with integrity the invitation from immigration justice organizations in Phoenix. (more…)