Shortly after the family separation policy was announced, I found myself looking for engaged neighbors at our local activist fair hosted at a Methodist Church. One of the tables had the sign “Don’t Separate Families”. I knew I wanted to connect with this group. The flyer said they would be meeting on Sunday afternoon at a local synagogue. It turns out that this came about because two alumni parents of a friend's school could not stand by without doing something about children being taken from their parents. On that first Sunday afternoon, the room was filled with other outraged neighbors. We organized into working groups and came up with several first actions, a New Sanctuary Coalition Accompaniment Training, organizing for the June 30 Keeping Families Together March, and raising donations for organizations working with immigrants and asylum seekers. Some of our members were also deeply interested in actually going to the border; to do what, they did not know.
|A map of the caravans' travels in the United States.|
We continued meeting, connecting with other groups like the New York Immigration Coalition and others.Then we heard of a grassroots effort coming out of Beacon, New York called Grannies Respond/Abuelos Responden. The idea is that a caravan would head out from Beacon, stop in NYC for a rally and then continue on, making stops along the way. The final destination would be McAllen, Texas – home of the Ursula Detention Center, the largest immigrant processing center in the United States. Two from our local group decided to participate while the rest of us worked on the NY Rally, creating interest and publicity. The idea took off as a group from Utah and Los Angeles formed to make their way to McAllen, all converging at once. The NY caravan made stops in Reading, PA; Pittsburg, PA; Louisville, KY; Montgomery, AL; New Orleans, LA; Dilley, TX; and Houston, TX before seeing McAllen. All along the way they had rallies, vigils, and demonstrations, picking up cars and vans of more "grannies" (and "grampies").
At our most recent weekly meeting of Don’t Separate Families on Aug. 20, we hosted a reunion of the NY contingency and reached out to the public to attend (in person or via live stream) to hear their witness stories of desperation, hope, and resilience. What's next? We hope to continue to collaborate with Grannies Respond on their next project, the Overground Railroad, a network of grassroots services serving those seeking asylum.
Editor's note: You can sign up for more information about Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responded and/or the Overground Railroad here.
[Sister Susan Wilcox is a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, NY]