In the Wake of ICE, What Shall We Do?
By: Rev'd Dr. Johnny Jeffords
“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the soul [the feelings, thoughts, and concerns] of a stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt." Exodus 23:9 (The Amplified Bible)
The faith community of Memphis is coming together in response to the ICE raids on our neighbors in Latinx communities. What are some tangible things people of faith can do to show solidarity and hospitality to our neighbors right now?
The implications of the current policy and the appropriate measures to protest and advocate for change will continue to emerge. In these moments, however, the consequence of what has happened has already caused harm to families, to children. The detainment of those taken by ICE has left many families without a primary bread winner in their homes. How can we help care for families where harm has occurred?
Two ways you can help respond to this reality now is to assist our food pantry as we have added the capacity for 10 families affected, in addition to our usual volume of output each day. Your help in the food pantry is always welcomed, and we are identifying very specific volunteer tasks that can be done. If you agree to serve, there will be a task for you to undertake to help us. We are also redoubling our efforts to collect diapers which will be distributed to affected families where there is specific need.
The other reality we’ve come to know is that families fear leaving their homes even to bring their children to school. As a result, many children who should be in school on Monday to start the new year will not. And those who are will wonder if their school is safe. Congregations from across the city are committing to gather at schools with highest Latinx populations with signs saying “EVERYONE IS WELCOME AT SCHOOL,” “WE LOVE ALL PEOPLE,” “IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME,” and any other messaging of welcome and safety that can be communicated to students and their parents.
Bruce Elementary has long been our sponsor school. It is also among the schools in the Shelby County School System with a significant Latinx population. St. John’s, school starts this Monday, August 7. Let’s meet at Bruce at 7:40am with signs and symbols of safety and welcome. On behalf of a coalition of faith communities across the city, I claimed Bruce School for us to make a witness. We can talk more about it this Sunday, but I want you to be praying about how your non-anxious, loving presence can signal hope and care for children who’ve undergone unimaginable trauma.
Finally, this Sunday we will have a form with information about the rights people have as it relates to ICE. We will have copies available for everyone who wants them. We encourage you to take them and to hand to any person you believe could benefit from knowing what their rights are.
Why do we do this?
Because we believe this policy is inconsistent with the best ideas of our country and is diametrically opposed to the tenets of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament.
We do this because actions are being undertaken in our name as citizens that, despite any protestations to the contrary, are laced with prejudice, racism, and hate.
We do this because deep within we know this doesn’t feel right, we can’t believe something like this is happening here – a place we call home.
We do this because our faith won’t let us be neutral or silent. We do this because if we live out the hospitality we claim defines our faith, maybe, just maybe, a child’s fears may calm, a family may be reunited, and we will have become, for this season, the hands and feet of Christ.
Let make witness in our response.