By the good graces of the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi and her local chief of staff, Dan Bernal, Sheila and I were able to be at the Betty Ong Community Center in San Francisco yesterday to hear President Barack Obama speak on immigration reform legislation and immigration more generally.
Standing behind the president was a diverse group from among the DREAMers community and the advocates who support them. We met some of the young DREAMers and two advocates with whom I’ve worked on immigration in the past while standing in the long line outside the event. One of the staffers said, “I was hoping the bishop would be here; we need people to pray for these DREAMers.” She went on to say that she and her colleagues (prominently including the Rev. Richard Smith, vicar of St. John-the-Evangelist in the Mission) have been able to prevent two deportations just in the last two weeks, by non-violent civil disobedience and by protest and advocacy. Both these young advocates had given up their tickets so that the DREAMers we met could get into the event.
While the president was speaking one young man, among those standing behind the president started yelling, saying he needed the president’s help, for himself and his parents, so that they would not be deported. When security police came to make the protester leave, the president ordered that he be allowed to stay; “I know he is frustrated; I would be too.”
But in his next remarks he gently made a counter-view known to the protester and to us: it is only by the application of our energies, without relenting, and working with the legislative process that the desired change can come. He restated that he is completely committed to this work.
In a speech focused on immigration policy, the president also spoke about the landmark diplomacy achievements from this past weekend with Iran, achievements that should dampen the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power.
I pray that the president, the minority leader and the many faithful servants of our country can all have some peace and rest on Thanksgiving — their work is enormous and they pour themselves into doing it.
This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent — a season of watching and waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. One meaning of the Second Coming of Christ is that there is a reality, even a power and a person beyond what we know in our daily world. As I am thankful for the people with whom I work, as I am thankful for those like our president who work on a level high above me, I am also remembering to be thankful and attentive to God-With-Us, who is also God-Beyond-Us. While we all work to the best of our abilities in the here and now, at the same time we pray to the God of all time and space for peace and compassion to prevail.