Vigil for immigrants

By América Gruner

The Coalition of Latino Leaders (CLILA) held the Vigil for Immigrants Tuesday evening in Dalton where community members prayed together for dignity and justice for immigrants, and for the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform.

The Vigil was part of the Pilgrimmage for Immigrants –an effort coordinated by Alterna and various religious groups and organizations from North Georgia to Atlanta

CLILA felt honored to organize this event in Dalton to pray, reflect and raise awareness about what we as immigrants in Dalton go through.

This vigil was another attempt to organize ourselves, to provide a safe place to hear the voices of the local community, and to invite other ethnic groups to join us for immigrants’ justice.

The vigil was moving and inspiring, kind of cathartic, we talked about our fears to go out in the street to perform our daily routines, as ‘Laura’ said “I’m afraid to go to the grocery store because I never know if I would come back home”.

‘Maria’ added “we want people to know that we don’t come to this country to take away anything from anybody, we work really hard and we just want a better life for our children, please give us a chance.”

We talked about detentions and deportations and how sad we feel when we learn our friends and neighbors have been detained or deported, we live in constant grieving.

We talked about the many children left behind, we were moved to tears when ‘Yolanda’ shared “it’s very painful for me to think about 7 children who are now without their mother, taken care by strangers with a big heart, but separated from her.

Even though we probably are not important to some people and that in Dalton not many white people care about local Latinos, we had the privilege to enjoy the presence of Dr. Robin Cleeland, a Social Work researcher and professor at Dalton State College. She joined us in prayer and her words of encouragement made us feel refreshed, as if she was washing our feet emotionally when she apologized for the suffering of immigrants and when she patiently listened to our stories, our fears, and concerns.

Dr. Cleeland’s presence was a symbol that only through faith in God we can transcend our differences, in order to achieve peace and justice. As she mentioned “God doesn’t see lines that divide us, He sees people. To His eyes we’re all equal”

It was a peaceful vigil, a time to connect with God and with each other, we prayed for an end to deportations of non-threatening immigrants, an end to unfair separation of families, for equal access to higher education, for an end to hate and discrimination.

We opened our doors to peace, justice, dignity, faith, hope, equality… so we decided to turn our fears into action with purpose; our suffering into dignity; our anxiety into active peace… Faith can transcend barriers and help us to see each other as equal

We lit candles, and each light was as symbol of each one of the immigrants who have been detained or deported, it was also a symbol of hope that change will come.

We sang “We Shall Overcome” as a deeply felt cry for justice. And we ended with a message of hope.

As in many places, in Dalton we immigrants are fearful, but getting stronger.  We’re afraid but not defeated.  We’re tired of injustice but filled with hope.  Some hate us, but we love them.  Some try to tear us apart, but we grow closer.  They try to demonize us but instead more people are opening their eyes and joining us.

“Whatever you have done to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me.” Matthew 25

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