WALNUT, CA – Diverse faith and community leaders held a prayer vigil at St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Parish Community on Thursday, July 6, in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV), to demonstrate strong support for immigrant communities.
In this current climate of anti-immigrant policies and attacks at the federal level, organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), and LA Voice brought together this multiracial, interfaith coalition to stand up for the humanity and dignity of all immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, and to uphold the proposition that all religions believe in justice.
Undocumented immigrants contribute to various facets of the United States and California, including in local regions such as the San Gabriel Valley, speakers on Thursday pointed out.
There are approximately one million undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles County. One in 5 live in the SGV, which is home to about 200,000 undocumented immigrants of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Not only do undocumented immigrants contribute approximately $57 billion to the Los Angeles region’s gross domestic product (GDP), they enhance the moral fiber and quality of life of all of our communities.
The prayer vigil focused on the moral imperative to support immigrant communities by protecting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is under attack with Texas and nine other states calling for an end to DACA, and by enacting the California Values Act (SB 54), state legislation that would strengthen public safety and community trust with law enforcement by ensuring that state and local resources are not used to participate in the Trump Administration’s deportation machine.
Father Mike Gutierrez, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Baldwin Park who is a faith leader with CLUE and LA Voice, said, “Our flock includes hardworking undocumented Americans from Mexico, Philippines, and other areas of the globe. It is essential for the safety of our community that immigrants be able to trust police and not see them as an arm of the deportation machine.”
According to Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of CLUE, “We urge all people of faith and conscience to support immigrant communities by supporting meaningful policies such as the California Values Act (SB 54) and the DACA program. Our moral compass must guide us in upholding values of inclusion, compassion, and equality. It is more urgent now than ever to take a stand against anti-immigrant hate and xenophobia — and instead to follow our faith traditions that call upon us to welcome and embrace immigrants and to love all people, regardless of any divisive categorization, as ourselves.”
“Immigrants are an integral part of our nation, our state, and local communities,” said Anthony Ng, Policy Advocate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA. “They are our loved ones, relatives, co-workers, classmates, community members among many others. In California, we choose to embrace our immigrant community through policies and legislations that reflect our values as a state. Today, we stand together with immigrant communities by supporting the California Values Act (SB54), which is the strongest pro-immigrant legislation in the nation. We also stand together in calling for the protection of the DACA program which has positively transformed the lives of over 800,000 young people in the last five years.”
Samantha Carmago, a student in the Walnut school district who also is a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and a lay leader with LA Voice, said, “I look around at my friends who are working hard, doing everything right but could have all their dreams for their future torn from them if DACA gets revoked. We need to protect young folks so they can dream big and help our communities, not disappear into the shadows and despair.”
Other speakers at the vigil included: Father Tony Astudillo of St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Parish Community in Walnut, which hosted the vigil; Rev. Walter Contreras from Presbyterian Pasadena Hispanic Church; Pastor Bridie Roberts from First United Methodist Church of La Puente and First United Methodist Church of Alhambra; Emily Frias, a community member affiliated with LA Voice; Deacon Nori Ochi from Evergreen Baptist Church of LA, located in Rosemead; and Asmaa Ahmed, Public Policy and Advocacy Coordinator with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)-LA. n
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