Gathered in Hillsboro in support of DACA recipients are Rev. Adam Hange, pastor of Hillsboro First Congregational United Church of Christ; Fr. Hugo Maese, pastor of St. Matthew Parish; Rev. Jorge Rodriguez, pastor for Hispanic ministry at the United Methodist Church; Jose Jaime, Catholic member of League of United Latin American Citizens; and Rev. David Epplesheimer, Community of Christ Church. (John Kingery/Catholic Sentinel)
Gathered in Hillsboro in support of DACA recipients are Rev. Adam Hange, pastor of Hillsboro First Congregational United Church of Christ; Fr. Hugo Maese, pastor of St. Matthew Parish; Rev. Jorge Rodriguez, pastor for Hispanic ministry at the United Methodist Church; Jose Jaime, Catholic member of League of United Latin American Citizens; and Rev. David Epplesheimer, Community of Christ Church. (John Kingery/Catholic Sentinel)

On Sept. 18, I boarded the MAX train heading to Hillsboro. Our immigrant friends and neighbors were calling people of faith to stand with them during difficult times – elimination of the DACA program and recent arrests inside and outside the Washington County Courthouse by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents. The Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, Unite Oregon, and the Hillsboro Faith Alliance responded by organizing Sanctuary in the Streets: Interfaith Vigil for Immigrant Justice. I answered the call because of my Catholic faith, and recent statements by Pope Francis, the U.S. Catholic bishops and Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample. In short, church leaders have said DACA youth are children of God and welcomed by the church; the church supports and will advocate for them.

Walking to the courthouse from the rail station, I saw no one. Where was the interfaith community, the People of God? Crossing to the courthouse, a man was approaching. It was Rev. David Epplesheimer, pastor of Community of Christ Church in Hillsboro. We shared our concerns and hopes as we walked on. Turning onto NE 2nd Avenue, we saw nearly 100 people gathered from Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, United Church of Christ and other congregations. They had answered the call.

We began the vigil by asking those next to us, “Why are you here”? Lynda Mokler from Tigard responded, “Justice.” She is a member of “Defensa de la Dignidad” an organization raising funds for legal fees for those facing unjust deportations. Her daughter is concerned for her Hispanic friends currently participating in the DACA program.

We began marching with a prayer: “Give us the will to leave behind the safety of our sanctuaries to become your living sanctuary… that our voice, our heart, our spirit will join the voice, heart and spirit of all who demand to live with respect, justice and peace.”

One hundred people united, we processed around the courthouse. We prayed for a clear and direct pathway to citizenship for all and that our leaders’ hearts would be changed. Scripture passages reminded us that God loves the immigrant and that we are to do the same. We are not to deny them justice. As Jesus taught, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” The joyful and powerful words of “Marching in the Light of God” filled the morning air around the courthouse — in English and Spanish.

We heard of the arrest of two undocumented workers by ICE agents the previous week. During the vigil, agents parked across the street, but left for a more opportune time after the praying.

Olivia Alcaire, Hillsboro city councilor, expressed concern for the Latino community, which she said is comprised of good hard working people. DACA participants reflect that wider community.

Father Hugo Maese, pastor of St Matthew Parish, read a letter from the Hillsboro Faith Alliance that said in part, “We must rise above our fear and build upon the common values that reflect who we truly are: people of compassion and justice, a community of peace and understanding.” Father Maese concluded by sharing a statement from his order, the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit: “We have a moral obligation to welcome the immigrant, uphold the innate dignity of all people, and affirm our nation’s greatest value of creating brighter futures for all of us.”

The prayerful, peaceful and powerful witness of the People of God concluded with a personal commitment to stand and struggle for justice with our immigrant brothers and sisters. Standing up and walking with them will be a long journey.