The DREAM Walkers: Undocumented and Unafraid

I am undocumentedThere were 250,000 people on the National Mall on Sunday to demand comprehensive immigration reform for the United States. One story that touched me deeply was that of the DREAM Walkers: Juan, Carlos, Felipe and Gaby. Four undocumented students who walked nearly 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. to stand up for undocumented people.

“Throughout our journey, we have listened to the same repeated stories: mothers being afraid of driving their kids to school because of the ever-present fear of getting detained and/or deported, and high school seniors feeling completely hopeless on graduation date because they can’t continue their studies in higher education. We think about how millions of people undergo the same fear everyday because of their undocumented status and this has to stop. That’s way we’re walking to DC; that’s why thousands gather in DC on Sunday and millions celebrate this historic day throughout the nation.”

During their journey, nearly 25,000 people signed on (you can sign on too) to support their call for leaders to fix our failed immigration system. They also faced down the Klan in south Georgia and collected stories of uninvestigated hate crimes against undocumented workers.

These brave kids–from Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia–were brought to the U.S. by their families when they were young, have excelled in school, worked hard, and contributed to their communities. They all face the threat of being deported. They have no access to funding for going to college. So they walk in support of the DREAM Act (“Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2009”). Juan, Carlos, Gaby and Felipe chose to walk because they have run out of options. There are currently no legal pathways for them to gain citizenship, which is why they are calling on President Obama and other leaders to do everything in their power to pass real reform this year.

Here’s a 2 minute video of their trip.

Catholic Speakers: ‘In the Company of the Banned’?

BannedI got a note today from Pat Mahon over at Pax Christi South saying he’d been banned from speaking in the Diocese of Venice, Florida. He was scheduled to lead a retreat on Thomas Merton but the retreat was canceled by the chancellor. Pat speculates that this was because of his support for Catholic women’s ordination to the priesthood. Here’s an excerpt from Pat’s reflections:

I immediately began finalizing arrangements and the materials for a retreat on Merton I was giving to a parish peace and justice group on Florida’s west coast this Friday and Saturday. Then, out of the blue, I was notified Wednesday evening that the retreat was canceled because I was no longer approved to speak in the Diocese of Venice. I had been approved last March to speak on Merton in San Marco and understood that once approved, further approval was not necessary. The retreat coordinator in October was told that I was approved when he inquired to make sure. What?

I arose early after a restless night and called the contact person. The chancellor had had the person in charge of the deacons call the deacon who was coordinating the retreat to deliver the message. Speaking of dialogue, openness and transparency! The only reason I have been able to find so far is that I support the ordination of women as priests. I now join a select group of people who I been told are banned in Venice–Joan Chittister, Charlie Curran, Anthony Padovano. I also suspect that Roy Bourgeoise and John Dear are on the list.

Read Pat’s whole post here and send him a suportive note.

This tactic of “banning” speakers that someone in Catholic hierarchy doesn’t approve of is becoming more popular. In October, the diocese of Richmond refused to allow Pax Christi to meet in Holy Family Church — even though a bishop was one of the keynote speakers! Pax Christi had to hold its meeting at the local Methodist college.

It’s important to note that technically the diocese can only “ban” speakers who are holding events on diocesan-owned property. So if you hold your events elsewhere, the hierarchy can “ban” all they want but to no effect.

I find it ironic that when judges were deciding on financial settlements for priest sex abuse cases in the dioceses of Portland and Seattle, the dioceses made it clear to the judges that the churches were the property of the parishioners. This was a strategy to reduce the diocesan “assets” and therefore limit the financial exposure of the diocese. The courts saw through this and determined that the churches were part of church property. But if the diocese can make that determination once, maybe parishioners should join together into an ownership model for their parishes.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with diocesan approval for speakers and events.

People-less Houses Movement

According to a recent Associated Press story, the Take Back the Land folks in Florida are making the sub-prime debacle work for those living on the streets. “We’re matching homeless people with peopleless homes,” said TBL activist Max Rameau. Yep! They are moving homeless folks into beautiful, spacious, foreclosed upon houses.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. “All tile floor!” he says during a recent showing. “And the living room, wow! It has great blinds.”

But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you’ve ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don’t have a dime for a down payment.

Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami’s empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new “tenants” with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

“I think everyone deserves a home,” said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. “Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?”

“There’s a real need here, and there’s a disconnect between the need and the law,” he said. “Being arrested is just one of the potential factors in doing this.”

I think the TBL movement is a great riff on the Landless People’s Movement in South Africa and the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil and elsewhere. TBL is just doing it “American-style.”

With the suicide of capitalism comes the blurring of what has been narrowly understood as “private property.” At the top, the Bush administration has been forced to “nationalize” the banking industry and, apparently, at the bottom, in Miami, TBL is reclaiming as public property those abandoned houses now owned by the banks due to foreclosures. Interesting.