Yesterday, on April 29, a group of six members of Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) drove (or rode) up to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to participate in some public events to have a voice in the national discussion on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. QCI is an affiliate of the Gamaliel Network and other affiliates were represented in Kenosha, and another meeting had been taking place there ahead of this immigration event.

At its core, Gamaliel equips and trains church folks to participate in civil society. This was a classic and simple series of events. The top photo is of the preparation for the day, and it is taking place in the local United Methodist Church. One of the pastors is explaining clearly and simply what will soon take place. The pattern for immigrant expulsion that is currently in use is to round them up, detain them first in county jails, then transfer them to detention centers (like the Broadview Detention Center in Chicago,) from which they are shipped by bus to the airport and flown out of the country. So our first stop is the local Kenosha County Jail, which is part of this system.

The pastors and other religious leaders lead the group to the nearby jail where we pray for justice and we pray for those caught up in this system. One of the religious leaders is the chaplain from the jail, who lets us know that all prisoners at Kenosha are treated humanely, but he along with us believes that this pattern of deportation bears closer scrutiny and reform. His participation is strategic; we are stakeholders.

After the prayer vigil at the county jail we walk to the nearby congressmember’s office. This is Congressman Paul Ryan, and our presence certainly does not represent preaching to the choir. We arrive outside the office building, sing a devotional song, and one of the pastors makes a short presentation. The office has been informed in advance of our interest and intended visit, and one of the staff members listens to the presentation, receives written material and then makes a prepared speech. The speech is later made available as a press release.

After our visit at the congressmember’s office we walk back to the church, have a wonderful lunch prepared by the women’s group at the church, and then have a follow up meeting to evaluate the day and plan for future actions.
This was a pristine example of how such training as this works. We were consistently prepared and our efforts were disciplined and respectful to all involved. Different persons participated as leaders and speakers with the group at various moments. Everyone there got to experience “how it can be done” and went home better able to participate in the public discussion of important issues. At every moment we were reminded of our role and values as the faith community.
It was a good day, and on the way home in the van we found ourselves discussion what we should do next back in the Quad Cities. I will bet that similar discussions were taking place in cars, vans and buses around the Midwest.

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