Recently, more than 75 people of faith, including students, teachers, clergy, and youth, joined together at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Durham to learn more about issues affecting immigrant children and youth. The day began with a bilingual worship service. Prayers and lamentations were spoken for immigrant families and workers. Beautiful songs of praise were sung in Spanish and English with the accompaniment of the cajón. Rev. Julio Rámirez-Eve of Iglesia Emmanuel preached an inspirational sermon about his experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and immigrating to the United States.
After worship, participants broke into small workshop groups to learn about topics including families in detention, in-state tuition for undocumented students, and how congregations can support their immigrant neighbors. Of particular interest to participants was a workshop led by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services about unaccompanied minors who are being resettled in North Carolina after crossing the border. This workshop helped to explain how a national network is able to assist a vulnerable population through congregational support while also managing the recent media attention.
Lunch provided a time for networking over tacos, and many participants said that this time was as useful and fulfilling as the workshops themselves. Workshops continued into the afternoon. We were very fortunate to be visited by the Levante Leadership Institute youth, a program that is part of Student Action with Farmworkers that works with migrant and farmworker youth to develop leadership skills and prepare them for higher education. They presented their project, “El Sueño Americano,” a music video that they created about farmworker justice and their experiences working in the fields. Many participants, including a group of students from UNC, cited this workshop as being especially insightful because the youth were there to speak for themselves.
It was a wonderful day of education, inspiration, and sharing of communal support. Thank you so much to everyone who participated, including the hosts, liturgists, preachers, workshop leaders, food preparers, volunteers, and participants. If you were unable to attend but are interested in hearing the sermon or reading workshop materials, they will be available on the Welcome the Immigrant website in the coming days.