By Ceil Roeger, OP (Houston)
In the trek across Texas, Houston was the first stop for the Nuns on the Bus tour for Immigration Reform. The bus arrived on the motherhouse grounds of the Dominican Sisters of Houston in the late afternoon of June 7, where Sisters Lavergne Schwender, Eleanor Cresap and Ceil Roeger were waiting to greet them.
That evening, more than 100 people arrived for First Friday Forum, sponsored by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Pax Christi Texas and the Dominican Sisters of Houston. This friendraiser was held at the Dominican Center for Spirituality. People came to hear stories from the sisters’ travels and the importance of passing immigration reform. We were also reminded of the need to “raise our hands, raise our voices, for common sense immigration reform NOW!” and let Senators Cornyn and Cruz know the importance of reform with an earned path to citizenship.
We also heard why immigration reform is important for Houston and Texas. A DREAMer spoke of his journey from the age of 4, when he was brought to Texas by his parents, to this present day. Overcoming obstacles along the way, he is the executive director and found of FIEL, an immigrant rights organization for families and their education. Another immigrant shared his story of being injured in a fall at his tree cutting job. Now confined to a wheelchair, he works with Living Hope Wheelchair Association raising awareness about the need to protect workers on the job and provide care for them if injured on the job. Living Hope reaches out support and aid to others whose injuries keep them from seeking other work. The report on the incredible work that is being done to identify the remains of those who died trying to have a better life in the U.S. deeply touched our hearts. In South Texas, 271 immigrants died in 2012; the remains of 129 of them were found near the last check point which is 70 miles from the U.S./Mexico border.
The next morning, Eleanor, Ceil, and Sr Mary Oanh Ta (Lovers of the Holy Cross Congregation in Vietnam), rode on the bus to a press conference outside of Senator Ted Cruz’s office. Another 75 to 100 people along with members of the media were on hand to greet the sisters as they disembarked from the bus. Sister Simone Campbell, Sister Ceil and Alejandro Zuniga from Fe y Justicia Worker Center spoke to the urgency of making our voices heard.
Following the press conference, the bus traveled to the offices of Mi Familia Vota, where a phone bank was initiated. Participants began calling voters and asking them to call their representatives and senators urging them to vote in favor of immigration reform. The phone banking continued through June 21, with more than 3,000 calls being made.
Though the Nuns on the Bus tour completed its journey in San Francisco on June 18, the work for immigration reform continues, and the Dominican Sisters continue to collaborate at local, state and national levels encouraging everyone to “raise their voices.”