[Vision2020] march for immigrants' rights

keely emerinemix kjajmix1 at msn.com
Tue May 1 18:12:18 PDT 2007

Tom, I appreciate your posting pictures of the rally.  I wish I had known about it.  I would have been there on behalf of my many immigrant friends, my country, and my faith.  For the eleven or so years I worked with Mexican immigrants in the 1990s, I had bumper stickers, business cards, and such with what I considered to be my life's motto -- "Todos Somos Vecinos," or "We Are All Neighbors."  My ministry was a one-person endeavor, but to avoid calling it "the stuff Keely does," I called it "Vecinos," which is Spanish for "neighbors."  I believed then, and do now, that all of us are called to serve those near us who need help -- a Biblical definition of "neighbor" that guided me during those years, when God's grace and my wonderful husband's hard work enabled me to work with the Mexican community in and around Snohomish/Monroe/Duvall, Washington.  My goal was Service, Empowerment, Relationship and Advocacy (the Spanish acronym, SERA', means "what will be," which worked out well!), and I'd like to think my work with mis vecinos  was a blessing to them and to my God.  It certainly was to me.I'm not going to write a long, passionate treatise on immigration; I think anyone who cares probably knows about my background and the opinions that stem from it.  I'm in regular contact with quite a few of the many people I worked with, and this is a very personal issue for me, as much about the practice of my faith as it is the exercise of my political views.  But I live here now, in an area that doesn't yet have a large population of undocumented workers.  And yet . . . I find that "todos somos vecinos" is as real to me now as it was then.  I see my community, the town I've adopted as my own and where I hope to live the rest of my life, being torn apart.  I feel as though I've had a front seat in observing the "politics of personal destruction," and I'm grieved by the indifference I see from the majority and the vitriol I've experienced from the minority, and I pray that the passion that informs my beliefs and activities is nonetheless kind.  Neighborly, even -- I share this wonderful town with all of you, with people who like me and with people who loathe me, and memories of a decade or so of immersion in Mexican immigrant culture stirs me to consider how well I live up to my fervent belief, in whatever circumstance, that "todos somos vecinos."  Vision 2020 is a caring, contentious group of people who, if we have nothing else in common, are at least neighbors, and I see us sometimes acting as if that weren't so, or, worse, as if it didn't matter.  It does.  I have "neighbors" back in western Washington who suffer every day from fear I can't possibly comprehend, who struggle every day with chains I'll never experience, and who don't have the assurance of stability and permanence that you and I have.  A couple of my dear friends, who are more family to me than the people in Arizona whose house I was born into, are in terrific peril even now, and every single vecino I've been privileged to serve has been hurt, hated, and harmed by the toxin of indifference and the violence of racism.  It seems a world away from life in Moscow, and yet I see hurt and hatred and harm leaching into our day-to-day dialogue and I'm ashamed that it hasn't appalled me, torn at my heart, in the same way my ministry experience did.  It doesn't matter what I have on a bumper sticker, sweatshirt, baseball cap or license-plate frame if I don't live it here, now, and try to encourage others to as well.  I don't mean that we should be passive and milquetoast; on the contrary, there's a blessed fury that should be manifested when bigotry, hatred, and malice are introduced.  But it seemed appropriate for me to reflect on our common neighborliness, or lack thereof, and I hope you'll agree that there's a commonality we all have that has to be respected and nourished before (and after) we deal with the things that stir us.  And if this sounds preachy, well . . . I'm a preacher.  But I'm well aware that I need to take to heart whatever message I preach to anyone else; I just hope to contribute something of value in the midst of whatever subject we're debating.  So, I'm glad to be your neighbor -- it not only means living in the most wonderful place I can imagine, but also getting to know some really great people and a few who have given me cause to watch my tongue and guard my heart.  All in all, it's a pretty good thing we've all got here.keely
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