An update on immigration action from our Social Justice Coordinator, Sr. Mary Kay Meagher, ND
Mothers and Others is a group of spiritually based activists in Omaha, Nebraska. I have worked with them since 2019 with the mission to:
- Advocate with and for all immigrants: those seeking asylum, citizenship of better future for these families.
- Be a public voice on the plight, treatment, and conditions of immigrants.
- Educate, challenge and to seek the common good as we act in support of immigrants.
How we began
We began to organize locally July 18, 2019 when Capitol Police arrested 70 people in the Capitol Rotunda as demonstrators gathered to protest new immigration policies. Arrests came as tensions flared on Capitol Hill surrounding the immigration debate, including allegations of massive overcrowding, unsanitary environment, children in cages and other immoral conditions at U.S. Border Patrol facilities.
At the same time, here in Omaha outraged individuals and groups wanted to join and support this protest. Two local volunteers (Sr. Kathleen Erickson, RSM, and Rev. Carol Windum) travelled to DC to join the protest.
Upon their return, outrage and horror increased among some Omahans as they learned more first-hand details. Informal discussions ensued identifying the local dearth of awareness and attention of the immigration issues. The question: What could be done here in Omaha? How about an awakening through awareness?
A loosely-formed group of some 15-20 people from across the metro area organized a committee to increase awareness by peaceful protest.
Concretely, a heavily trafficked corner (72nd and Hickory) was the chosen spot to gather with posters, banners, and signs to witness every Thursday morning from 8-9 am –an open invitation. Over the summer months the groups fluctuated in numbers but sustained a deep commitment. This grass roots growth evolved which led a core group to form an open committee to continue discussion, support, and expansion. An initial step was sending Christmas cards to each pastor of every Catholic parish with information inserts for bulletins along with suggestion of homilies addressing the present immigration situation with the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing as immigrants. Prayer cards with the picture of a child who died at the border were included in the greeting cards.
At this point, the group needed to name themselves:
Mothers & Others Justice and Mercy for Immigrants
They set their mission and began on actions, collaborating with other groups and beginning to take donations.
We began circulating flyers, letters, writing articles, and traveling to make our voices heard across the Omaha Metro and beyond. You can see articles published on our Facebook page here.
Our actions widened during the COVID-19 pandemic, hearing about what local immigrants were facing at work in light of a pandemic. Mothers and Others collaborated with Ixim (pronouced Isheem), a local group producing handmade face masks for jailed detainees and workers in meat packing workers. A seven “car-a-van” delivered these to an immigration group in Grand Island.
We then welcomed and hosted the overnight stop in Omaha of the National TPS (Temporary Protective Service) bus tour to DC. You can read more about this powerful display of solidarity here.
We organized a Memorial Day witness/prayer in Memorial Park on the separation of children and death of refugees. A Prayer Vigil on International Refugee Day (designated by the Pope) was held on the grounds of the College of St Mary’s, amid social distancing, with witness talks, songs and a powerful poem of “Home.” We attended rallies and protests to support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
We have ongoing collaboration /communication with:
- Meat Packing Unions packing plants in Nebraska to increase safe and health conditions
- OTOC’s subcommittee on Immigration
- Immigrant Allies
Actions: how can you be a part of Mother and Others?
- Answer the invitation to join for a 1-hour witness once a week at either site.
- In lieu of attending witness site, support those who are on the street with your personal prayer time that hour.
- Look for groups who would be open to a 30–45-minute presentation about Immigration (per zoom right now). Think broadly about groups with whom you are connected (church, volunteer, classes, book clubs, social groups).
- Write or call legislators to voice your support of Immigration reform.