Hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the country — including many in Oregon — stepped out of American life Feb. 16.
They wanted to show what the nation would be like without them. With documents and without, children and adults, they decided not to go to school, to work or to buy. Demonstrations took place in many U.S. cities in opposition to Trump administration proposals to curtail immigration and refugee programs.
The day was not all protests. Some people, like those at St. John the Baptist Church in Milwaukie, preferred to pray. Parishioners opened the doors and invited everyone to unite in prayer for all the immigrants of the country regardless of beliefs or origin.
“Today we are supporting all our immigrant brothers and sisters and we decided that the best way to do it is by praying,” Amparo Piedrahita said in Spanish. She leads Hispanic ministry at St. John the Baptist.
“I believe that the only one who can give us peace and tranquility at the moment is our Lord,” Piedrahita said. “There is much talk of the word ‘sanctuary,’ which is a very beautiful name. We forget that it comes from God. But if we think about it, our whole life revolves around God, and in these times we have to return to the sanctuary of God.”
The parish is trying to let the immigrant community know they are not abandoned and that they have a church that supports them.
Marta Mejia came to the church to pray with her 9-year-old daughter, Astrid. Mejia cleans houses and gave up a day of income.
She thinks now is a time to unite in prayer. “We have faith that prayer has a lot of power and that with prayer everything can be achieved and that it can help us not to continue feeling this fear,” she said.
Gabriela Resendiz, also a house cleaner, said her employers were generous in allowing her to take the day off.
“The feeling I have is sadness and happiness at the same time,” said Resendiz, a mother of four, including a University of Portland student. She praised the organizers of the boycott, but felt sad when she explained to her children why it’s necessary.
Resendiz is part of a women’s prayer group whose members have helped each other be prepared in case authorities come looking.
“I trust in God and that he will give us a very good solution,” she says. “But there is still a lot of fear both of losing work and of getting out of the shadows.”