Raul Cardenas came to the United States from Mexico, looking for work that would support him and his parents. He found a job driving heavy machinery, and even better, he found the love of his life, Judy. What he didn't find was a way to become a legal American citizen, even after he and Judy were married. Since the laws changed after the 9/11 tragedy, marrying a U.S. citizen no longer provides a path to citizenship. Like many undocumented workers in the United States, Raul just kind of hoped for the best. He and Judy were busy working, and raising their daughter and Judy's two sons from an earlier marriage, as well as caring for Judy's elderly father.
Then, in 2009, the Cardenas family got the call that turned their lives upside down. The Department of Homeland Security had discovered that Raul was in the country illegally, and they told Raul that he would be deported—sent back to Mexico. This story happens to thousands of families in the U.S., as laws tear immigrant parents away from their U.S.-born children. But the Cardenas family had something going for them that many families in their situation don't have—a faith community prepared to get involved.
The Cardenases are active members of the First Universalist Church of Denver, Colorado, and Judy started an immigration task force at their congregation. When the news came about the plans for Raul's deportation, the congregation sprang into action. Members began to call and write to the Department of Homeland Security, and to their legislators. The UU involvement spread. Standing on the Side of Love, the justice campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Association, used the Internet to invite people around the country to get involved, and soon some 4000 people had signed a petition, made calls, or sent letters and faxes asking that the Cardenas family be allowed to stay together.
When the time came for Raul to have a hearing with the Denver Immigration Court of the Department of Justice, 20 UU ministers from four different states, as well as members of the Denver church, showed up to support the Cardenas family. The ministers all wore their colorful liturgical stoles. The small immigration hearing room, which normally has two or three people watching the proceedings, was packed with the Cardenas supporters. Judge Trujillo noted the crowd's presence for the court record.
After the short hearing, the ministers posed outside for photos with the family while holding a large yellow "Standing on the Side of Love" banner. They broke into song, singing "Love Will Guide Us," and embraced Judy and Raul.
At that hearing, the judge decided not to decide. That meant Raul could stay in the country for now, though he did not receive citizenship or a green card that would allow him to work. In January of 2012, President Obama announced a new policy that would focus deportation efforts on people with serious criminal records, rather than everyone who was in the country without proper paperwork.
The voices of all the people who have stood up for the Cardenas family and many other families are being heard. Unitarian Universalists are becoming known among people fighting for immigrant rights as "The Love People," the people with the bright yellow tee-shirts who are out in the streets and in the courtrooms and calling and writing from home with the message that we are Standing on the Side of Love.
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Last updated on Tuesday, August 21, 2012.
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