On Monday August 17th, 2,200 community leaders flooded St. Elizabeth Catholic Church to let local, state and federal representatives know that our countries broken healthcare and immigration systems are hurting our families, and must be reformed NOW! The crowd spanned across race, age, and religious faith, all with one common message and common hope: that everyone should have access to affordable healthcare, and that families should be safe and secure in their immigration status.
OCO leaders gave powerful testimony about the impact of the current healthcare and immigration system. “It is difficult for me to attend college” shared Ju Hung, a Laney College student and immigrant from South Korea. “I am unable to get a legal job, obtain a driver’s license, or receive financial aid. I have no equal access to educational opportunities. Every night, I face fear of deportation. Sometimes I wake up in horror, with nightmares of immigration enforcement banging on my door to arrest my family and me.”
Charm Wright, a single mother, told the crowd that she couldn’t afford the $2,000 upfront that health insurances companies charged to cover her daughter. As a result, Charm said, “my daughter had to struggle to see the black board at school last year because she needs glasses, and I had to make a choice between life’s necessities like food, electricity, gas, car insurance, and her eye glasses.”
15 year old (!) Yessenia Saucedo (St. Jarlath and Arise High School) co-chaired the meeting with Pastor Lucy Kolin, (Resurrection Lutheran Church) at her side. Together, they led City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, Oakland Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Tony Smith, Oakland Highway Patrol Captain Don Morrell, and representatives from State Assembleymember Sandre Swanson and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, to commit to local and national steps on healthcare and immigration reform.
On a national level, Barbara Lee will exercise her power and use her alliance with the Black, Asian and Latino Caucuses to support healthcare and immigration reform. Ignacio De La Fuente, Sandre Swanson and Don Morell agreed to work to protect immigrant drivers from car impoundment and deportation by investigating state law, creating a municipal i.d., and giving drivers fix-it checklists to avoid traffic stops.
The action was a record show of where the Oakland faith community stands on healthcare and immigration reform. Catholic Bishop Salvatore Cordileone blessed the gathering, calling for the recognition of the human dignitiy of every person. As Rabbi David Cooper (Kehilla Community Synagogue) declared, “The Torah never says, ‘Beware of the immigrant and kick them out.’ It does NOT say, ‘Make life hard for the immigrant and do not let the laws of your land protect them.’ No. What it says is that you will have the same laws, the same protections and the same responsibilities for the citizen and for everyone else. That is justice. When one person lives because they can pay for insurance, and another dies because they are not wealthy, then a terrible injustice has been done. Health care injustice is killing people every day. In the Ten Commandments it says, ‘You shall not kill.’ Therefore, we must make sure that every family; every person is covered by affordable health care. God could not demand anything less than that!”