Activists call for migrants' human rights during protest - Catholic Courier

Activists call for migrants’ human rights during protest

IRONDEQUOIT — More than 50 people from throughout upstate New York gathered in front of the U.S. Border Patrol office on Pattonwood Drive Dec. 10 to push for immigration reform on the 60th anniversary of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Every person in this country has human rights,” said Dr. John “Lory” Ghertner, who coordinated the rally as part of Migrant Support Services of Wayne County. “Migrant workers have human rights. … Stop dehumanizing them.”

Ghertner contends that Sodus has become the epicenter of immigration officers’ efforts to raid farms and the homes of migrant workers. That focus caused migrant workers to fear even coming to Mass this past summer, which prompted Ghertner to create a Church Watch group whose members stood outside Church of the Epiphany every Sunday so migrants could worship with peace of mind.

Board members from Rural & Migrant Ministry, a nonprofit interfaith organization working for farmworker justice, traveled from Buffalo and Poughkeepsie to attend the rally, as did activists from Syracuse and Geneva. The supporters held signs as well as images of the Mexican flag and the country’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, as they stood in front of the border-patrol offices.

“We are demanding changes in the immigration law that will make it so people can come to this country and work legally … so farmers can populate their fields,” Ghertner said.

When people stand up to injustice, change can happen, said Bishop Prince Singh from the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. He explained how in India, activists working to change attitudes toward untouchables in the Hindu caste system began collaborating 10 years ago. Because of their unified efforts, unjust acts toward this group are no longer invisible or accepted, he added.

“When we join forces, we become unstoppable, especially for justice,” Bishop Singh noted. “My hope is we … shed light on this invisible issue of the voiceless.”

Father Jesus Flores, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester’s coordinator of migrant ministry, cited a quote from the Catholic bishop of Orlando who said the so-called “illegal” workers are really not so because they want to defy the laws, but because the current laws do not give them the channels to obtain legal status.

“They’re not breaking the law, the law is breaking them,” Father Flores remarked to cheers from the crowd.

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