SIAN Honored for Defending Human Rights

Assisting and advocating  for immigrants in Springfield

The volunteer labor of area citizens, including several Springfield Dominican Sisters, our partners and associates, was honored Sept. 21 with an award that recognized the importance of supporting human rights.

The Springfield Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union honored the Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network with its 2019 Larry Golden Civil Libertarian Award for Outstanding Community Service in Support of Human Rights and Civil Liberties.

Springfield Dominican Associate Veronica Espina and Valeria Cueto, who is on the Springfield Dominican Antiracism Team (SDART), were among those present at the banquet to receive the award. Below is the text of Veronica's acceptance remarks. For more information about how to support the important work of SIAN email springfieldimmigrant@gmail.com.

Good evening!

The Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network is an organization run completely by volunteers; our members have donated thousands of hours of dedicated labor to assist our local immigrant families;

Veronica Espina, Dominican Associate

SIAN has educated our community on the contributions and talents that immigrants and refugees bring to our city. We have also advocated for better policies, for a dignified treatment of parents and their children while journeying with and amplifying the voices and experiences of communities whose lives are challenged every day.

We thank the ACLU for this award, and we will do here what we do best: we urge you to take action. We need you to get off your seat, be outraged, look into your soul, your family history, your values, your compassion and understanding of justice and equity, and do these four things: 

1.-Look in the mirror. 

We are them. This brown little 4-year old girl who sits in front of a judge, without parents and scared, fighting for her life without knowing it, trying to convince the courts that her credible fear is real without having the language yet, that little Maria, Isabel, or Juanita, she is you and me. We have a moral responsibility to dignify her life and sorrow, to embrace her, and protect her freedom. We need to let our children dream again, play again; the policies that keep our children terrified and separated from their families are our responsibility. We must change them.

2.- Look through the window.

ICE is in town. As if they were taunting and hunting prey, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers park outside our immigrant and undocumented residents’ homes, here, in Springfield, Illinois, every week. It only takes our families to peek through their windows to identify the cars ICE officers drive through the neighborhood. Women, children, men and the elderly live in fear. What are we doing about it?

3.- Look at our history.

There is no consolation found in comparing this administration’s policies to Nazi Germany. Let’s not do that: speaking about our US immigration policy as "a little better" than the 3rd Reich is no moral measuring stick to be proud of.  We know better than that. In 1935, 45 Nazi lawyers came to the United States on a “field trip” to learn from Jim Crow segregation statutes, studied our naturalization and anti-miscegenation laws, went home, and came up with the insidious Nazi Nuremberg Laws meant to facilitate The Final Solution.

So yes, let’s look at our history, where institutionalized racism and xenophobia have been the rule and not the exception—others learned from us. At the heart of anti-immigrant sentiments and hateful policies there is nothing but fear, xenophobia, and racism. Let’s have these uncomfortable conversations and find wisdom in that discomfort, take the first step needed to challenge systemic oppression.  Become an anti-racist, fully human, advocate: a Compañero.

4.- Look to the future.

Cultivate the heart, has said the Dalai Lama. It is a perfect starting point to immigration reform.  It is not just about policy and systemic analysis. It is about our heart. Find it, rescue it, name it.  Place it at the center along your brain and spirit, build relationships, imagine and work for a better world starting here at home. Transform your city into a welcoming city. Demand immigration reform. Demand the reunification of children and families. Protect and support our Dreamers.  Let’s work together. Yes, we can: Si Se Puede.   

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