“We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and in justice, equity, and compassion for all.”
So reads a large banner recently placed on the front lawn of the First Parish of Watertown. The banner is the centerpiece of a larger display of statements on smaller signs affirming the central role immigrants have played in the history of this country, and the deplorable conditions that they are now facing at our border with Mexico. As the signs confirm, President Kennedy once said “Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.” Yet “Since 2018, at least 7 children have died in U.S. immigration custody, after 10 years in which no child reportedly died in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody.”
Another smaller sign tells us that according to Dr. Julie Linton, Co-chair of the Immigration Health Special Interest Group of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Detention facilities are basically concrete floors with mats and barbed wire fencing and bright lights 24/7.”
The display calls public attention to the harsh and inhumane treatment thousands of immigrants have received at the Mexican border, and seeks to rally widespread support for immigration reform. It also aims to reassure immigrants in Watertown that they are welcome, respected, and valued in this community, in keeping with the words of U Thant, third Secretary General of the United Nations, who said “Every human being of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must respect others even as we respect ourselves.”
Near the end of the row of signs, a statement by Dina Nyeri reminds us that “It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.” The very last sign poses the challenge “What will you do?” A handout of positive actions everyone can take to support immigrants is available in a box next to this sign.
The display is co-sponsored by the First Parish of Watertown (Unitarian Universalist), the Survival Education Fund, World in Watertown, the Refugee Support Group of Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment, and the Watertown Welcomes Immigrants Coalition. It may be viewed on the lawn at 35 Church St.