Awakening the moral imagination

Last week I had the opporunity to attend the opening of the Liberty Hill Foundation's exhibit, Strangers No More, a collection of photos from the 2006 marches in LA. Among the panelists were Son Ah Yun, Co-Director of FIRM, Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA and Alexia Salvatierra, one fo the leaders of the New Sanctuary Movement. All the panelists shared great insights into the stakes of the fight for immigration rights, but it was Alexia Salvatierra's words that struck a particular chord for me. She put forth an important idea: awakening the moral imagination of America.

From the churches that offered refuge to immigrants at the turn of the century, to organizing efforts for rights and fair work conditions for immigrant worker in the early 1900's to the first sanctuary movement of the 1980's and today's new sancutary movement, churches have played an influential role in awakaening the moral imagination of America.

Rights are not universal truths set down in stone from the dawn of time. They are values that we agree to and share communally. It takes time and work to establish new rights. The first step towards establishing rights is always IMAGINING the very existence of those rights. The critical turning point in a fight for rights comes when the larger public grows that imagination into reality by codifying those rights in governing laws.

Before change can happen, someone has to plant that seed of imagination - the new sanctuary movement is continuing to plant those seeds, and I am interested in learning more about others who are planting that seed. Do you have any stories to share?

Alexia's words helped me remember that we may or may not get the immigration reform bill that millions of Americans and immigrants desperately need this year, but all of our fighting and lobbying and actions will not be wasted because we will have furthered the imagination of the Americans. We will have laid an even stronger foundation from which we can continue to grow the belief in immigrant rights.

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