Birmingham, AL - Civil Rights Forum

An Important Day in Alabama

Written by: Sister Elaine Betoncourt, CSJ

June 4, 2013

What a special day we’ve spent in Birmingham and Homewood, Alabama! Arriving early we had an hour to roam the historic section. I spent my time wandering through Kelly Ingraham Park across from the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four children were killed in a bombing. Reading the accounts in the park of the horrendous actions that happened here in 1963 brought the feeling of walking on holy ground, the sacred place where on May 2, 1963, 600 children crusaders were savagely hauled off to jail for protesting segregation and standing for justice.

And the parallel now, 50 years later, with the focus this summer on getting civil rights for immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform, as we hear repeated stories of children living daily in fear of their parents being stolen away by ICE and more deportations taking place than in past years. This needs to be the historic moment when just and common-sense immigration reform gets passed in a bipartisan effort. Our prayerful cry “Raise your voice and call your legislators often to express your support.”

Our outside evening event was at the Catholic Charities Office, La Casita, where we were warmly welcomed by Bishop Emeritus David Foley and his simple words ‘we need the nuns here.’ We heard of the significant role that the Catholic Church (joined by other churches as well) played in getting the punitive sections of the oppressive state law, HB56, suspended. We heard of the joy of immigrant youth getting their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA) papers, a renewable provision to defer deportation. We heard of the incredible relief work that was done to help immigrants after tornadoes hit the area. In response, we Nuns on the Bus urged everyone to persevere in calling their Alabama Senators raising their voices for Comprehensive Immigration Reform NOW.