My family is Irish on both sides. My great-grandfather came here in the 1920’s. His mother died and his father married a much younger woman. My great-grandfather didn’t like his father’s new wife so he left, immigrated here, and he never made contact with his family ever again but carried their address in his pocket for the rest of his life. The address was discovered after he passed away. My great-grandfather had this push to assimilate, so he never really talked about our heritage.
I grew up Presbyterian, my great-grandfather was Protestant interestingly enough but he married a Catholic girl. I lived in Northern Ireland for a year and researched our family history and met his half brother, my uncle Davey, and got to see the little Irish cottage that he was born in. I think your life changes when you see your homeland, instead of land that we’ve stolen from someone else. It was very moving. I could clearly see the way people put their faith into action in the public sphere. So it compelled me to come back to the U.S. and find ways that I could do the same. I went to seminary and came here to this church that is all about living our faith. It was a big turning point on my faith journey.
As someone who is of Irish-American descent and who saw the suffering that people lived under during British colonialism, it made me passionate about working in solidarity with people in the U.S. who are fighting similar battles for dignity. I did my senior thesis at UC Berkeley on solidarity movements between Mexican and Irish people. There’s a great deal of intersection, even going back to the U.S.-Mexican War. The Mexicans were fighting on the U.S. side against Catholics to take their land. The Irish guys on the American side said, “Wait a second, we are fighting against our brethren to take their land when our land has been taken away from us.” So they defected to the other side and were eventually hung as traitors. Southside was the founding church of the sanctuary movement back in the 1980’s. For a period of about ten years, we had probably 40,000 people who came through here. They were fleeing civil war in El Salvador and only staying for a few days before moving to other safe places in the U.S. We have witnessed again and again how our deportation policies have torn apart families. The police say they are not interested in apprehending Rosa. The reason sanctuary works is because there’s this policy of not coming into sensitive areas like schools, churches, and hospitals to apprehend someone and take them away.
My children come to see me on Fridays, they spend Saturday with me, and leave on Sunday. It’s like being home on those days because we cook here, we set the table, and we eat together. We sleep on those inflatable beds. My son and husband, or my husband and I, sleep on the full mattress – however they want to sleep. It is very difficult when they leave on Sunday. I look at them on Saturday laying in bed, I am the last one to go to sleep, and I know they are leaving the next day.
Back in December they were on their Christmas break and they were here with me all the time, two whole weeks, day and night here with me. I gave them breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they played outside. When they left to go back to the house I couldn’t do it, I cried and cried and thought it was too hard to do this. But I got used to my routine with them again.
They can’t live here with me because my son is in school and my husband goes to work at 4:30 in the morning. In fact, there were people here that had offered to take them to work and school so that they could stay here, but I felt that they were helping me so much already, it was too much to ask them for more. They have treated us very well. It would be so nice to be home but I am good here. They support us a lot, and I tell my kids, “Look at all the help we are getting and we thought we were alone, just the four of us. Look at us now.” My kids were impressed by all the food we have and all the things people give us.