Tag Archives: DACA

Welcome The Stranger

Nearly every faith tradition includes a command to welcome strangers.

So — because nearly every faith leader in town is a member of the Interfaith Council of Westport and Weston — that’s the topic of that organization’s next panel.

“Welcoming the Stranger” explores the role that houses of worship — and entire communities — can play in providing sanctuary. It’s set for this Sunday (February 11, 3 p.m.) at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

With tens of millions of refugees around the world, organizers say, “it is imperative that we learn about those who have been displaced, and explore creative, faithful ways to respond to this crisis.

“We do this not as members of one political party or the other, but as people of faith, collectively responding to the call to ‘welcome the stranger.'”

Panelists — including immigration attorney Alicia Kinsman, social justice activist Rev. Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull and sanctuary leader Lynn Taborsak will discuss issues including DACA, sanctuary cities, and the historical and current roles of religious institutions in providing sanctuary.

The event is free, and open to the public.

“This Town Was Built By Dreamers”

As political leaders debate the fate of Dreamers — 800,000 undocumented migrants who arrived in the US before the age of 16 — a small group of Westporters stood on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen downtown bridge this afternoon, protesting President Trump’s proposed repeal of the DACA program.

Holding a sign festooned with flags of various countries — including the US and Italy — the group reminded passing motorists that Westport owes a great debt to immigrants.

Laws were much looser in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the ancestors of many Westporters came here to work.

Darcy Hicks, Melissa Kane, Sarah Kempner and Lauren Soloff, with their message. (Photo/Theo Koskoff)

Midway through the event, a car stopped. Two men got out, and approached the group.

Slowly, Jose and Robert shook the hands of every protester. They thanked the group for representing them.

Both men are Dreamers.

Then they got back in their car, and drove off.

They were on their way to work.

One of the Dreamers, thanking a protester. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Bob Knoebel’s Dreamer

For 29 years, Bob Knoebel was a revered Westport YMCA Water Rats swim coach and aquatics director. The 1971 Staples High School graduate now enjoys a 2nd career in Idaho, as an equally well-respected fishing guide.

Bob is also the godfather of a young man named Enrique. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for 800,000 people — he sent along these thoughts:

If you grew up in Westport, you were accustomed to your mom driving you to soccer or swimming practice, making sure you were at your games or meets on time.

Your parents were at every game. They cheered — or better yet, acted as volunteer coaches or officials.

Bob Knoebel

They also made sure you had everything you needed to succeed in school — the proper supplies, a dedicated place to study — and had regular contact with your teachers.

You took music lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons or became an Eagle Scout. Your parents were probably college educated, and helped you navigate the college process.

Even if you didn’t realize it, they were looking over your shoulder — just to make sure. Lucky you, lucky me for being fortunate enough to grow up in Westport and graduate from Staples.

Imagine for a moment your parents don’t speak English. They have less than a high school education. You live in a trailer.

At 9 years old you missed a soccer game because you had to act as an interpreter/negotiator for your dad when he bought a goat from a local rancher, or needed you to go to the junkyard to do the same for parts for the family truck.

Your most important role in the family is what you can provide in terms of financial support.

To top it off, your mom doesn’t drive.

Imagine if you lived in fear that ICE might show up at your home to deport your mom or dad. Imagine the relief you would feel if you were offered a level of protection that the Obama-era program known as DACA provided you.

You could do the things your schoolmates take for granted, like get a driver’s license or summer job.

I am the “padrino” (godfather) for Enrique, a DACA-protected 17-year-old who is a high school senior here in Idaho.

He has more grit than you came imagine, because of challenges like these. He has completed 5 AP courses, and is taking 3 more this year. He started a tutoring program at the middle school to help other 1st-generation college  hopefuls, and recruited friends to help.

Enrique is a top student.

Enrique works after school, interning at an engineering firm. He plays saxophone in the band, and belongs to the National Honor Society and Key Club.

Trout Unlimited chose him last summer to attend a national leadership conference in Montana.

Bob Knoebel and Enrique.

He is the first Hispanic player on his high school lacrosse team, and was the top-scoring underclassman last year.

Enrique wants to go to college. Not because he hopes to change the world, but for a more humble reason: to help his family.

He’s counting on a scholarship to a private university, because he does not qualify for in-state tuition at Idaho schools.

He never complains, gets stressed or worries about his future, because he believes in the goodness of America and the promises it offers to those who work hard.

He’s not worried that the Trump administration has announced an end to DACA. He believes that Congress will act with compassion when deciding his fture, and that of 800,000 others.

In a senior class of just over 200, there are 14 other DACA-protected students alone.

It’s a world away from Staples.

But it’s Enrique’s reality. He is making the best of it.

Among many other things, Enrique is a star lacrosse player.