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Religious leaders come together for ‘Dreamers’

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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media A crowd gathered at the First Presbyterian Church of Hudson for an interfaith gathering in support of immigrants, known as “Dreamers.”
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Hudson Muslim Youth founder Jabin Ahmed speaks at the First Presbyterian Church of Hudson.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media The Rev. Eileen Weglarz, of Christ Church Episcopal, speaks in support of immigrants.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Father Gary Gelfenbien, formerly of St. James Roman Catholic Church in Chatham, sings at the event.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Members of the Payne African Methodist Episcopal Church choir perform at the First Presbyterian Church.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Audience members singing during the event in support of immigrant.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Regina Baird Haag, of the Old Chatham Quakers, speaks in Hudson.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Joanne Trapanese and Susan Antos, of Indivisible Chatham NY, speaking at the First Presbyterian Church of Hudson.
March 5, 2018 12:15 am

HUDSON — Religious leaders gathered at the First Presbyterian Church of Hudson on Sunday in support of young people without lawful immigration status, known as “Dreamers.” The event was sponsored by Indivisible Chatham NY.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was created in June 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security so certain people who came to the United States as children and meet various guidelines can request consideration of deferred action from deportation for two years, according to the Department of Homeland Security website. Some of the guidelines include coming to the United States before turning 16 and not being convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor. Federal legislation has been proposed to give people with DACA status a path to citizenship known as the DREAM Act, according to Indivisible Chatham NY.

Members and clergy of religious organizations and congregations such as Chatham Synagogue, Tendai Buddhist Institute in East Chatham and the Ansari Qadiri Rifai Tariqa Sufi Order in Nassau gave speeches, sang and said prayers.

The Rev. Eileen Weglarz, of the Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson, offered a prayer to immigrants and their children.

“Bless them, oh God, and bless their children and open the hearts and minds of all in government to make a fair and just path to citizenship for our immigrant friends and neighbors,” Weglarz said.

Weglarz’s great-grandparents immigrated from Ukraine to the Untied States and operated a grocery store, she said.

“We are all immigrants, we are all from somewhere else,” Weglarz said. “Let there be an outcry of support across this land for our friends. Help all of us to know what it means to love God and our neighbor.”

The gathering was about strength and courage, and it served as a chance to stand up for those facing pressure in the United States, Hudson Muslim Youth founder Jabin Ahmed said.

“We as individuals, as a community and as a country have been suffering so much grief, sadness and oppression, whether it be systematic limitations, racism, Islamophobia, deportations,” Ahmed said. “We will not back down.”

Members of Indivisible Chatham’s Immigration Committee reached out to religious leaders to see if they wanted to participate and there was an outpouring of support for the cause, Indivisible Chatham member Joanne Trapanese said after the gathering. This was the third immigration-related event the organization hosted.

“Everybody wanted in and everybody shared it with their people,” Trapanese said. “The faith community is so behind Dreamers.”

The core of every religion is about love, Trapanese said.

“This is a place where we’re seeing a lot going on in the world right now that is lacking in love,” she said. “The faith community wants to step up and say ‘No, no, we’re about love.’”

Laws that exclude people should not be kept, Trapanese said.

“We all came from Dreamers,” Trapanese said. “To say that people are here illegally, my grandparents came here in what would be called illegally today, too.”

Naomi Pitts, of Rensselaer, is a member of the Payne African Methodist Episcopal Church choir in Chatham, which closed out the event with a rendition of the religious tune, “I Need You to Survive.” The choir got involved after its director was informed of the event, Pitts said.

“It was interesting because I’ve never heard the different prayers and languages,” Pitts said.

Will Adams, of Philmont, heard about the gathering from the Hudson Friends Meeting and said he was excited to see the event take place.

“I didn’t have any expectations — it blew those lack of expectations,” Adams said. “I think it was really nice to see different religions unite to support the dreamers.”

Sarah Miller, of Delmar, is involved with the Old Chatham Quakers and said she wanted to come to the event because she doesn’t get to many services.

“I wanted to be part of the ecumenical service,” Miller said. “We’re all immigrants.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.