Grace Lutheran Church on Woodland St. in Hartford played host to this afternoon’s celebration of Sujitno Sajuti’s release from federal prison in Massachusetts. For those unfamiliar with Sujitno’s case, you can learn more here and here. I had the honor of introducing Senator Dick Blumenthal who, along with his very dedicated staff, proved instrumental in gaining Sujitno’s release. Senator Blumenthal was pleased that Sujitno was able to avoid deportation and can now apply for a work permit. He also reminded us that Sujitno’s story is the exception to the rule; that the US immigration system doesn’t work; and that all of us who care about treating people with respect and dignity need to work for comprehensive immigration reform.
The celebration organizers invited me to speak as the President of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice (GHICEJ). I talked about Sujitno’s decade-long participation in GHICEJ, along with his wife Dahlia. I argued that Sujitno’s arrest and incarceration provide evidence that the current immigration system does not work. All of us who care about civil rights for immigrants; all of us who care about the well-being of our neighbors; all of us who care about the strength and cohesion of our communities; all of us who understand diversity, multiculturalism and religious pluralism as some of our nation’s most endearing and essential assets—all of us need to be working for comprehensive immigration reform.
Earlier this week Florida Senator Marco Rubio challenged the Republican Party, saying Republicans need to get serious about immigration reform. While Marco Rubio is someone with whom I typically disagree strongly, I believe he’s right on this point. And while I have no idea whether his party will heed his wisdom on this issue, it strikes me that perhaps there’s an opportunity emerging here. Perhaps the moment is approaching when partisan agreement on the need for immigration reform is possible. Perhaps I’m too naive, or too hopeful, or too whatever, but I think there’s an opportunity here.
I asked Sujitno how to say “Yes we can!” in Indonesian. He had to think for a moment. Then he offered words which he translated as “The impossible is possible!”
Good words Sujitno! Welcome home!