Clergy Call 2009: Father Richard Estrada
July 26, 2009
Father Richard Estrada, lifetime advocate for immigration reform, explains how his work for immigration reform has moved him to speak out against injustice where he sees it including as it effects the LGBT community. This is part of our series of speeches from HRC’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality. Biography and transcript follow:
Father Richard Estrada Father Richard Estrada, C.M.F, is the founder and president of the Jovenes, Inc., a permanent housing program that serves at-risk immigrant youth and other disadvantaged individuals from the East Los Angeles area and is also assigned full time at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, La Placita, in downtown Los Angeles, which serves 10,000 immigrant families per week. Estrada is a graduate from the University of San Francisco, attended the Graduate School of Theology in Berkeley, was trained as a community organizer for the United Farm Workers and served as chairperson for the Youth Gang Services committee for United Neighborhood Organization. He delivered the opening Prayer to the 110th Congress, September 2007.
Good morning. My name is Father Richard Estrada, and I come to you from Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in the heart of Los Angeles’s immigrant community. As a Claretian Missionary and Catholic priest working for over 30 years with immigrant families and homeless youth, I know the gnawing fear that haunts families, neighborhoods and whole communities when violence and discrimination go unaddressed. I also know the healing power of compassion and justice. I have seen a Honduran hurricane refugee become a youth counselor, a Guatemalan civil war refugee become a U.S. Army Military officer, a Mexican immigrant become a graduate student and an unemployed Latina transgender nurse organize transgender housecleaners to serve the poor and elderly in Los Angeles. These are just a few stories of individuals who found enough people in their lives willing to share the Good News--that it is the quality of our character, not where we come from, not who we love, and not how we identify, that defines us. When we demonstrate the courage to say NO to bigotry and violence and YES to compassion and possibility we give a great gift and receive an even greater gift in return. It is because I have seen the power of justice firsthand that I—a life time Roman Catholic and religious advocate for immigration reform—stand with my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters and the clergy that embrace them to urge our lawmakers to support the Mathew Shepard hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In Leviticus we are told "the stranger who dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you. Thou shalt love him as thyself, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." A stranger can come from a different land or can be anyone who seems different than us. Just as the plight of Latino immigrants perishing from thirst and the threat of violence on our nation’s borders hurts those of us living in comfort, the threat of violence and job insecurity suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people hurts us all. When Gwen Amber Rose Araujo, a Latina transgender woman is brutally murdered in Newark, California by men who could not accept her changed gender, none of us can feel secure. When Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay are attacked by a man with a bat because they are Latino and perceived as gay, none of us can feel safe. And when a person can be fired in 30 states for being gay or lesbian and in 38 states for being transgender, no one is free from the threat of job discrimination. For, as the sacred text reminds us, we are all “strangers in the land of Egypt.” Today I call on our elected officials to stand with us to create a new day where we are all free from violence and discrimination. Passing the Mathew Shepard Act and the Employment Non Discrimination Act will help us to build such a community. Thank you.