In celebration of Women’s History Month the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity honors Rev. Deborah Lee for her dedication to changing state laws on immigrant rights, deportation and the narrative on immigration. The Rev. Deborah “Debbie” Lee has worked at the intersection of faith and social justice for over 25 years, as an educator and organizer on issues of race, gender, anti-militarism, and economic, LBGTQ, and immigrant justice. Her work has consistently bridged different ethnic and economic communities, generations, and geographies in creative and transformational processes bringing about healing, solidarity and social change. She is a mother, married to popular educator Michael James, and an ordained minister with the Northern California Nevada Conference United Church of Christ.
Currently, Rev. Lee is the Director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a project of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (formerly CLUE CA). She works to educate and organize congregations, clergy and lay leaders in Northern California to articulate their faith and impact public policy, reshape public perception and discourse, and engage in solidarity and support of the immigrant community. Recently, Rev. Lee organized the “Let My People Work” Immigration Conference along with countless vigils on behalf of the unaccompanied migrant children and detained immigrants. Rev. Lee has worked tirelessly to change the narrative and public perception of immigration and immigration reform.
From 2000-2009, Rev. Lee served as the Program Director of PANA, the Institute for Leadership Development and Study of Pacific Asian North American Religion, at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. She developed community education programs and played a key role in forging networks and community partnerships among seminary faculty, church leaders and spiritual activists in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Deborah co-developed and co-led a series of community pilgrimages to the World War II Japanese-American internment camp at Manzanar, CA; the historic Sacramento River Delta; Angel Island Immigration Station; and various military sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. With her partner, Michael James, she mentored close to 200 youth and young adults in theological reflection, cross-racial, cross-class and cross-sexuality solidarity through the Represent-2-Witness Youth Leadership Program.
Since the mid-1990s, Deborah has helped found and develop a grassroots women’s project, Women for Genuine Security, and the International Women’s Network Against Militarism which shares transnational feminist strategies to expose and resist the negative impact of U.S. bases on local communities around the world. As part of this work, she co-produced with Gwyn Kirk and Lina Hoshino, the 2012 documentary Living Along the Fenceline. She is also a key founding member of the Network on Religion and Justice for Asian Pacific Islander Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender People (NRJ), and produced the ground-breaking 2006 film In God’s House: Asian American Lesbian & Gay Families in the Church.
Deborah previously served as the training director of the Center for Ethics and Economic Policy and she continues to teach about a faith-rooted economic order that sustains and supports equity, human life and the planet.
The Rev. Deborah Lee was cited by the Center for American Progress’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative as one of 13 innovative progressive faith leaders and activists to watch in 2013.