immigration and customs enforcement

What Now? Faith Community Seeks Next Steps After Pastor's Deportation

aradaphotography / Shutterstock.com

aradaphotography / Shutterstock.com

What now?

This question hangs in the air, ever-present among us after weeks of our time, energy, prayer, and hope were focused on the release of Pastor Max Villatoro. We dared to believe that Max would be returned to his family, to his church, and to his community. But on March 20, the beloved pastor, husband, father, and Iowa City community leader was deported to Honduras. And we are all devastated.

For the last several weeks, members of Central Plains Mennonite Conference (Max’s regional network of churches), Mennonite Church USA (his national denomination), and others from across the country signed petitions, made phone calls, rallied, and made speeches in support of Pastor Max. But despite these efforts, Immigration and Customs Enforcement remained unmoved.

Max was taken into ICE custody on the morning of March 3 just outside his home. He was held for more than two weeks before being sent back to Honduras where he grew up. Max’s childhood years were difficult as his family was poor – a typical situation in a country where the average annual income is $2,070. As a teenager he traveled alone to the city to continue his education, but this proved to be impossible due to financial constraints. At age 20, Max decided to risk the dangerous journey to the United States. And he’s lived here for more than 20 years.

New ICE Policy Allows Detention Alternatives

On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new guidance for its officials when detaining non-criminal undocumented parents with minor children. The new policy seeks to safeguard parents and reduce family separation. ABC News reports: 

“It clarifies that ICE officers and agents may, on a case-by-case basis, utilize alternatives to detention for these individuals particularly when the detention of a non-criminal alien would result in a child being left without an appropriate parental caregiver,” said Brandon Montgomery, a spokesperson for ICE.

Read more here.

Immigration Profile: Is There Room for Redemption?

Photo: ericsphotography / Getty Images

Five year-old Tony Amorim sat with his dad in a van in Danbury, Conn., in 1989. 

“Do you want to come with me,” his father asked him, “or do you want to stay with your mother?”

Tony loved them both, but the boy couldn’t imagine living without his father. 

“I want to go with you,” Tony answered.

Right then and there Tony’s father drove away and took him to the far-away land of Florida. 

Last week, I interviewed Tony, now 28, on the phone. I couldn’t call him directly because he is in Norfolk County Correctional Center awaiting his deportation hearing scheduled for today. 

Tony’s voice was tight. He was eager to share his story — his whole story.

On the face of it, his case is simple. According to a Notice to Appear, issued to him by the Department of Homeland Security, Tony is a native and citizen of Brazil who entered the U.S. through Orlando, Fla., on a Nonimmigrant Visitor for Pleasure Visa in 1985. In 1995, Tony was granted Lawful Permanent Resident status by an immigration judge. He was 11 years old. In 2004 he was arrested and convicted for possession of narcotics. Four years later he was arrested and convicted again for possession of narcotics with intent to sell and for possession of a pistol.

It sounds like Tony is the poster child for the kind of person who should be deported: two felony convictions and possession of a gun. But you haven’t heard the whole story.

Pastor Who Granted Sanctuary to Meet with ICE Officials

Keep Indonesian Families Together, photo via Reformed Church of Highland Park

Keep Indonesian Families Together, photo via Reformed Church of Highland Park

The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, a New Jersey pastor who granted sanctuary to an Indonesian immigrant, is scheduled to meet with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement public advocate on March 20.

But Kaper-Dale said he remains skeptical given the wording in the invitation.

“It’s an invitation to talk, but [says] ‘you’re breaking the law,’” he said.

Saul Timisela—who fled to the U.S. to escape religious persecution 14 years ago—has now lived in the Reformed Church of Highland Park in Newark, NJ for two weeks, avoiding deportation.

D.C. says no to ICE

The District of Columbia has no voting representation in Congress, and our city government hasn't always been the best. But yesterday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray issued a new executive order reaffirming and strengthening previous policies that District police and other public agencies will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under the policy, D.C. police will not ask questions about the immigration status of someone arrested, and will not enforce ICE detainers against someone who has not committed another crime.

ICE Follies: 'Silent' Raids are Worse Than Useless

There are no whirring helicopters, law enforcement vehicles, or hundreds of federal agents swooping down on businesses as in days of old. Instead, such immigration raids have been replaced by a less overtly brutal approach: "silent" raids, or audits of work eligibility I-9 forms.

But the fear remains.

At the first whisper of an employer receiving notice from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that employees' eligibility records are about to be checked, pulses rise. Legal workers worry about being erroneously bounced out of work; unauthorized employees fear being kicked out of the country and separated from their families. Communities are shaken, business operations are disrupted, and jobs are lost. The anemic economy takes another hit.

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