ICE

Targeting Criminals? The Reality of Deportations

Pastor Max Villatoro's children visited him in Honduras in August 2015. Photo by Tim Detweiler.  

The highest calling of our civil government is to enable people to flourish, secure in communities with liberty and justice for all. In pursuit of that goal, they must at times take appropriate action in pursuit of public safety. However, as the recent police shootings in Chicago and elsewhere have shown, civil servants can commit injustices in the pursuit of their goals. I fear that this happened last March when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested more than 2,000 “criminal aliens” in a sweep it called Operation Cross Check. I fear it is happening again in recent raids to deport Central American women and children seeking asylum and safety from violence.

Trump Protester: 'Because My Last Name Was Gonzalez ... I Was Transferred to Immigration Custody'

Jacinta Gonzalez. Image via Puente Arizona / Youtube

Three protestors — two white, one Latina — were arrested March 19 for chaining themselves to cars and blocking traffic headed to a Donald Trump rally, reports .Mic.

Of the three, only one was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to investigate her legal status. And guess which one it was.

Immigration Activists Deliver 136K ‘Stop the Raids’ Signatures to White House

Image via Megan Cagle/Church World Service

With chants of “Hey, Obama, don’t deport my mama!” and "Que queremos? Justicia! Cuando? Ahora!" a diverse group of immigration activists and leaders made their way from St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square to rally at the White House on Tuesday. They were there to demand that the Obama administration stop deporting Central American asylum seekers and instead grant them Temporary Protected Status. With them they carried boxes full of more than 136,000 petition signatures calling for the same.

With Controversial ICE Raids Ongoing, White House Announces Refugee Resettlement Plan

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Due to a sudden wave of ICE raids and deportations of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America, the White House has faced anger from numerous Democrats in Congress, who drafted a letter denouncing the raids. This new refugee plan, which sets up screening facilities in Central America, aims to reduce human smuggling as well to slow the flow of undocumented immigration.

WATCH: This Is What Deportation Looks Like

The Mejia family
The Mejia family. Via Sin Pais.

On the day Sam and Elida we to be deported, I arrived at the airport, with the entire Mejia family, and was witness to one of the most intensely sad events I’ve ever seen: a mother and father saying goodbye to their children, not knowing when they would see them again. As I drove home from the airport that night, I thought to myself, if every politician, faith-leader, and citizen in the U.S. could have met the Mejia family, and then seen the family ripped apart, the U.S. would not be deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year. The raids that are descending on immigrant communities right now, targeting Central American families who recently crossed the border escaping extreme violence, would most likely not be happening. The de-humanizing term ‘illegal alien’ would not proliferate across our airwaves.

Security — But For Whom?

Image via /Shutterstock

Every year, U.S. authorities hold over 400,000 suspected immigration violators in 250 jails and detention centers across the nation . Anyone suspected of violating immigration law — including permanent U.S. residents, asylum seekers, pregnant women, victims of torture and children — are subject to mandatory detention without trial and are often held indefinitely for weeks, months, or even years. Ruiz’s story is a testament to the brokenness of the immigrant detention industry.

Although the U.S. government has the right to exercise authority over its borders, it also has legal and moral obligations to protect the human rights of immigrants. From a Christian ethics perspective, it is our obligation to welcome the stranger, provide sanctuary to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and work towards the liberation of all. Mandatory immigrant detention not only deprives people of their dignity — it is also illegal, ineffective, and inhumane.

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.

Declaring Sanctuary

Rosa Robles Loreto and her family. Photo courtesy Rev. Alison J. Harrington

On Aug. 7 we lit a single white candle at the prayer service welcoming Rosa Robles Loreto into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz. Almost 90 days later, that candle has been joined by five others, representing Luis Lopez Acabal, Beatriz Santiago Ramirez, Francisco Aguirre, Francisco Perez Cordova, and Arturo Hernandez. We are grateful that Beatriz was just granted a stay so that she could return to her home with her two small children, but the rest all remain in sanctuary.

As we approach Rosa’s 90th day in sanctuary, its time to replace the nearly burned down candle, but the light of radical Christian hospitality continues to not only burn bright, but spread throughout the nation.

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 Reform — Working With Our Neighbors

For the past 19 years I’ve worked and lived in inner city East Dallas among very poor individuals and families. CitySquare, the faith-based non-profit that I lead, last year served more than 50,000 different individuals. We work hand-in-hand with low-income people to see life improved and turned toward real, lasting, legitimate opportunity. Our day-to-day work involves hunger relief and nutrition improvement, health care delivery, wellness programs, legal services, housing options, workforce training and job placement, public policy initiatives, and community organizing. It has been in this dynamic context that we’ve become very involved in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

Over half of our friends and neighbors who come through our doors seeking a better life are undocumented residents. Since our entire approach to the community is based on building strong, personal connections and relationships across and beyond the typical barriers of income, gender, race, and religion, we’ve become very aware of the plight, the needs, and the rights of our immigrant friends. Tens of thousands of residents of the Dallas metro area need the relief that comprehensive immigration reform promises.

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