"People have asked, 'Why do you stand with these people?' Because black bodies have been assaulted since we first came to this state. And they are continuously assaulted. What we know is, if we are silent when brown bodies are assualted, when gay bodies are assaulted, when trans bodies are assualted, when female bodies are assualted, then all of us remain in prison and in bondage."
The Trump administration’s hard-line stance on undocumented immigrants is polarizing: People have responded with either “throw the bums out” or “have a heart.” But the question of whether faith communities can legally offer the undocumented physical sanctuary — sheltering them in churches, synagogues, and mosques to keep them from immigration authorities — is not so cut and dry.
No one has yet been willing to provide information about what Rising Hope Mission Church pastor Keary Kincannon calls a "confusing ordeal."
"We have no idea where they are, and we’re hearing reports that guards won’t even give detainees their one call," Kincannon said.
The growing momentum behind the Matthew 25 Pledge has reminded me of my old friend and mentor, Mary Glover, who helped me understand the deepest meaning of that Gospel text. She was not a theologian or formal biblical commentator, but she showed and taught me the meaning of this Scripture more than four decades ago. Matthew 25 brought me to Christ out of the student movements of my time and led me to help begin Sojourners. We moved into one of the poorest parts of Washington, D.C., in the neighborhood where Mrs. Glover lived.
Many people in our nation, and indeed around the world, are scared by the things happening in Washington. Those most affected by the actions of this administration are especially afraid. But today, we announce a plan of action in response.
New policies also allow for easier immediate deportation by expanding the expedited removal process. This specific part of the policy allows U.S Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport people at a faster rate from anywhere in the country. DHS has also ordered 10,000 new immigration and customs agents, plus the revival of a program that qualifies local police officers to assist in deportation.
An immigration judge once told me the story about an Albanian family: On their way to their final asylum hearing, they were broadsided by a drunk driver and ended up in the hospital. Because they missed their court date, they automatically received a deportation order. “Almost 10 years and almost a million dollars to remove the order,” said the judge. “It’s like pulling a wisdom tooth continuously for years."
“The practices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement right now are not in line with who we say we are as a government and a country,” Kumpf said. “What they did was legally on the line of violating the Sensitive Locations Memo. That’s extraordinarily morally reprehensible.”
Drafted in 2011, the Sensitive Locations Memo places restrictions on ICE enforcement in sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals. Many at the gathering felt that the sensitive lines of sanctuary were crossed on the morning of the Feb 8.
For those worried about a possible immigration raid, or those with friends and family who may be at risk, El Centro de la Raza created a simple "know your rights" graphic in Spanish and English.
In recent days more than 100 undocumented immigrants have reportedly been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents. Texas Observer reports that as many as five immigrants were detained on Feb. 9. According to the Los Angeles Times, immigration activists claim that about 100 people have been taken into custody by ICE this week, resulting in a protest in downtown Los Angeles. And news of the arrest and deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos — a mother who was previously convicted for using false papers to gain employment and afterward obeyed an order to report to ICE every six months — have circulated through social media and news outlets.
In early December, Immigration and Customs Enforcement released nearly 500 women and children from Texas family detention centers, flooding San Antonio emergency shelters — and revealing the generosity of a city.
“After this weekend’s events San Antonio may not be a sanctuary city on paper, but it’s a sanctuary city just by the actions of the community,” said Amy Fischer, policy director for the RAICES in San Antonio.
BETWEEN 1980 and 2013, the federal prison population increased by 800 percent, according to the Department of Justice, at a far-faster rate than the Bureau of Prisons could handle. By 2013, approximately 15 percent of BOP’s prisoners were housed in for-profit prisons.
In August, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will no longer contract with private prisons for housing federal prisoners. “[Private prisons] simply do not provide the same level of correctional service, programs, and resources,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. “They do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”
Within weeks, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson responded to DOJ by directing his teams “to evaluate whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] should move in the same direction”—to evaluate whether ICE should eliminate contracts with for-profit immigration detention companies. There is no need for a review. Multiple reports, from human rights organizations and the Department of Justice itself, give damning evidence against the inhumane practices of for-profit prisons and detention centers.
As the leader of a Christian denomination, I feel a deep obligation to pay attention to foundational passages from our sacred texts in the midst of the current challenges we face as a country. When it comes to prisoners and immigrants, two passages are bedrock for me. Leviticus 19:34 reminds us to love foreigners as we love ourselves. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus prioritizes the vulnerable. He issues a clear call for those who follow him to care for the stranger, the prisoner, the naked, the hungry, and the thirsty.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.