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.
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.
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.
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.
The debate over immigration policy and border security often focuses on the border shared by the United States and Mexico. However, The New York Times recently offered a revealing and troublesome picture of efforts by the U.S. Border Patrol along the dividing line between the US and Canada.
According to the report, the border agents “hover outside the warehouse where Mexican immigrants sell the salal they pick in the temperate rain forest. Sometimes they confront people whose primary offense, many argue, is skin tone.”