Lorelli Praeli has a big job. She is Hillary Clinton’s Latino outreach director. Her job is to encourage Latinos to register to vote and show up at the polls and those with green cards to become U.S. citizens.
But this isn’t the biggest news…Praeli just became a citizen of the United States.
Praeli, a 27-year-old Peruvian, had lived in this country illegally since the age of 10 when her parents brought her to get medical attention. She received her green card after she married a citizen in 2012, but on December 15th she took part in a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives with President Obama. She’s stoked to vote in 2016.
“There is no better feeling,” Praeli said. “It was everything coming together.”
Before joining Clinton’s team, Praeli was an immigrant rights activists working for the undocumented youth advocacy group United We Dream. Her work helped push Obama’s deferred action policies that saved many from being deported.
“Lorella’s story, like so many other American stories, remind us of who we are as a people,” Clinton said. “I am so lucky to have her.”
Read more about Praeli’s story and President Obama’s speech from the Huffington Post here.
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For nearly 20 years, one anonymous crash victim had spent his days lying alone in a California hospital without a name, without family, and supposedly, without consciousness.
A man from Mexico, whose family believed him to be dead, had spent the better part of 20 years in a coma and unidentified. According to a recent report conducted by the Los Angeles Times, the victim was considered catatonic and in a “vegetative state” until one day, an investigative journalist began looking into the patient’s life and identified him.
With her work, one man’s story, which could have seen the rest of his life spent on a hospital bed, is moving forward with a little bit more hope.
Just before his 34th birthday in January 2016, an investigative journalist began to dig into his story.
Joann Faryon of the LA Times discovered his real name and spent four years by his side trying to prove that he was conscious.
According to the Daily Mail, Ignacio was nicknamed ‘Sixty-Six Garage’ by trauma surgeons who treated him after he was injured in a car crash on June 1999. He was known as ‘Sixty-Six Garage’ for the first 16 years that he spent in a vegetative state at Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility in Coronado.
The Los Angeles Times was the original publication that broke the story on August 1 publishing a long-form column on how investigative journalist Faryon did all she could to find out the real identity of this man.
“[Sixty-Six Garage] is the name he probably would have been buried with if Ed Kirkpatrick, director of the Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility, hadn’t let me into Room 20 — Garage’s room. I’d already spent nearly a year at the Villa, reporting on people on life support. I’d documented what life was like for people kept alive this way — more than 4,000 in California alone — and the life and death choices their families were forced to make. Now Kirkpatrick was trusting me to tell Garage’s story,” writes Faryon in her story.
The article has also inspired the production of the podcast, titled “Room 20,” where the Los Angeles Times recounts the time the investigative journalist spent figuring out where he belonged and what his life before the accident had been like.
In the LA Times article, Faryon details the two years that she spent getting to know Ignacio, or Nacho, as his family called him. Through the trajectory of those two years, she tracked down people, she sorted through documents and scientific evidence in order to understand how one ordinary Mexican teenager could lose his humanity and his identity in such a tragic way.
Ignacio had been in a car crash near the U.S.-Mexico border in 1999 shortly after crossing the border.
According to the LA Times report, Garage had been kept alive in a hospital by way of feeding and breathing tubes. Doctors had declared that he was living in a vegetative state with no awareness of his surroundings. Authorities who had assumed he was an undocumented immigrant due to the few pesos he had in his pocket were uncertain as to how to identify him.
But Faryon had refused to let the story go. After observing his interactions as the hospital she began to suspect that he was, in fact, conscious and aware of his surroundings when he seemingly smiled at her one day in 2015. Faryon also recalls the times that he “appeared to move in and out of consciousness,” sometimes smiling and other times Ignacio appeared to stare at the ceiling and “strike his right leg on the corner of the bed for hours.”
After that one smile from Ignacio, this investigative journalist decided to fight for this man until getting to the bottom of who he was and where his family’s whereabouts were.
Besides spending two years with Ignacio to figure out his story, Faryon showed the beautiful side of empathy and humanity as she basically became a huge part of his support system. In the article she published, she writes of the many medications Ignacio had to take and the numerous painful procedures he underwent on a daily basis and she talks about how she did her best to soothe him and make him feel safe.
According to the original repor Faryon had clocked in hundreds of hours between 2015 and 2017 visiting Ignacio and trying to find more information about his crash.
The journalist managed to also uncover a copy of the accident report from 1999. The accident report she obtained revealed that he had been hit by a pickup truck that collided with another car. She also received help from immigrant rights advocacy organization Border Angels. The founder of the organization helped her track down Ignacio’s real name by cross-referencing his fingerprints with Border Patrol agent records.
In 2016, Faryon tracked down Ignacio’s sister, Juliana, and traveled to Ohio to meet her in 2016.
According to Faryon’s reporting, Juliana explained that her brother Ignacio had left to the U.S. from his home in Oaxaca, Mexico when he was only 17 years old. Weeks after he embarked on his journey, Ignacio had called her to tell her he had been detained by Border Patrol. After he was released, he made the trip back to the U.S. again.
After that second trip to the U.S., Julianna didn’t hear from her brother again and she assumed that he had died crossing the border that second time. But little did she know that her brother was in a hospital in California, unidentified and without anyone actively looking for him.
Finally, in February of 2016, Faryon helped Julianna reunite with her brother Ignacio.
Although Faryon wasn’t present during the reunion, she writes that nursing assistants in the California facility that Ignacio was in, said they believed he recognized his older sister.
As the 2020 presidential campaign draws closer and immigration policies are increasingly relevant in key districts, the Trump administration is doubling down on its efforts to catch and deport undocumented migrants. At the same time, Catholic churches and other places of worship are doubling efforts to house and protect migrants. This is why and how religious centers can protect migrants: they are traditionally considered a “sanctuary” in which peace cannot be violated. This has to do with the right to worship, but also on the moral authority that religious organizations traditionally hold.
However, things are not that simple when thinking about the laws that actually govern the relationship between religious organizations and the State. We explain it here:
The traditional status of “sanctuary” is what allows religious authorities to harbor immigrants.
As U.S. Catholic explains, churches have special status: a sanctuary. Because of the separation of the church and the State, places of worship are considered a no-go zone for ICE and other agencies. However, having a “sanctuary” status is more custom and tradition, a sort of unspoken rule, rather than a law. As U.S. Catholic explains: “ICE has operated with a policy of avoiding Safe Zones, which are locations where it has traditionally not raided or arrested people. Those include schools, hospitals, and churches—places where people who are in need go, where the most vulnerable are found.” Jesuit Father Bryan Pham says: “As a practice, ICE has not gone there,” says Pham. “But it’s not a law, so it can change or be interpreted at a local level.” The Trump administration is famous for breaking with traditions like this, so it has been more common now to see places that were considered safe to be raided by the authorities.
ICE is sending churches letters and fines for harboring migrants: financial pressure is another ICE technique.
The Irish Times reports on the case of Edith Espinal, an undocumented migrant who has been harbored by a Mennonite church in Columbus, where she has been living for 21 months. The church received a letter from ICE advising them of a half a million dollar debt incurred by Espinal for refusing to leave the country. The newspaper reports that it has known of “several immigrants living in houses of worship who this week received similar notices, the latest measure taken by the Trump administration in its crackdown on illegal immigration. Citing the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE officials said the agency has the right to impose civil fines, up to $799 a day, on immigrants who have been ordered removed or who have failed to leave the country. Officials said the agency began issuing such notices in December, although it was not clear on Thursday how many had been sent.”
There are some heartbreaking stories: imagine being pregnant and living con el alma en un hilo at a sanctuary site.
In a story published by the Daily Herald on May 25, 2019, we knew of Adilene Marquina, who is an undocumented migrant who has found refuge inside the Faith, Life and Hope Mission in Chicago. She has received notices from ICE urging her to leave the country. This pregnant Mexican woman fled her country seeking political asylum, only to have it denied four years later. She has to leave the country in October.
Faith has no color: Churches and other centers of worship are mobilizing.
As reported by The Washington Post just this past July 15, “Churches and other houses of worship have offered their buildings as sanctuaries, and activists have volunteered to stand watch”. This is in response to reports of possible massive raids by ICE to target migrants. It is not only churches that are working as safe places for migrants, but also Hindi temples, synagogues, and mosques.
Jewish communities are also doing their part.
Jewish communities in the United States are a product of migration and sometimes forced migration. Just like Central American migrants today, they fled persecution and war in Europe to settle in the United States. As reported by Haaretz on July 14: “The New York Jewish community mobilized on Sunday to help undocumented immigrants who are at risk of being rounded up for deportation.” Further, they explain: “The organization T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, joined the New Sanctuary Coalition, a network of houses of worship around the New York area which are offering a haven to undocumented immigrants during the raids. T’ruah also organized and guided some 70 synagogues across the country in serving as places of refuge for those at risk as part of its Mikdash initiative.” The group includes more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors “who want to represent the moral voice of the Jewish community.” They called the raids cruel, immoral, and inhumane.
Bishops have asked priests not to let ICE agents into churches without a warrant.
As reported in the Daily Herald, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Illinois, one of the cities with a higher concentration of undocumented migrants, wrote a letter to priests saying: “Threats of broad enforcement actions by ICE are meant to terrorize communities.” Cupich urged priests in the Chicago Archdiocese — which serves more than 2 million Catholics, many of which are of Latino heritage, “not to let any immigration officials into churches without identification or a warrant”.
New legislation is being put together: The Protective Sensitive Locations Act.
Legislators and policymakers are mobilizing to extend the special status to other organizations and places that are sensitive in nature and could be affected in greater measure by ICE roundups. Oregon’s United States Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced legislation to block ICE actions at sensitive locations without prior approval and exigent circumstances. Foreign Affairs New Zealand reports that: “The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act requires that, except in special circumstances, ICE agents receive prior approval from a supervisor when there are exigent circumstances before engaging in enforcement actions at sensitive locations, such as schools, hospitals, and health clinics, places of worship, organizations assisting crime victims, and organizations that provide services to children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse or individuals with mental or physical disabilities.” This makes total sense in light of traumatic experiences suffered by undocumented migrants and their loved ones, such as mothers being taken away while picking up their kids from school.
Latino Senators are joining the fight to expand the status of Safe Zone to other locations.
United States Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and a group of fifteen Senators in this initiative. She told Foreign Affairs New Zealand: “It’s disgraceful that ICE is targeting schools, churches, and hospitals, preventing immigrant families from going about their daily lives and accessing essential services. There are reports across the country of parents and children who are missing doctor’s appointments, dreading going to school and avoiding reporting domestic violence due to fear of arrest or deportation. This legislation will ensure ICE agents respect existing policies that prohibit indiscriminate immigration enforcement at sensitive locations, keeping families safe and respecting the basic rights of our immigrant communities.”
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