Things That Matter

How Churches Are Helping Immigrants

U.S. immigration policy prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement from entering religious centers. Churches, synagogues and mosques fall under this category. Some immigrants have managed to defer their deportation orders by seeking sanctuary in churches. Some have spent months — even years —  in churches before they were granted relief and allowed to continue their lives freely in the U.S. Here are their stories:

Hilda and Ivan Ramirez

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Credit: Trinity Church of Austin/Facebook

Ramirez, 28, currently lives with her son Ivan, 9, inside St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. The two feared for their lives and left San Marcos, Guatemala, for Texas in 2014. After crossing, they were arrested and detained in the Karnes Detention Center. They were then released after 11 months, and Hilda was forced to wear an ankle monitor. The two still remain in the Austin church and are fighting deportation orders.

Claudia Mariela Jurado

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Credit: Periodico La Vision/Facebook

Jurado and her family fled to the United States after no longer being able to keep up with their weekly payments to gangs in El Salvador. She received a deportation order, but she refused to go back to what would likely be her death, so she cut off her ankle monitor and took her two children to Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn, Ga.

“I was desperate. I decided to stay for my kids. I feel safe now. I don’t want any benefits from the U.S. I just want to be able to stay,” she told The Daily Post.

Sulma Franco

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Credit: Noel Andersen/Facebook

In 2009, Franco  left Guatemala after receiving death threats because of her LGBTQ activism. Upon arriving in Austin, she started the process of applying for a U Visa, available for victims of criminal activities. A self-identified lesbian, Franco created a life for herself in Austin, even running a food truck. Unfortunately, her lawyer forgot to file documents vital to her visa application, and as a result, was sent to a detention center in Arizona for nine months. Instead of adhering to her deportation order, she turned to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Austin for sanctuary.

Francisco Perez Cordova

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Credit: Francisco Perez Cordova- Sanctuary/Facebook

In 2009, Perez Cordova was with his brother-in-law when the latter called the police to report a robbery he had witnessed. Perez Cordova was arrested for being a good samaritan. He was slapped with a deportation order despite living in Tucson, Ariz., for more than 20 years and having a clean record. To avoid deportation, he moved into the St. Francis of the Foothills United Methodist Church in 2014, where he stayed for 90 days until ICE chose to not pursue the deportation order.

Eleazar Misael Perez Cabrera

Credit: @CaitMcGlade/Twitter

In 2014, Eleazar Misael Perez Cabrera had no other choice but to make the music room of the Shadow Rock United Church in Phoenix, Ariz., his new home. After being racially profiled by a traffic cop, Perez was ordered to be deported. Perez and his family had left Guatemala nine years before that incident. He had been working as a roofer for the last six years, and his immediate family depended on his earnings to stay afloat. Finally, in February 2015, Perez was granted a six-month stay of removal.

Luis Lopez Acabal

Credit: Luis Lopez Acabal- Sanctuary/Facebook

In 2007, when Luis Lopez Acabal was 16, Guatemalan gangs gave him three options: Join their ranks, leave the country, or die. Lopez hopped on the next bus going north. Upon arriving in Phoenix, he found work as a janitor and maintenance worker at a school. He soon met his wife, Mayra, and became the adopted father to her young daughter. Then, one day while driving home from work, he was pulled over. A deportation order followed shortly thereafter. Lopez turned to the University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, Ariz., where he lived in a tiny room for 100 days. When it became apparent that Lopez was eligible for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), he was able to leave and return to his family.

Rosa Robles Loreto

 Rosa Robles Loreto- Sanctuary/Facebook

One morning in September 2010, Rosa Robles Loreto was heading to her job as a house cleaner in Tucson, Ariz., when she changed lanes incorrectly. Instead of being issued a warning or a ticket, the cop who pulled her over called ICE. Robles, a Mexican woman who had lived in Tucson for the last 15 years and had raised a family there, was now facing deportation. As a result, she sought sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church, where she stayed for 461 days. After more than 15 months in limbo, her lawyer finally worked out a deal with immigration officials, who said they wouldn’t deport her.

“This is a wonderful thing. The struggle continues,” she told the group of 200 people who gathered outside the church the day she left.


READ: A Judge Told Him To Stop Racially Profiling Latinos. He Refused. Now He Might Go To Jail

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ICE Keeps People In Cages And Now A New Survey Proves It’s America’s Most Hated Government Agency

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ICE Keeps People In Cages And Now A New Survey Proves It’s America’s Most Hated Government Agency

Pew Research Center, a reliable source for polling about U.S. politics and policy, found that Americans like ICE the least of all federal agencies. While public trust in federal institutions is at a historic low, many expressed favorable views of agencies that provide social services and goods. 

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. postal service (free mail delivery!) ranked highest with 90 percent, with the National Park Service coming in a close second at 86 percent, and NASA in at third with 81 percent. 

However, Pew notes, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the sole agency asked about in the survey viewed more negatively (54% unfavorable) than positively (42% favorable), while the public is divided in its view of the Department of Education (48% favorable, 48% unfavorable).”

ICE ranked the worst federal agency by Americans.

While ICE is the most hated federal agency, the distaste for the organization is largely split across partisan lines. About 70 percent of Republicans and right of center independents view ICE favorably, but only 19 percent of Democrats and left of center independents do. However, overall ICE had the lowest favorability ranking of the bunch with the least percentage of 42% and the highest percentage of unfavorability with a percentage of 54. 

Other organizations that were ranked unfavorable were ones that appear to be failing the public, the second most-hated was the Department of Education, and the third most-hated was Veterans Affairs. Both of the organizations have been under scrutiny for years, while the Dept of Ed. has come under more fire under United States Secretary of Education and Trump appointee Betsy DeVos. 

Criticism of ICE mounts with Abolish ICE.

Abolish ICE is a political movement that advocates for the abolition of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Abolish ICE has gained more momentum since 2017 when the Trump administration began ramping up stricter immigration policies, including banning Muslims, diverting $6.2 billion in funds to build a wall at the southern border between U.S. and Mexico, and utilizing a child separation policy. 

Abolish ICE proponents note that ICE was created in 2003, and thus, it is not necessary to monitor immigration and maintain border security. 

“In this era, ICE has just taken off the gloves, going full throttle without regard to consequences,” Katrina Eiland, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant Rights Project, told PS Mag. “This is a perfect example of that. They don’t have any logical enforcement priorities anymore—everyone is an enforcement priority.”

While ICE was initially intended to monitor and deport immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S., under the Trump administration, and sometimes in Obama’s, it has been used to track those who have committed the “crime” of entering the U.S. without documentation. 

Activist and writer Sean McElwee is credited with popularizing the #AbolishICE hashtag in 2017 which catapulted it into a movement in the real world spawning protests. The Hill also notes that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the call to action into the political sphere. 

“The biggest moment for the Abolish ICE movement though came after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, upset Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), in a primary. As she leapt into the spotlight, she brought the calls to abolish ICE, into the national debate,” according to The Hill

“Within days of her victory, abolishing ICE had become a litmus test for Democrats running in the midterms and for those seen as potential 2020 presidential contenders.” 

Advocates believe ICE is a tool of white supremacy.

ICE has used increasingly brutal tactics like force-feeding detainees on hunger strikes, arresting citizens on the basis that they “look Hispanic,” and arresting undocumented immigrants when they show up for court appearances. 

The ACLU believes ICE and Border Patrol have increasingly abused their power, claiming their removal tactics take away immigrants’ rights to a fair hearing and that they potentially violate many of the Fourth Amendment’s protections including, ” the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and freedom from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.” 

“The central assumption of ICE in 2018 is that any undocumented immigrant is inherently a threat. In that way, ICE’s tactics are philosophically aligned with racist thinkers like Richard Spencer,” McElwee told PS Mag

“Though the [Democratic] party has moved left on core issues from reproductive rights to single-payer health care, it’s time for progressives to put forward a demand that deportation be taken not as the norm but rather as a disturbing indicator of authoritarianism.” 

Pew notes that just 17 percent of adults say they trust the federal government to do what is right, while 71 percent say they trust the government “only some of the time.” While it remains to be seen if ICE will ever be abolished, it is clear that the majority of Americans would prefer it that way. 

This Deported Veteran Has Returned To The US And Is Now An American Citizen

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This Deported Veteran Has Returned To The US And Is Now An American Citizen

SCREENSHOT / Green Card Veterans / FACEBOOK

Last year, Army veteran Miguel Perez was deported to Mexico, now he has finally become a United States citizen. While Perez served in the military with deployments in Afghanistan, a prior nonviolent drug conviction is why officials say the veteran was deported without warning. Perez was granted clemency by Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and with the support of Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran herself, he was finally granted citizenship. 

Perez’s nightmare makes national news.

Perez arrived in the U.S. from Mexico legally when he was 8 years old. His parents and children are citizens, and Perez lived here with a Greencard for much of his life. In 2002 and 2004, Perez served in Afghanistan, when he returned, like many soldiers, he had PTSD. 

Pritzker said Perez should have had an “expedited path to citizenship” by way of an executive order by President George W. Bush, “but due to oversight, he was not afforded that opportunity.”

Perez says the experience at war overseas caused him to have PTSD and become addicted to drugs. It was this untreated addiction that would cause him to receive a felony drug conviction. He was convicted of delivering over two pounds of cocaine to an undercover cop in 2008 where he pleaded guilty. 

After serving his time for 7.5 years, in 2016 he was turned over to immigration officials where his Greencard was revoked. Last year, Perez was deported to Mexico. He says he was given no warning and no chance to speak to his family. 

Illinois Gov. J. N. Pritzker pardons Perez.

After a national public outcry, officials believed Perez was wrongfully deported. Pritzker granted him clemency in hopes of paving the way for the naturalization process with a clean record. “Now we believe that Miguel is eligible for naturalization because criminal conviction doesn’t render him ineligible through ‘bad moral character.’ That’s the term they use,” his lawyer, Chris Bergin told journalists in Laredo, Texas. “That’s what we’re going to argue, and I think it’s a good argument.” 
Bergin was sympathetic to Perez’s situation, suggesting it was a failure of the system to provide adequate support for veterans. 
“He served and saw serious action in Afghanistan,” Bergin said. “If we do support the troops, then we gotta support them all.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth fights on behalf of Perez and immigrants.

Senator Duckworth heard Perez’s case and went through many efforts to spare him from deportation by writing several letters of support including one directly asking U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson to personally review his case. 

“Miguel Perez was willing to protect our nation in uniform and his experiences after coming home—including the great lengths he went to reform his life—show us why we should never give up on our combat Veterans. While he shouldn’t have been deported in the first place, I’m glad he’s received this parole after Governor Pritzker granted him clemency to attend his citizenship hearing, and I wish Miguel the best of luck. It will be a proud day for our country when we can call Miguel a fellow American,” Senator Duckworth said in a statement. 

On the one-year anniversary of Perez’s deportation, she re-introduced three bills to support veterans and service members from deportation. The Veterans Visa and Protection Act, HOPE Act and I-VETS Act, “would prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen VA healthcare services for Veterans.” 

Perez becomes finally becomes a citizen. 

Long overdue swearing-in as a US Citizen!!!

Posted by Green Card Veterans on Friday, October 4, 2019

It wasn’t a call that the 41-year-old anticipated given the circumstances, but it was a welcome one nonetheless: he would be sworn in as a United States citizen. 

“I was like no way. Seriously? He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s official,’ ” Perez told CNN of when his lawyer got the news. 

Perez completed the naturalization oath with Green Card Veterans present. Now that he is back in the U.S. the veteran can spend time with his family and receive treatment for his health; Perez was being treated for an undisclosed issue when he received the call. 

“I get to take care of my health, first and foremost,” he said. “It’s been a long … a long journey, a long battle.”

On his first day back, Perez told CNN all he plans to do is go bowling with his son. Inspired by Perez’s situation Senator Duckworth and bill co-sponsors Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Senator Ron Wyden plan to keep fighting to prevent veterans from being deported.

“Men and women willing to wear our uniform shouldn’t be deported by the same nation they risked their lives to defend,” Duckworth said.