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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

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

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

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

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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A Group of Volunteer ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Threw a Lavish Quinceañera For This Homeless Teen Girl

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A Group of Volunteer ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Threw a Lavish Quinceañera For This Homeless Teen Girl

Photo via Getty Images

For most Latinas, having a quinceañera is a right-of-passage. Your quinceañera is the official milestone that proves you’re finally a woman. It’s a party that you look forward to your entire childhood. It’s that one time in your life that you, and only you, get to feel like a princess.

Unfortunately, not every girl has the luxury of having a quinceañera. Some girls’ families don’t have the finances to throw a huge party.

In Miami, a group of “fairy godmothers” organized a quinceañera for a homeless teen girl whose family recently emigrated from Mexico.

The girl, Adriana Palma, had moved with her family from Mexico to Miami in early 2020. But because of the pandemic, her father lost his job. Adriana, her parents, and her three younger brothers spent the next four months living in their SUV.

Relocating to another country is hard enough, but Adriana faced another challenge by being homeless, struggling to learn English, and chasing down random Wi-Fi signals in order to complete her homework assignments. It was a struggle, to say the least.

And to make matters worse, Adriana’s fifteenth birthday was coming up. Adrian’s parents told her that, since they were homeless, they wouldn’t be able to throw her a quinceañera. “We will be together as a family,” her mother, Itzel Palma, told her. “That will be my gift to you.”

Luckily, the Palma family had a group of guardian angels watching out for them. Being homeless wouldn’t prevent Adriana from having a quinceañera.

A charity called Miami Rescue Mission had already hooked up the Palmas with a small apartment for the family to get back on their feet. “Cover Girls”, a subgroup of the Miami Rescue Mission, dedicate their time to help women and children who are in tough circumstances.

When Lian Navarro, leader of the Cover Girls, found out about Adriana’s situation, she knew she had to help. Cuban-Amercian herself, Navarro knew how important quinceañeras are to young Latinas. She called up her group of volunteers and they got to work making Adriana’s dream come true.

The 60 “fairy godmothers” decided to throw Adriana the quinceañera of her dreams in a local Miami church. They settled on a theme: Paris.

The volunteers decorated the bare church in gold Eiffel towers, supplied pink macarons and French pastries, they topped off each table with a floral centerpiece. They gifted Adriana with every item on her wish list. Not to mention, Adriana was able to be dressed up in a frilly pink quinceañera dress. Her hair and makeup were professionally done. A professional photographer captured her special day.

“We want them to have these memories,” said Cover Girl volunteer, Tadia Silva, about children and teens who grow up homeless. “They have to believe they are worth all that because they are.”

After her beautiful quinceañera, Adriana appeared to know her true worth. At the end of the party, she gave her “fairy godmothers” personalized notes of thanks. “I felt like a princess,” she said.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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