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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Woman Reunited With Her Parents Because Of Her Son And The Touching Moment Was Caught On Video

Entertainment

Woman Reunited With Her Parents Because Of Her Son And The Touching Moment Was Caught On Video

The immigrant experience in the U.S. is a plethora of stories with different endings. One common storyline in the current immigration crisis is the separation of families. A viral video of Twitter is showing the immigrant experience in a touching and hopeful way.

Luis Cortes Romero, a DACA recipient in California according to his Twitter bio, posted a video of his mother being reunited with her parents for the first time in 30 years. The video starts with a woman being asked to come into another room. When she rounds the corner, she stops dead in her tracks as she tries to take int eh scene before her. After 30 years, she finally got to see her parents again.

Romero is an attorney and, according to the tweet, he always vowed to bring his grandparents to the U.S. to see their daughter. The moment was captured on video and you can feel the emotions coming through the screen.

Romero briefly described the challenges he faced while getting his grandparents visas to come to the U.S.

Credit: @LCortesRomero / Twitter

A parent’s love is something so special and unconditional. Despite his grandfather being deaf, mute, and illiterate, his grandparents took trips by bus every time they tried for a visa. It took five tries before the couple finally had their visas approved for a visit to the U.S.

The family even got to celebrate his birthday while he was visiting.

Credit: @LCortesRomero / Twitter

The smile on his mom’s face says it all. Imagine having to go 30 years without seeing your parents because of your choice to immigrate or a better life. So many immigrants sacrifice their families, friends, and everything they know in order to achieve a better life for them and their families. The video shows the emotional toll that the immigration experience can take on a family.

People on social media are showering Romero with so much respect.

Credit: @serrrg_ / Twitter

The Twitter video shows so much love and family unity. It is an intimate look into a life so many Americans will never know or experience. One of overwhelming joy following decades of unfathomable sadness and separation.

The cries from the children seeing their parents are something so many of us can relate to.

Credit: @Maryem77104169 / Twitter

Whether or not you have separated from your parents for decades, it is easy to understand the longing for your parents. There is nothing more comforting than being able to see your parents when something goes wrong. There are so many times as adults that we need to rely on our parents, whether we like to acknowledge it or not.

The separation of families is a moment in American history that we will have to face.

Credit: @IamNurseTrish / Twitter

Immigration advocates have called the separation of families at the southern border is damaging. The psychological damage to the children being taken by their parents is devastating.

Way to go, Luis.

Thank you for being such an exceptional son.

READ: This Video Of A Mexicana And Her Parents Reuniting After 23 Years Is A Reminder That Conservatives Have Immigration Wrong

Award-Winning Guatemalan Actor, Enrique Salanic, Couldn’t Attend His Film Premiere In NYC

Entertainment

Award-Winning Guatemalan Actor, Enrique Salanic, Couldn’t Attend His Film Premiere In NYC

José / YQstudioLLC

Award-winning Guatemalan film ‘José’ is about to make its US theatrical premiere in L.A. and New York. But thanks to US travel restrictions, its leading actor Enrique Salenic won’t be allowed to enter the country for the film’s release.

The Guatemalan actor is the star of the award-winning film “José”

“José,” directed by Chinese-born American filmmaker Li Cheng, won multiple awards internationally during the international film festival season in 2018-2019, including the prestigious Queer Lion award at the 75th Venice Film Festival.

Guatemalan actor Enrique Salanic has been blocked from entering the United States ahead of the U.S. premiere of the film in which he is the star.

The fast-rising, U.S.-educated actor earned strong reviews for his lead performance in the Venice 2018 premiere as an impoverished 19-year-old gay man who lives with his mother and falls in love for the first time. 

Made in a neorealist cinematic tradition, the film is described in a press release as “a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.” 

‘José’ follows the eponymous character of the film, a closeted 19-year-old who lives an impoverished life with his mother, a street vendor, in Guatemala City. Guatemala, and most of Latin America for that matter, is a place dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religious values. When he meets an attractive migrant from the Caribbean coast, he finds himself falling in love for the first time; the relationship pushes him to rethink his repressed life, and before long he is contemplating a drastic change that will require a leap of faith he is still reluctant to take.

The film premiered in New York on Jan. 31.

And it’s premiered in Los Angeles one week later. Salanic has traveled widely in support of “José,” attending the Lido and festivals in Spain and Panama but the U.S. appears to be a step too far.

The U.S. embassy rejected his visa application twice. 

Efforts to bring Salanic to the U.S. have proved fruitless after the U.S. embassy in the Central American country rejected his non-immigrant visa applications. The embassy argued Salanic, who lives with his parents in Guatemala, could be a flight risk were he to enter the U.S. as he does not have a residence in Guatemala.

The premiere should have been a celebratory occasion for the film’s star.

The young newcomer named Enrique Salanic, should be celebrating the great success of his debut appearance. But instead it has become a senseless bureaucratic nightmare, the latest demonstration on the world stage of the current draconian stance on immigration and travel.

The actor’s first application was denied in November.

Salanic’s first visa application was made in November according to Paul Hudson, head of the film’s U.S. distributor, Los Angeles-based Outsider Pictures; the embassy rejected it, arguing that Salanic could be a flight risk if he were to enter the US. 

Hudson then sought the aid of Congressman Ted Lieu.

Congressman Lieu, wrote a personal letter on behalf of the young actor which was submitted with a second application. That request was also denied, with no apparent consideration of the congressman’s letter. According to Screen Daily, a copy of the embassy’s original rejection letter states that a requirement of a successful visa application is a residence in a foreign country which the applicant “has no intention of abandoning,” before going on to write, “You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States.”

Hudson, head of the film’s U.S. distributor, had something to say.

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#Repost @jose_movie • • • • • • OCTOBER premieres > PHILIPPINES > MEXICO > DENMARK > GERMANY > (SINGAPORE cancelled: gov’t censorship) + USA festivals > Tampa FL > Seattle WA > Rochester NY > Duke University / UNC Chapel Hill NC ver/see trailer: https://youtu.be/BosKW_Zspgs Venice film festival Queer Lion award + best film in Boston, Mumbai, Honolulu – "festival favorite" premieres: 35+ countries Guatemalteco cast + crew – CDMX post-production sigue a Jose y comparte con tus amigos: detalles completos que se publicarán pronto: peli en español ‘José’, una historia épica de amor en Guatemala: https://tinyurl.com/y6rr4gub confident visual sense.. tender, transfixing – The Hollywood Reporter magical.. deceptively simple, sexually frank, honest – Screen Daily raw and authentic – Remezcla brilliantly restrained.. powerful performances.. unsentimental yet deeply affecting: "best film"+ "best script" (160 films from 43 countries) – Jury, Mumbai visual storytelling and honest performances connect us to the human vulnerability of love – Jury, Boston Enrique Salanic: Jose, Herrera LK: Luis, Ana Cecilia Mota Chavarria: Jose’s Mom among the most violent countries, yet ‘José’ is a tender look at love in Guatemala: https://tinyurl.com/yxdhmdme gay, indigenous, resistant: https://tinyurl.com/yxw28dmo BANNED: Singapore, 3rd richest country, while "Jose" is modest man’s struggle for love and dignity, in Guatemala poverty rates exceed 50% – https://tinyurl.com/yy4ycq2n Outsider Pictures North American distribution + world sales @outsiderpictures Rediance int'l festivals Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival @tiglff Portland Queer Film Festival @pdxqueerfilm Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage Hamburg | International Queer Film Festival ImageOut Seattle Queer Film Festival @imageoutfilmfest QCinema Cuorum Morelia Reel Pride AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center Cine+Mas SF / San Francisco Latino Film Festival Cinema Queer @diasdecine #josethemovie #moviejose #peliculajose #filmjose #queerlion #queerlionaward #latinomovies #guatemalamovie #gaymovies #lgbtmovies #queercinema #vivejose #vivajose #gaylatinomovie

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“Denying Enrique Salanic his entry visa to promote his work in a film produced, financed and distributed by American citizens and companies represents just one way in which the current administration’s immigration rules impact U.S. businesses, and it perpetuates the negative impression the world has of America. Denying entry to a man who has already successfully studied in the U.S. just because he is from Guatemala is unjust and cruel,” Outsider Pictures’ Paul Hudson told The Wrap.

Robert Rosenberg of Outsider Pictures also had an issue with the rejection of Salanic’s entry visa. 

“It broke my heart that such a talented young actor like Enrique, who is the star of our movie, is being thwarted in pursuing his career by our own government in the U.S.,” Rosenberg told The Wrap. “Our policies should encourage this kind of ambition and success, not trap Central Americans in their countries, as if they were less than human.”

In a statement on the creation of the film, director Li Cheng discussed the movie’s cultural relevance.

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Busy week! Come see the movie JOSE now in Seattle USA, Hamburg Germany, Quezon City, Manila, Philippines, Rochester NY, Morelia, MEXICO! JOSE is the Queer Lion winner in Venice film festival. Find out why it's called "brutally authentic," "a form of resistance", See information below: FOLLOW & SHARE! Jose is the non-industry film that beat Oscar-winner THE FAVOURITE and SUSPIRIA and other films to win Queer Lion, It is an art-film from Guatemala: reflecting realities, it features a lower-class non-white protagonist HAMBURG GERMANY @lsfhamburg_iqff Thu 17-Oct 8pm – Metropolis Kino tickets: https://www.lsf-hamburg.de/pages/timetable-2019?locale=en SEATTLE, USA: – first showing sold out this is the last showing tickets still available now @threedollarbillcinema Thur 17-Oct 7pm – Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Center tickets: https://tinyurl.com/y5sxk9of QUEZON CITY, MANILA, PHILLIPPINES Sat 19-Oct 9pm – Galleria 3 Mon 21-Oct 9pm – Gateway 6 @qcinemaph tickets: https://qcinema.ph/venues ROCHESTER NY, USA @imageoutfilmfest Sat 19-Oct 1:15pm – Dryden Theatre, Eastman Museum tix https://festival.imageout.org/2019/tickets/how-to-buy/ MORELIA, Mexico @cuorummorelia función gratis con invitación – preguntas: comunicacion@moreliaprograma.com Jueves 24-OCT 15H / 3pm – Centro Cultural Clavijero trailer: https://youtu.be/BosKW_Zspgs confident visual sense tender, transfixing – The Hollywood Reporter magical.. deceptively simple, sexually frank, honest – Screen Daily raw and authentic – Remezcla brilliantly restrained, powerful performances, unsentimental yet deeply affecting: winner of TOP AWARD – Jury, Mumbai visual storytelling, honest performances connect us to the human vulnerability of love – Jury, Boston BANNED: Singapore, 3rd richest country, while JOSE is modest man’s struggle for love and dignity, in Guatemala poverty rates exceed 50% Outsider Pictures N America distribution + world sales Rediance int'l festivals Photo @marcoviscastudio #josethemovie #josemovie #josefilm #josepelicula #moviejose #peliculajose #filmjose #queerlion #queerlionaward #latinomovies #guatemalamovie #gaymovies #lgbtmovies #queercinema #vivejose #vivajose #gaylatinomovies #qcinema2019

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“‘José’ is really a page ripped from today’s news headlines,” he said. “The crises of young people, single mothers and dark-skinned peoples in Guatemala frames the film’s story. Guatemala has become an increasingly violent and dangerous place, where more than half the people live in poverty. Indeed most of the children separated from their parents and locked in dog-like cages in Texas (shocking people around the world) are Guatemalan, not Mexican, as is often claimed.”

READ: Go Guatemala! You’re Finally on Your Way to the Oscars