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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Joe Biden Promises To Fight For Dreamers If Elected In November

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Joe Biden Promises To Fight For Dreamers If Elected In November

Biden For President / Flickr

An overwhelming majority of Americans support protecting Dreamers. Hundreds of thousands of young adults rely on the protection from deportation and work authorization to live with dignity and out of the shadows. Presidential nominee Joe Biden wants to make sure they stay protected.

Dreamers are looking to a Biden administration to finish what an Obama administration started.

Credit: Biden For President / Flickr

According to the official Biden campaign website, the presidential nominee will work with Congress to reinstate DACA protections and to create a pathway to citizenship. DACA was won by undocumented activists putting fear aside and publicly fought to change the minds of Americans and politicans.

“Undocumented ‘youth’ are no longer youth,” says Moises Serrano, DACA activist and the man profiled in the documentary “Forbidden.” “DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants have been living in fear and instability for decades now. We survived eight years under the Obama administration and four years under the Trump administration. Immigration reform was promised under the Obama-Biden platform; a promise that is still unfulfilled.”

He added: “We hope that President Biden puts an end to the instability in our lives once and for all, or we are ready to hold him accountable in the same way we held Obama accountable in our fight for Administrative Relief.”

Biden’s policy proposes protecting Dreamers and helping them advance in this country.

Credit: Biden For President / Flickr

Biden promises to reinstate DACA to protect Dreamers and will be looking into ways to protect their families. The policy put forth by a potential Biden administration is pivotal in giving those who are DACA recipients a chance to live without fear and with all of the rights as their fellow citizens.

“After living through a deep loss in 2016 after losing my second mother and only being granted access to be on her deathbed in Mexico through my ability to get advanced parole through DACA I learned that no loss would ever be greater than that,” said Cindy Nava, a DACA recipient, political operative and policy advocate. “However, November rolled around and another loss took place. One that impacted my life, that of my family and my community.”

DACA is a very important issue as hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are on the line.

Credit: Biden For President / Flickr

People like Nava are hopeful that a Biden administration will bring that dignity back to the immigrant community. It is a community that is vibrant and has contributed vastly to American culture. A BIden administration would be a chance for Nava to see herself reflected in government.

“I am hopeful to see the daughter of immigrants, a woman of color, and a woman I can finally feel represented by be sworn in as the first woman VP of this country,” Nava says. “I will look forward to an administration that listens to the communities it intends to represent. An administration that empowers the entire country to work with each other to support, strengthen, respect and uplift each other each and every day. An administration that values and is grateful for the contributions that immigrants bring to the foundation of our country each and every day.”

Nava wants to see an immigration reform that puts immigrant humanity at the forefront. One that understands the needs for people to seek refuge and a better life in a foreign country.

“No immigrant seeks to find a fix on a silver platter. Nor do they believe that this will be an easy task,” Nava says. “The only thing our families ask for is a chance. Una oportunidad para recordarle a este pais that their lucha and determination comes from a deep sense of ganas to create a life filled with more opportunities than they ever had.”

The battle over DACA is far from over but it is clear that the Trump administration is on the wrong side of public opinion. Biden’s plan would strengthen DACA and restore the program to its full functionality.

READ: Trump Administration Limit DACA Renewals, Blocks New Applications

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President Trump Falsely Claimed That Covid Is To Blame For Ending DACA

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President Trump Falsely Claimed That Covid Is To Blame For Ending DACA

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In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on behalf of the Trump administration. Since then hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients have lived in uncertainty. President Donald Trump tried to rewrite history at his town hall event Oct. 15.

President Donald Trump blamed the end of DACA on Covid during his town hall.

The truth is that President Trump’s administration attempted to end DACA in 2017. Former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was the attorney general at the time and made the announcement in a press conference. Since then, the Trump administration has continued to advance a lawsuit to terminate the program. DACA allows for hundreds of thousands of adults to work and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

Long before Covid, the Trump administration was told to resume DACA as intended.

Instead, the Trump administration has violated federal orders and continued to restrict DACA and those who can apply. The Supreme Court refused to hear arguments against DACA meaning that the lower court’s ruling stood. The ruling was that the Trump administration had to reinstate the program in full. However, the Supreme Court did not dismiss the case allowing for the administration to come back.

President Trump also claimed that DACA recipients and Dreamers are not that same.

Another falsehood by the president at the town hall. DACA recipients are indeed Dreamers. The term Dreamers does apply to DACA recipients who would benefit from the DREAM Act. The legislation would legally enshrine the protections of DACA and was introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in 2001. Over the course of 19 years, the piece of legislation has not moved despite the overwhelming support from the American public.

People watching the town hall were quick to call out President Trump.

People are not letting President Trump get away with trying to rewrite history about DACA. His administration is the one trying to strip DACA recipients of their protections. At one point, President Trump tried using DACA recipients as political pawns in an attempt to secure funding for his border wall.

Voters are calling on other voters to help protect the program in November.

The two nominees have very different DACA plans. President Trump has and will continue to try to take away the protections from DACA recipients. Former Vice President Joe Biden has a plan to offer citizenship to DACA recipients, something American voters support. DACA is a wildly popular program that gives some of the most vulnerable people in our society a chance to live a normal life.

READ: The Trump Administration Has Officially Rescinded DACA. Here’s What You Need To Know.

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