Like something out of the movies, the son of a South Texas sheriff has found himself on the other side of the law.
Eusevio Salinas III, 26, was driving in Dimmit County, Texas, when he was pulled over for a “routine traffic stop,” according to KENS5. After police approached the vehicle, they became suspicious and called for back up from Border Patrol. A quick sweep with a K-9 unit uncovered 14 undocumented immigrants crammed into a trailer attached to Salinas’ truck.
Salinas is the son of Zavala County‘s sheriff, who shares the same name. Zavala County is just an hour drive from Dimmit County. Multiple attempts by KENS5 to speak with the sheriff about his son’s arrest were denied. A reporter for the news station even went to the sheriff’s office to seek a comment, only to be told he was not there.
According to FOX29 San Antonio, it is not uncommon for police to chase and find undocumented immigrants in cars so close to the border. Smuggling undocumented people across the border to the U.S. has become a lucrative business, with smugglers making about $4,500 for each person they successfully bring into the country, according to Ruth Censieros, a chief deputy for Dimmit County.
“We see this everyday. It’s an everyday thing,” Ceniseros told FOX 29 San Antonio about the increasing frequency of undocumented smuggling. “We’ve encountered deceased immigrants plenty of times and it doesn’t make it any easier.”
You can read more about Eusevio Salinas III’s arrest here.
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.”
Just one day after Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced her plan for immigration reform, a protester interrupted her to demand a commitment to legalizing “all 11 million undocumented immigrants” on “Day One” of her presidency.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren was talking about mass incarceration when an activist group redirected her attention to the humanitarian crisis catalyzed by American immigration laws.
Warren was answering a question about her plan to end mass incarceration at the Netroots Nation conference when an activist group unrolled a massive sign that read “Legalize 11 Million. Reunify All Families. #DignityNotDeportation.” Then, a protester stood on her chair and shouted, “Will you commit to the immediate legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country and the reunification of their families under the Obama administration and the Trump administration?”
“So I want to talk about undocumented immigrants,” Warren responded.
She launched into a soundbite that offers hope but not the commitment the activist was searching for. “I would like to talk about an overhaul of our immigration system because that’s what we need,” she said. “It starts with the premise that immigration is good for this country. It makes us stronger. It makes our economy stronger, and it ties us to families all around the world.”
By the time the activist was escorted out of the room, Warren had offered a three-part plan.
“The first part, it starts with, is we need to expand legal immigration in this country. We’ve had families held apart for far too long, and that’s not who we are… Part Two: We need a path, and I will build, a path to citizenship, not just for dreamers, but for families. A path of citizenship that is both fair and attainable. It’s about workers. It’s about people who have been here for a long time, who have become integrated into our society. Part Three is I will stop this ugly mess at our borders. No great nation tears families apart. No great nation locks up children. We must, at the border, respect the dignity of every human being that comes here.”
The activist continued to shout during her answer demanding true commitment to legalize the presence of 11 million undocumented immigrants on Day One.
By that point, a security officer was standing close to the activist, asking her to let Warren respond. He escorted her out of the room. Once outside, he told her that she should have let Warren respond. She said, “I gave her the opportunity to speak. I don’t need to talk to you. I need to talk to her and for her to commit as the future President of the United States.”
The activist is tired of hearing empty promises. She wants commitment.
A reporter followed up with her outside the forum. “We need the immediate legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country and the reunification of the families that were separated under the Obama and Trump era,” she told the reporter. “We need that commitment on Day One. We can’t keep saying that we’re going to fix the immigration system without commitment on Day One. This is something that she can do, that any presidential candidate can do, and we need commitment on Day One.”
The protest was organized by the non-profit organization Movimiento Cosecha.
The organization is led by immigrants, for immigrants. In their Dignity 2020 plan, they list the three demands required by a presidential candidate to gain their endorsement. They need a presidential candidate to commit to:
“An end to all detention and deportation on your first day in office”
“Immediate legalization for all 11 million undocumented immigrants”
“Family reunification for everyone separated by detention and deportation”
The incident incited both racists and supporters online.
Of course, the majority of responders are MAGA folks degrading the brown body that spoke up and both her and Warren’s intelligence. On the other hand, folks without the privilege of citizenship are disappointed in her existing plan. It does provide a pathway to citizenship and offers more resources by the way of an independent immigration court system, but there are some elements that don’t feel quite right. Que te piensas?