Things That Matter

A Colorado Church Has Provided Sanctuary To This Woman And Now She Just Gave Birth There To Avoid ICE

The humanitarian crisis product of the influx of undocumented migrants to the United States and the Trump administration’s tough policies and law enforcement techniques have resulted in stories of survival that are almost hard to believe. ICE raids all over the country have torn communities and families apart. But for all the bigotry there are some stories that reveal that there are still some good people out there and that human kindness and perseverance count for something. 

The recent tribulation of a 36-year-old Peruvian woman is one of such cases. 

Ingrid Encalada Latorre gave birth to a baby girl at a church in Boulder, Colorado

Credit: Twitter. @UUSC

She has been living at the Unitarian Universalist Church since 2017 with her two sons, after she moved from another religious site. Places of worship have a de facto status as a sanctuary and there is an unwritten agreement between law enforcers and religious organizations that dictates that once in a sacred building, migrants and refugees are safe from arrest. She has become an immigrant rights advocate based on her own traumatic experiences.  

The authorities have been persistent in their punitive actions against this outspoken woman.

As U-Wire reported in August, “In July, Encalada Latorre was fined nearly $5,000 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for not leaving the country”. The bill just keeps adding up. And this is an strategy that is increasingly being used by the current administration as U-Wire reported in July: “The Trump administration threatened to impose these fines on immigrants who seek sanctuary in locations where ICE does not conduct enforcement operations, such as churches. Although the penalties are not new, imposing the financial penalties has been rare, according to reporting by the Washington Post”.

Damn. Some migrants have been fined for more than $400,000. Of course, almost no one is able to pay that kind of money. 

Ingrid declined to go to hospital to give birth, and for a very good reason.

She feared that she would become a target for ICE if she left the place of worship. She had a 15-hour natural birth and she delivered her baby with the help of a midwife. Ingrid kept her birthing plans under wraps until the last minute because any information leak could very well put her at risk of deportation.

She told The Daily Beast: “Having a baby is always a light of life. I am excited to have my beautiful baby girl and my two sons, who I love very much. My life continues, and this broken system will not stop my fight to keep my family together.”

She moved into the church after a court appearance where she pleaded guilty.

Her crime: trying to buy a Social Security number so she could work and provide for her kids. She got bad legal advice and pleaded guilty to a felony, which is much worse than the correct category of a misdemeanor. The church has been more than accomodating, and a shower and proper living quarters have been provided for Ingrid and her children. 

The church’s reverend, Eric Posa, is like the coolest man of the robe ever.

Credit: Twitter. @TheLeftRev

Eric Posa has a long history of fighting for the dispossessed and the vulnerable, and his stern defence of Ingrid is proof of that. He told The Daily Beast, which first broke the story: “We talk about the joy of new life at the church, but I’ve got to say, in my career, it’s never been as literally true about new life being added to the church as happened here”.

And Posa also served some truths to the system: “In a system that would tell people that they are less human than those who are native-born citizens—and especially those of us with white skin—and in a system that would actively discourage the rest of us as treating Ingrid and others like her as fully human, she decided not to limit and pare down her life, but to expand her family”.

Some might get judgemental about Ingrid’s decision to have a baby under such circumstances, but bringing life is a way of resisting a bleak future. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about Ingrid’s case to highlight the faults in the system.

Ingrid ended up in this legal mess because she had to resort to a misdemeanor because even though she is part of the community in Colorado, she has lived under the shadows and in fear for too long, just like millions of migrants who are hard working and bring a sense of solidarity to social life in the United States. AOC also visited Ingrid and offered her support as part of a trip to Boulder, where she also spoke at a dinner.  

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

Smith Gado / Getty Images

Across the country, dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought refuge at churches, where they are typically safe from immigration enforcement.

However, as ICE escalates its attacks on the immigrant community, churches and other sensitive places of refuge may no longer be the ‘safe spaces’ they once were.

ICE has allegedly arrested a man who was inside of a church and they lied to get him out.

Last week, six ICE agents entered an undocumented migrant’s home (located on church property) and now that man is in a Georgia detention center. Binsar Siahaan, 52 (from Indonesia), was told that there was a problem with the GPS monitor he had to wear and that they needed to take him to an ICE office in Silver Springs, MD.

“As soon as he stepped outside, they handcuffed him,” taking him first to Baltimore and then to Georgia. He was not given anything to eat for two days, Rev. Scroggins said through tears. She said, “He is being abused. He is not well,” adding, “The way he is being treated is absolutely appalling.”

Siahaan currently is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. and may be deported to his native Indonesia. He has been in the United States since 1989, coming here on a visa to work as a driver for the Indonesian Embassy. He overstayed the terms of the visa and then was denied asylum, because he did not apply on time.

But in Siahaan’s case, at the time they moved into the house on church grounds in January, they had no reason to fear ICE would come after them. They moved in to help take care of the church, which they have been attending for about six years.

Siahaan’s attorney and clergy at Glenmont United Methodist are rallying to stop Siahaan’s deportation, accusing ICE of breaching its own protocol by arresting him on church property under false pretenses and while his appeals are still pending.

The church where it happened is urging ICE to release the man – who is still in custody.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church – where the arrest occurred – have called for ICE to release Siahaan. They also called on ICE to state publically that it will uphold its policy of not entering sensitive locations, which includes “churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services,” according to an ICE 2011 memorandum

“We are gravely concerned,” said Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the general board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “Church grounds are sacred.” She said the government was “in complicity to sin” if it won’t protect immigrants.

Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor of the Glenmont church where Binsar has been a member for six years, called Siahaan “one of the most devoted, loyal and generous persons I know.” He helps out at the church constantly and usually is the first to arrive and the last to leave, she said.

This is hardly the first time ICE has conducted similar operations.

Credit: Smith Gado / Getty Images

An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested in 2018 after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to an ICE news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. This is when ICE stopped in to make the arrest.

He had been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

On Friday, previously undisclosed court documents revealed that almost 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children seeking refuge were denied access to the U.S. and subsequently expelled from U.S. soil. None of these children were given a chance in court.

According to reporting done by CBS News, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have “suspended humanitarian protections” for most migrants crossing the border, on the grounds that “public health law overrides asylum, immigration and anti-trafficking safeguards” in the era of COVID-19.

CBS news made the shocking discovery when investigating the problematic and increased practice of holding and detaining minors in unregulated, privately contracted hotel rooms.

The government is arguing that the practice is keeping the American public safe from possibly COVID-19 exposure from unauthorized migrants.

“What we’re trying to do…is remove all individuals, regardless of whether they’re children — minors — or they’re adults,” Customs and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan said in an August media briefing.

He continued: “We’re trying to remove [the migrants] as fast as we can, to not put them in our congregate settings, to not put them into our system, to not have them remain in the United States for a long period of time, therefore increasing the exposure risk of everybody they come in contact with.”

via Getty Images

But critics are claiming that the Trump Administration is using COVID-19 as an excuse to unlawfully expel as many migrants as possible–regardless of their age.

On Friday, federal Judge Dolly M. Gee ordered the administration to put an end to the practice of detaining children in hotel rooms, saying that hotels do not “adequately account for the vulnerability of unaccompanied minors in detention”. She asked the government to put an end to the practice by September 15th.

It is in the court documents regarding the above case that 8,800 expelled migrant children number was revealed.

“The numbers are stunning,” said executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Lindsay Toczylowski, to CBS News. “…To find out that our government has literally taken children who are seeking protection and sent them back to the very places they fled in such high numbers really took my breath away.”

via Getty Images

US Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz has defended the unsafe hotel detainment and speedy expulsion of migrant children, saying that stopping the practice would increase risk of exposure to health and customs officials alike.

But even if the practice comes to an end, the staggering number of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children left to their own devices is sitting heavy on the soul of advocates and activists.

“It’s just completely contrary, not only to all child protection norms and standards, but also just completely contrary to our values as a nation around protecting the most vulnerable,” said vice president for international programs at Kids in Need of Defense Lisa Frydman to CNN. “Because we are just wholesale shipping them out without making sure that it’s safe for them to go.”

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