On Christmas eve the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it would begin raids on Central American families who had arrived during the summer and fall of 2014. Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said that they would deport families who had "received their final deportation orders" and "exhausted all legal remedies. Depite strong protests from the immigrant advocate groups, attorneys, religious and Latino communities, nothing has stopped the effort to deport women and children back to the same terrible conditions that they fled.
I am back home in Portland, Oregon and have been busy with other immigration advocates to establish a rapid response
system to prepare for raids in this metro area. The Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIRJ) is working to expand the number of sanctuary congregations anticipating the need for safe haven for those facing immediate deportation.
The reality is that most of these families neither can find an immigration lawyer nor afford the fees to hire someone. A woman from Guatemala that I visited in the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona wrote me in early January asking if I could help hire an attorney for her final asylum hearing on February 11, 2016. She knows that without legal representation that her chances of being granted asylum are very slim. According to the Migration Policy Institute (2015) more than 80 percent of Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran women screened by asylum officers were found to have a credible fear of persecution if they return to their homes. LIke my friend in the Eloy Detention Center most of them cannot afford an attorney.
Casa Mariposa in Tucson, Arizona is part of CIVIC, a national non-profit organization that links volunteers to visit people in detention. It is hard work visiting detainees because you know that there is little that one can do about their situation other than to support them emotionally and listen to their stories. One volunteer said to me, "I have concluded that the best thing I can do is to find an attorney for them." I am not in a position to help with an attorney but I have written Casa Mariposa to ask that a volunteer accompany her to her hearing so that she is not alone.
One way that you can help is to create more Sanctuary congregations in the United States. Watch this video to get inspired and to get involved: http://sanctuary2014.org/#sanctuary.
Later, I will post a letter from a local attorney who spent a week in Dilley, Texas at the detention center there where she could provide legal help. If you have a week to donate your services as a lawyer, contact the group in her letter. Keep the pressure on President Obama to stop the deportations by signing this petition. /http://www.notonemoredeportation.com/take-action/tell-the-president-cease-deportations/
The only good news this week was the Supreme Court's decision to hear the Texas case that stopped the implementation of President Obama's executive order (November 2014) that would permit about 4 million undocumented persons with U.S. citizen or resident children to receive work permits and to not fear deportation. Let's hope that the Supreme Court hears the case sooner than April of this year and that the judges uphold the President's action.
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?