LOS ANGELES (RNS) — To pastor Rosa Cándida Ramírez, it’s evident the same institutional systems that dehumanize immigrants perpetuate the mistreatment of Black Americans.
“We cannot say that immigrant lives matter, if we can’t say that Black Lives Matter,” said Ramírez, 31, who helps lead the largely Latina and immigrant La Fuente Ministries in Pasadena, California.
At La Fuente Ministries, it’s not uncommon for church members to speak about their plight and rights as immigrants. Now, Ramírez said, they’re exploring what it means to be a congregation that also talks about microaggressions, colorism and the struggles of the Black community.
La Fuente bills itself as an intergenerational, intercultural and bilingual congregation, and to Ramírez, the church cannot embody all those things and not say anything right now in support of Black Lives Matter.
Days after nationwide protests erupted condemning the police killing of George Floyd, La Fuente issued a pastoral statement affirming that Black Lives Matter and denouncing what La Fuente referred to as the “public lynching” of Floyd and the “militarization of police forces in cities.”
The statement referred to Jesus of Nazareth as a dark-skinned Palestinian Jew and announced that it’s time for the Latina church to join the African American struggle.
“We cannot remain silent because we are shaped by Jesus’ good news of liberation, dignity, compassion and justice!” the statement read. “Anything that opposes the gospel realities must be denounced as powers of death.”
Latinos, many from younger generations, have been among the different ethnic groups marching in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in protests and demonstrations across the nation. They’ve held signs declaring “Black-Brown Unity” and “Brown People for Black Liberation. “Tu lucha es mi lucha” (your fight is my fight) has been a rallying cry.
And for a number of Latino clergy and people of faith, it’s imperative this message of unity be present in their churches.
Guillermo Torres, with the Los Angeles-based Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice network, said it’s problematic if pastors aren’t addressing the inequalities youth are confronting on a day-to-day basis.
“When they’re not hearing that in the sermons, they’re feeling that disconnection and that’s kind of turning them away from traditional religion,” he said, adding that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Catholic, evangelical or Protestant church.
While the United States is steadily becoming less Christian, Latinos are still more likely to describe themselves as Christians and to attend religious services than white Americans.
A recent Pew Research Center study found that among Latinos, 51% say they attend church more than once a month, compared with 42% of white Americans.
To read the whole story on Religion News Service, click here.
On the evening of Friday, June 12, immigrants at the Adelanto Detention Center, located in the high desert of California’s San Bernardino County, refused to go into their cells. Anger, frustration and fear had been building among detainees for weeks as they watched the coronavirus spread across the country and worried about an outbreak in a facility where social distancing was virtually impossible. Then came the wave of protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, which also brought activists to the entrance of Adelanto. On one occasion, protesters broke windows of the facility, damaged numerous vehicles and injured an employee with a rock.
In response to the protests, according to multiple detainees, their few privileges were curtailed. Access to phones were limited. Tablets were taken away, which had allowed them to listen to music and make video calls. Routine attendance counts by guards from the GEO Group, the for-profit company that runs Adelanto, turned into “emergency counts” that forced detainees to be locked in their cells for days at a time, with only a 30-minute opportunity to take a shower or make a quick call.
Mohammed Alsayed Ali Abdelsalam, a 32-year-old from Egypt, was hit in the head with a projectile and lost consciousness.
To read the full story on Capital and Main, including quotes from CLUE's Immigration Program Director, Guillermo Torres, click here.
PINOLE, Calif. — When it comes to fighting the Trump administration’s immigration policies, California has two “resistances.” There’s the official one, conducted by politicians, that includes the state’s landmark “sanctuary” law.
Then there’s the unofficial resistance, which includes people like Ann and Kent Moriarty.
In July, the couple got a call from an immigrant advocacy group about an asylum seeker who had spent seven months at an Irvine detention facility. The woman had just been granted a $15,000 bond and needed a place to stay. The Moriartys took in Veronica Aguilar, from El Salvador, and showed her around their Bay Area neighborhood.
They taught her how to navigate public transportation, where to get healthcare and how to sign up for English classes.
Ann Moriarty said her religious faith compels her to welcome strangers. But she said President Trump’s policies made it easier to do what she considered the right thing.
“We are responding to this elevation of hatred and meanness that feels like it is allowed now in this administration,” she said. “It is unacceptable.”
Since June, nearly 800 people around the country have pledged to offer housing through California-based Freedom for Immigrants. The organization has raised more than $100,000 this year to bond 50 immigrants, including Aguilar, out of detention. Immigrants eligible for release from detention must provide the address of a sponsor to immigration authorities.
Other organizations, including those associated with the sanctuary church movement, are also opening their doors to detained migrants in need of transitional housing.
“When the crisis of family separation hit the media and there was an outpouring of people who wanted to help — that’s when we realized that we had an opportunity to really ask people to pledge more than monetary support,” said cofounder Christina Mansfield. “The goal for us is to show that, if given the power, communities are willing and capable of being part of the solution of ending immigration detention and providing more-humane alternatives.”
The Moriartys are registered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as Aguilar’s legal sponsors. Kent, who speaks fluent Spanish, works as a mechanical engineer, and Ann writes science curriculum at UC Berkeley. In the past, the couple has housed young unaccompanied minors as they aged out of foster care.
Aguilar’s journey to California started when she fled her home just north of San Salvador.
At age 20, she said, six months into her relationship with a man from her community, he shot and killed someone. She said she hadn’t known he was a gang member or that she was pregnant with his child.
While the man remained in prison, Aguilar said, members of his gang pressured her to maintain the relationship. She refused and assumed that was the end of it. Then two years ago, some of those gang members were released from prison and threatened to kill her.
Aguilar fled to her mother’s house two hours northeast, but the gang members found her a year later. In October, she bought a bus ticket to the Guatemalan border with Mexico, leaving behind an 18-year-old daughter and her now 15-year-old son. From there, she joined a caravan of 300 migrants who sought U.S. asylum a month later at the border in San Ysidro.
In early May, an immigration judge denied Aguilar’s application for asylum and ordered her deported, according to court documents. Judge Nathan Aina said she had failed to provide sufficient proof that she would likely be persecuted or tortured if returned to El Salvador.
While she awaits her appeal, Aguilar said, she knows she can count on the American family that embraced her.
“To me, they are family,” Aguilar said. “This feels like my home.”
In nearby Concord, Joe Schellenberg and Mieke VanHout got a call in early August from the lawyer of a detained Guinean man they had been preparing to host, saying that he couldn’t be released. Within three days, the couple had 70 letters and signatures from members of their Unitarian church in support of the young man, who is seeking asylum.
The man, who asked that most details about his situation be kept confidential out of fear for his safety, was released on a $5,000 bond a couple of weeks later.
Schellenberg and VanHout — retired and empty-nesters — have volunteered for years serving detainees and farmworkers. After Trump took office, they decided to get more involved with Freedom for Immigrants.
For VanHout, a former nurse, the idea of allowing a stranger to live with her stems from her youth.
“I really thought I could change the world,” she said.
Her husband sees it more simply: “I miss my kids,” he said. The Guinean man, a native French speaker, calls them “mom” and “dad” — a sign of respect common in his culture.
“My whole life has pretty much been white privilege,” said Schellenberg, a former financial manager. But his own children exposed him to different cultures. One son married a Chinese woman, another a Venezuelan woman and another a Serbian woman, and his daughter’s boyfriend is from Poland.
Immigrant advocates say there is a huge need for sponsors.
Earlier this year, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice started getting calls from lawyers with detained clients who were eligible for release but didn’t have sponsors.
The Los Angeles-based advocacy organization, known as CLUE, has long been involved in the sanctuary movement, in which religious institutions shield immigrants in the country illegally from deportation by offering them refuge. ICE historically has avoided conducting enforcement at “sensitive” locations, including churches.
Now congregations that had already established themselves as places of sanctuary are opening their doors to asylum seekers and other migrants being released from detention.
One of those congregations is Pastor Maria Elena Montalvo’s of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bell. But since the building lacks a shower, she is hosting a Salvadoran couple and their 2-year-old daughter in her Compton home.
Lourdes, 20, her 24-year-old husband, Raul, and their daughter, Nicolle, arrived at the border near Tijuana in March and requested asylum. The Times is not using their last name because they fear persecution. Lourdes and Nicolle were detained for a day and then released, while Raul spent four months at the Adelanto Detention Facility near Victorville.
Lourdes said she was raped by three gang members at age 11. Her mother had helped authorities prosecute the men and fled to Mexico in 2016 after the attackers repeatedly threatened her and demanded money. Last year, one of the men was released from prison and wanted revenge, Lourdes said.
The day after his release, the gang member stopped Raul in the street and demanded to know where his mother-in-law had gone. He threatened to take Lourdes and “disappear” him and their daughter.
The family joined Lourdes’ mother in Guadalajara within days.
But after less than a year, Lourdes’ mother started receiving calls from the gang members telling her they knew where she was. The family fled again.
CLUE raised the $3,000 to bond Raul out of detention and connected the family with Montalvo. Now they go to church with her every Sunday.
The pastor said it’s not the first time she’s taken in a family, and it won’t be the last.
“I always say I’m not going to get involved anymore,” she said. “But it’s impossible to say no, because otherwise, what purpose am I serving?”
Around and around we go! (Photo by Spencer Otte)
Even with sweltering heat and smoke-filled skies above, over a hundred caregivers at West Anaheim Medical Center held fast yesterday and walked the picket line in front of the hospital. Represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), the striking staffers cited unsafe conditions on the job due to short staffing and low wages as chief reasons for the 24-hour walkout.
The strike, a first ever at West Anaheim Medical Center, follows an informational picket that took place last month. Negotiations broke down when Prime Healthcare Services, who operates the facility, refused to meet the union’s demand for a 24 percent wage increase. The way NUHW tells it, Prime representatives informed workers at the bargaining table that they “had the option to leave” and find work elsewhere. Many, like Jeanne Waite, who needs the health insurance offered by her job in order to pay for her husband’s cancer treatment, felt the option offered is no option at all.Read more