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Are American congregations staying negative to offer Asylum to Illegal Immigrants?

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There has been a surge of illegal immigrants on American soil ever since the Central American crisis, which emerged in the late 1970’s and threatened the safety of many civilian families. The inflow of trespassers from those times never stopped, and till this date, the immigration breach still persists, especially from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, whose volatile political atmosphere fails to provide long term peace.

January 2016 saw the occurrence of many minor raids by Homeland security forces in a bid to deport those immigrants that had already appealed to the courts for asylum status, but failed to achieve it. The Democrats, however, condemned these moves and appealed to Barrack Obama to provide temporary amnesty to those innocent immigrants, which would allow them to obtain legal work permits and start a life.

In the midst of these ongoing rallies among high-ranking politicians, many religious sanctuaries have taken the issue upon themselves to try and mitigate the immigrants’ distress. Priests and reverends of these churches feel a moral obligation to provide asylum to these helpless individuals, and sometimes, even offer legal help to stand up against Border Authorities.

Southside Presbyterian Church is one stellar example of these congregations. It has been supporting the sanctuary movement ever since the 1980’s, and with the gradual growth in the number of illegal immigrants in the recent past, it has been revitalizing its efforts to help them again. Situated in Tucson, Arizona, the church is juxtaposed with the Mexican border, making it one of the first stops for immigrants from Mexico.

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Rosa Robles Loreto was offered sanctuary for more than a year

According to VOA News, Southside Presbyterian Church’s reverend, Alison Harrington, says that more and more congregations feel “outraged and heartbroken” over current US deportation policies. Harrington said the Church’s flagship case was Rosa’s deportation proceedings. For a milestone 461 days, Rosa was provided sanctuary in the Church, and was finally able to roam as a free woman and meet her family in November 2015.

Even churches and synagogues as far north as New York City and San Francisco participate in this movement. The main concerns revolve around temporary housing, financial stability and protection from frequent raids in these cities. The reverends here often train immigrants to face the ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and know their rights in these matters, because, more often than not, ICE authorities take advantage of their lack of knowledge to execute swift deportation.

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Keeping the aspects of humanity aside, diaspora of many nationalities are disheartened by the fact that despite all the legal documents, they have to wait seven years, or even longer, to obtain a Green Card and legal American Citizenship, while these immigrants are offered the same rights to live on American soil through amnesties by Democratic Presidents or the sanctuary movement that seems to have gripped most congregations nationwide.

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A commentator writes, “These are not immigrants, they are illegal aliens and criminals under our law. The first amendment to the US constitution “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion.” To my way of reading it, that means an establishment of religion cannot be used as a sanctuary to prevent the apprehension of criminals. This means law enforcement agents must exercise their duty to enter these buildings and apprehend the illegal aliens with the goal of deporting them. If they have committed other crimes like felonies they may have to be tried, convicted, and imprisoned first.

It is interesting that the only justification I’ve heard from illegals and their supporters is that they do a lot of America’s work. Therefore a guest worker program with tight scrutiny over who enters, where they are, who pays for their cost, and no promise of citizenship or renewal of their contracts with the right to terminate them at any time and deport them should they become undesirables makes a lot of sense to me”, and even though his opinions sound harsh and inhuman on first glimpse, this argument against the American immigration system somewhat makes sense.

-by Saurabh Bodas

Saurabh is pursuing Engineering and an intern at NewsGram.

 

 

 

Next Story

Hope in Mexican Border Towns, Migrants Wait In Hope Of Rescue

Many migrants have been exposed to violence, said Gordon Finkbeiner of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, from “organized crime groups that are along the route.

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Migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Guatemala wait at bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas for immigration officials to allow them to turn themselves in and ask for asylum in U.S., Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

Migrants have arrived in Tijuana and other border cities in caravans of thousands, while others come in small groups of a dozen or so. They have often walked for days through Central America, then ridden buses or gotten rides on trucks through the vast expanses of Mexico. In border cities like Tijuana, they find help in shelters run by charities.

Asylum seeker Angela Escalante is here with her husband and 7-year-old son.

“The situation is very bad, there are no jobs,” she said of her country of Nicaragua, blaming political violence there on President Daniel Ortega. “There’s no security so you can’t safely walk the streets,” she added.

Central American migrants settle in a shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City, in Mexico City, Jan. 28, 2019.
Central American migrants settle in a shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City, in Mexico City, Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

Post-traumatic stress

New arrivals say they also face violence from cartels and local drug gangs.

“It was around 14 years ago they killed the brother of my grandfather and a son of my grandfather, and because of this, they are still pursuing us,” said Jorge Alejandro Valencia, 19, from Michoacan state on Mexico’s western coast. He said the criminals later killed his grandfather, and they now are threatening his sister.

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Survey of Migrants From Mexico. VOA

Many migrants have been exposed to violence, said Gordon Finkbeiner of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, from “organized crime groups that are along the route. What we see and what we attend to is mostly situations of high levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder.”

A 23-year-old Honduran, newly arrived in a shelter, said a gang demanded he sell drugs, and he could see no escape except to leave his country. He asked not be identified, saying that the gangs monitor Facebook and if his identity is revealed, the gang would target his family.

US citizens wait, too

Africans and Haitians, who relocated from their countries to Venezuela, and Central Americans from Central America’s northern triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, all wait in the city’s shelters. Every case is different, and many are complicated.

A woman from Honduras has a 12-year-old son with U.S. citizenship and displays his passport. The boy, named Jimmy, was born in the United States but returned to Honduras with his mother when she was deported.

A middle-aged man named Efren Galindo was born in Mexico and grew up in Texas. Two years ago, he was deported and nearly killed by Mexican drug cartels, he explained as he displayed scars on his back and shoulder.

“I’ve been 46 years, [nearly] my whole life over there,” Galindo said, pointing northward to the United States. “I’m married to an American citizen. I have four American sons, an American daughter and 16 grand babies,” he added.

Credible fear, big backlog

To be granted asylum, petitioners must demonstrate a credible fear of persecution or torture, and show that they are not only fleeing poverty. Those who have been deported from the United States face added restrictions. Many having been barred from returning for five, 10, 20 years or more.

The U.S. immigration system, meanwhile, is overwhelmed, with a backlog worsened by the recent 35 day partial shutdown of the U.S. government in a dispute between Democrats in Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump over a border wall. U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services said in a statement Jan. 21 that it faced “a crisis-level backlog of 311,000” asylum cases that had yet to be interviewed for credible fear.

The backlog of all immigration court cases was more than 800,000 in November, according researchers at Syracuse University.

Many detention facilities that house illegal entrants are temporary, according to Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael on the border south of San Diego.

“I know ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is completely overrun,” she said. “We don’t have enough immigration judges to be able to process efficiently and effectively and swiftly.”

Mexico is granting temporary papers to Central Americans, and volunteers from U.S.-based groups like San Diego’s Border Angels bring supplies to the shelters. Mexican businesses are making donations.

Also Read: Mexico to Relocate 120 Central American Migrants

Carlos Yee of the Catholic shelter Casa del Migrante says aid workers like him feel frustrated.

“We don’t have the power to work through this enormous bureaucracy. We only can say to them, be patient,” he said.

The city of San Diego is visible through a border fence, just 30 kilometers north of here, but these migrants in Tijuana face many more hurdles on their journey. Yet, they are still hopeful. (VOA)