Local faith community condemns immigration raids, urges local ICE Director to desist from use of inhumane and immoral tactics against immigrant community

(Español aquí)Just two days before Christmas, the Washington Post published a story detailing plans by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to start 2016 with mass, nationally coordinated, immigration raids. Despite righteous and immediate outcry by the immigrant, legal, labor, and faith communities, on January 2nd various Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officed moved forward with these plans. Since then multiple raids across the country, including some in Illinois, have resulted in the detention of at least 121 immigrants. In Chicago, the faith community has not remained silent!


By way of response, the Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN) pushed a faith leader letter addressed to Chicago ICE Field Office Director Ricardo Wong. The letter, which garnered over a hundred signatures, was signed by faith leader from across Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, as well as several heads of denomination. It stressed the role and responsibility which Director Wong and his offices have in providing protection, not persecution.Although at the national level President Obama and DHS can and must act to cease the immigration raids, locally Director Ricardo Wong has the power to ameliorate the fear which has overtaken immigrant communities under his jurisdiction.


"As faith leaders, from various faiths and denominational backgrounds," the letter reads, "we are appalled by the violence and terror that is being brought upon immigrant communities in the form of raids.  We are united in our condemnation of past and ongoing immigration raids and the way in which this tactic is being used to drive fear and panic into the hearts of immigrant communities. Armed agents barging into people’s homes and communities, frequently in violation of basic civil rights, is not just “harsh” as described by DHS Secretary Johnson,  it is immoral. These raids demonstrate blatant disregard for the sanctity of the home, the family unit, and the community, and the psychological and emotional well-being of those who are forced to preemptively dread and then witness and endure such trauma."


In addition to desisting from raids and other tactics which are trauma-inducing, the letter also urged Director Ricardo Wong to direct his offices to take actions to use their power of discretion for the purpose of relief, not raids. The letter states, "Where asylum applications have been denied, we urge your administration to grant families and immigrants the opportunity to undergo an appeal process. Additionally, we urge your office to leverage its power of discretion to grant legally recognized forms of relief, such as a stay of removal or deferred action, to vulnerable families and immigrants threatened by deportation. In all instances, we urge you to adhere by the November 2014 guidelines on prosecutorial discretion so that an individual’s positive equities, including family members in the U.S. and positive community engagement, may outweigh factors that might otherwise render them deportable."


CRLN faith leaders, members of our Immigrant Welcoming Congregations (IWC's), and several other faith-based organizations delivered the letter Thursday, January 28. Although the letter demonstrates the faith community's united condemnation of ICE's raids, it represents but one important piece of the work that faith leaders and communities must step up to during this moment of intense violence against the immigrant community. Thus, in addition to the faith leader letter, CRLN and its Immigrant Welcoming Congregations are also working to coordinate "Know Your Rights"/Deportation Defense workshops in congregations throughout the Chicagoland area. Our next workshop will be Sunday, February 21 at Iglesia Templo Shalom (1400 N. Ridgeway) at 3 PM.

For more information about how to organize a presentation at your congregation, how to become an IWC, or how to strengthen faith resistance against unjust deportations by becoming a Sanctuary-offering congregation, email Lissette Castillo at lcastillo@crln.org. If immigrant homes, workplaces, and communities cease to be spaces of safety and refuge, our congregations must take the steps necessary to fill those vacuums!