Faith Leaders Tell ICE: Stop Immoral Tactics & Stay Away from Sacred Spaces

March 1, 2016

***Press Release***

Faith Leaders Tell ICE: Stop Immoral Tactics & Stay Away from Sacred Spaces

Sanctuary Movement leaders denounce deceptive tactics targeting man on church grounds

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CHICAGO - Following their condemnation of immigration raids earlier this year, religious leaders are indignant at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s latest display of misconduct and abuse of power. Faith leaders are outraged that ICE used a ploy to convince congregant, Reynold Garcia, then praying at the Christian Pentecostal Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, to leave church grounds so they could detain and deport him. Faith leaders claim that Garcia’s case shows the deception and disregard that are the pillars of current immigration enforcement tactics. 

 

According to fellow members of the congregation, ICE impersonated a local police officer, claimed that Garcia’s cousin had been in a car accident and urged him to leave church property to discuss the matter. ICE then convinced Garcia to go with them in an unmarked car, on the pretense of helping his cousin, only to detain and deport him hours later. This tactic was preceded by an ICE raid on his home the day before, resulting in the arrest and detention of his wife and two children. 

 

Speaking on behalf of the pastoral team at the Christian Pentecostal Center, the Rev. Gerson Moreno said, “We are appalled by ICE’s behavior. They lied and used deceiving tactics to convince our brother Reynold to leave the safety of our church. The removal of the Garcia family has caused great emotional distress in our congregation and many fear for their families and friends. We continue to support the Garcia family and we request their case be reopened and that they be allowed back into the country.” 

 

Since 2011, ICE has utilized policy guidance regarding operations at sensitive locations, including churches. In January, national faith-based organizations issued a letter reaffirming the importance of ICE’s sensitive location guidance and demanding ICE stay away from sacred spaces.

 

Earlier this year, Chicagoans shut down traffic outside of the Chicago ICE office, the regional ICE office which supervises enforcement operations throughout Illinois and other nearby states. Protesters highlighted the Chicago ICE office’s consistent pattern of abuse and human and civil rights violations. Reynold’s case was one of several grievances raised against the Chicago ICE office and its Regional Director, Ricardo Wong. 

 

The Rev. Julian DeShazier, a faith leader with the Chicago Religious Leadership Network and pastor of a Sanctuary-offering congregation in Chicago, responded to the developments in Schaumburg from his church just miles away saying, “We are in solidarity with the Christian Pentecostal Center. Places of worship, as well as immigrant homes and communities, are all sacred spaces that must be off limits for immigration enforcement. As a faith community we are seeking answers from Director Wong for the immoral enforcement tactics stemming from his office. ICE began the year raiding immigrant homes, and now it’s coming into congregations. We must organize to stop the raids and hold ICE accountable.”

 

Nationally, Sanctuary Movement pastors are also speaking out against tactics that violate the sensitive locations policy. The Rev. Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church said, “It is not only unthinkable, but morally reprehensible that ICE would come after someone as they pray in their church. Our government has no right to impede on sacred spaces and the freedom to practice one’s religion. We echo demands that Reynold Garcia’s case be reopened and he be paroled in on humanitarian grounds.”

 

The Rev. Jim Rigby, whose congregation is offering Sanctuary to asylum seekers from Guatemala, Hilda Ramirez and her son, commented, “As congregations open their doors to the most vulnerable, we understand that all God’s children should be welcomed and given hospitality. We have a moral responsibility to do no less. We will continue to offer our halls to those who need them and will refuse to allow ICE to set even one foot on our grounds.” 

 

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