Detention and Deportation: A Christian Response

On September 18 from 9:45-10:45 am a panel will lead us in a discussion of ongoing detention and deportation in the Athens immigrant community, and how our church might respond. This is the handout we’ll share, in case you want to study it ahead of time to formulate your own thoughts, experiences, and questions.

 When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Leviticus 19:33-34

 Carlos, a proud and responsible father of 5 Clarke County School District children, was rear ended while driving to work. The police arrested him for driving without a license; Georgia denies licenses to undocumented immigrants.  Soon after that, as he was leaving for work, ICE arrested him and detained him indefinitely in a prison with nearly 2,000 other immigrants in South Georgia. His wife was horrified at having to tell her children when they came home from school that they might never see their father again.

Compared to national averages, undocumented immigrants in Georgia are

  • more likely to be detained and deported
  • more likely to be picked up by ICE for traffic offenses and other minor infractions. “Immigration judges and ICE attorneys are more harsh and aggressive…they classify as criminals those with arrests for driving without a license, or on 10-20 year old DIU arrests where the person has paid the fine and fulfilled the legal obligations…” (FULTON COUNTY, CBS46))
  • less likely to receive bond (5%vs. 10.5%k ) or more likely to pay a higher bond ($13,714 vs. $8,200)
  • more likely to be deported (87%versus 60%)
  • more likely to be denied parole (.7% vs. 5.8%)

 In June 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote to Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), to express its concern that detention exposes asylum-seeking families to unnecessary mental and physical health risks (depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress), while exacerbating the trauma they fled in their countries. Similar negative health outcomes have been found for children who are not detained, but have a parent at risk of detention or deportation.

How is our church currently involved with our immigrant neighbors?

  • We give $250 a month for families who have been affected by deportation
  • We funded several DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applications
  • We donated rice, beans, diapers, clothing, and Christmas presents
  • UMM helped restore the family home of a man killed in a storm last year
  • We provide space for U-Lead Athens weekly meetings; several members are actively involved as tutors, dinner providers, and donors to the Scholarship Fund

What are additional ways our church can respond? 

  • Provide support for families who have lost a parent to detention/deportation by building financial support into the church budget, and by individual contributions
  • Work with the Athens Banner Herald, Flagpole, and/or our North Georgia Conference Undocumented Partnership Task Force blog to publicize stories every time there is a raid
  • Join the support system in place at Pinewoods – become a buddy, provide rides, find support for legal advice, food, temporary housing
  • Organize a coalition of faith-based organizations in the Athens Area to provide legal, financial, emotional, and other needed support for families going through the deportation process with the goal of preventing deportation, not only caring in the aftermath.
  • Provide transitional housing when a family has lost a member to detention

 Provide Sanctuary to an individual in immanent danger of deportation. The New Sanctuary Movement is a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and congregations, called by faith and conscience to respond to the suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters facing detention and deportation.

 Initial steps:

  1. Expand partnership with our undocumented neighbors to learn needs
  2. Enter into a time of prayer and discernment
  3. Create a coalition of congregations in advocacy efforts, legal and logistical support, vigils, and financial support
  4. Work with an immigration lawyer. Most Sanctuary cases begin when a lawyer identifies someone working to stop their deportation order without success.
  5. Make a public Declaration of Sanctuary at a press conference

Submitted by JoBeth Allen