Episcopalians join immigration activists in vowing to ‘melt the ICE collusion’

Los Angeles interfaith activists chip away at ice sculpture, deportation policies

Episcopal clergy join about 200 interfaith immigration activists calling upon the Los Angeles Sheriff to stop collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in detaining and deporting undocumented persons. Photo: Cam Sanders

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians joined about 200 immigration activists in front of the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice on Aug. 3, bearing signs, beating drums and chanting “Escucha, estamos en la lucha” (“Listen, we are in the struggle”). They also chipped away at a melting ice sculpture, shaped in the letters I-C-E, acronym for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Gathered in the 90-degree heat, they chanted, “Melt the ICE Collusion,” challenging Los Angeles Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s support of federal deportation policies deemed unjust, according to the Rev. Francisco Garcia, co-chair of Episcopal Sacred Resistance, the sanctuary task force of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

“In California, we really have an opportunity to show a different way,” said Garcia, rector of Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood.

“We are hearing all kinds of things coming from the White House in terms of immigration … including the president painting this broad picture of immigrants as criminals and how bad these people are and how they have hurt our country. But in California we can be a community that really does welcome and include all and make that policy and practice.”

The gathering of Jewish and Christian clergy and laity also intended to show that activists will keep fighting for immigrant rights, chipping away at law enforcement policies and agencies that intimidate undocumented persons and prevent them from reporting crimes when they are victimized, he said.

“Recent history has shown that President Trump’s statement about detaining and deporting only ‘violent felons’ has meant in practice the targeting and detention of people who have lived in this country for years or decades, have become central pillars of their communities, are supporting families and whose only crime is having come to this country illegally,” according to a letter the group attempted to hand deliver to McDonnell.

They were not allowed inside the Hall of Justice, where McDonnell’s office is located. Instead, they were met with barricades and by a wall of deputies stationed outside, but were promised that the letter would be given to him, according to the Rev. Jaime Edwards Acton, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood, also co-chair of the diocesan sanctuary task force.

“We also wanted to highlight the stories of those who are affected by these policies,” he said.

The letter cited several cases, including that of the Rev. Noe Carias, leader of the Southern Pacific District of the Assemblies of God Church for more than two decades. Carias is married to a U.S. citizen and has two young children, and he was detained during a routine July 24 check-in with an immigration officer.

According to published reports, Carias was deported in 1993 as a teenager, but returned to the United States and ignored a deportation order two years later. He had been granted one-year stays in 2015 and 2016, but earlier this year a request for a third stay was denied.

Carias, according to the letter emailed to McDonnell earlier in the day and given to deputies, “is and has been a faithful and very active member, local church leader and … has 25-year-old deportation orders resulting simply from entering the U.S. without permission as a teenager.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that ICE explained the July 24 action in a written statement, calling Carias “a repeat immigration violator who has assumed multiple identities and nationalities over the years in order to evade federal immigration enforcement.

“During previous encounters with immigration authorities, his actions have established a pattern of misrepresentation or deception to law enforcement, resulting in his removal from the United States on at least three occasions,” according to the report.

Activists at the rally chipped away at the melting ice sculpture, symbolizing chipping away at unjust ICE policies and practices. Photo:Cam Sanders

The activists also cited the nationally publicized case of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, arrested in front of his daughter, now 14, after dropping off another daughter at her Lincoln Heights school. He could be deported as early as Aug. 7, Garcia said.

“He has been held at the Adelanto detention facility since Feb. 28. … He had two misdemeanor convictions from two decades ago,” Garcia said. The facility in San Bernardino County is run by GEO, the nation’s largest private prison company.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, lawyers for Avelica-Gonzalez in June settled those convictions, for driving under the influence and for receiving stolen car tags, in the hopes authorities would vacate the deportation order. A request for an emergency stay of removal of the deportation order filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal was dismissed in June. Subsequent requests for stays have been denied.

“Nine detainees at the Adelanto facility staged a hunger strike because they were beaten and pepper sprayed,” according to Garcia and the Aug. 3 letter. “These were also not ‘violent felons;’ they were refugees who were demanding asylum, and were refused due process.”

The two-day hunger strike was intended to heighten awareness of conditions at the Adelanto facility, and the need for better medical care and lower bail amounts.

The letter also urged McDonnell to halt opposition to state Senate Bill 54, known as the California Values Act, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León, a Los Angeles Democrat, which would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest people for immigration enforcement.

De León has argued that the bill, which would make California a sanctuary state and prohibit ICE agents from entering county jails without a warrant, is needed to ensure public safety.

The Rev. Francisco Garcia, rector of Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood, leads the demonstrators in one of several chants, calling for justice for all. Photo: Cam Sanders

But Garcia said that, as the Trump Administration has intensified its rhetoric, McDonnell has joined increased efforts to lobby state lawmakers to prevent the bill’s passage.

“We demand that, at the least, you stop lobbying against SB54,” according to the letter. “We also urge you to stop the Sheriff’s Department’s cooperation with ICE. The Trump era deportation agenda does not represent the will of the vast majority of Angelenos. As faith leaders and faithful residents of this city, we ask you to work with us to create a city ‘in which righteousness dwells,'” according to the letter, signed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and a range of interfaith immigration activist groups.

Other law enforcement agencies have responded differently. The California College and University Police Chiefs Association, supports SB54. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has said that he will not engage in law enforcement activities based on immigration status, nor will the department work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation issues.

The California Senate has passed the measure. It goes next to the State Assembly and, if approved there, to Gov. Jerry Brown to be signed into law.

The immigration activists also were met by a handful of counter-protestors, who carried signs saying they support law enforcement and attempted to disrupt the demonstration, Edwards Acton said.

Garcia said they were not deterred by the protestors or being turned away by deputies, and will continue to reach out to McDonnell.

“We plan to keep the pressure up, to pray and act,” Garcia said. “We’re going to continue to, as people of faith, make this case, so we can actually have a face-to-face sit-down with him.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

Comments

  1. Sarah Lawton says:

    Thank you, Dio Los Angeles! We’re inspired by your work.

  2. Colleen Fontenot says:

    I am very concerned with the direction this website is going. Sorry, but I think you are playing into the hands of some very evil people.

  3. Bob Thwing says:

    So, are you saying if we don’t like a law we can just ignore it? What part of “illegal immigrants” is unclear? Yes, we should have compassion, but we should follow the law or work to change it through Congress. We are a Nation of Laws, otherwise we have chaos.

    • Paul Becker says:

      Agreed, Bob. Let’s work to streamline citizenship for those that have been here for decades and contribute to society and perhaps that means changing the laws. I’m all for that avenue, but illegal is illegal. There are plenty of opportunities for compassion without breaking the law.

  4. Pjcabbiness says:

    Again and again…….unlawful, leftist, progressive, Marxist conduct by persons including Clergy who cloak their harmful political and social action efforts with the cross and collar. This conduct is not connected in any rational way to Scripture or the true church. This is communism in action as it subverts and distorts the thinking of institutional bodies and their members. Illegal immigration is harmful to our nation in regard to many issues including violence, drug trafficking, economic destruction, etc.

  5. Sarah Lawton says:

    Our immigration laws are broken to the point of immorality, and Congress has refused to fix the brokenness. The nation’s economy depends upon immigrant labor in our fields, restaurants, and nursing homes; and our country’s foreign and trade policies over decades are implicated in many of the root causes driving people to flee violence and endemic poverty in other countries. The chaos is not in those protesting this immoral system. It’s in the system itself. As Christians we are told to welcome the stranger and alien among us. We hear the story of the Holy Family fleeing the slaughter of the innocents and being welcomed in Egypt – what resonance for us today. What DioLA is showing us here is a new civil rights movement, which like the Civil Rights Movement led by the Rev. Dr. King and others, is rooted in faith and Christian love, and which takes the legal system seriously enough to carry out thoughtful civil disobedience when the laws themselves are broken.

  6. Pjcabbiness says:

    DioLA is creating an artificial, illegitimate, contrived “civil rights movement” and it is insulting to important and valid civil rights movements, past and present. This is Marxism, which cannot stand the light of scrutiny on its own, subverting, for its own purpose, a political and legal issue. Also, I beg the left to stop misinterpreting, misrepresenting and unreasonably equivocating Scripture.

  7. The Reverend Canon Susan Russell says:

    So grateful for this powerful witness.

  8. Where was the outrage when President Obama, aka the “Deported In Chief,’ deported a record number of illegal immigrants? According to governmental data, the Obama administration deported more illegals than any other president in history. In fact, Obama deported more than the sum of all the presidents of the 20th century. I simply don’t understand why people cannot grasp the terms “illegal” and “national sovereignty.” The story even admits that one man being deported was a criminal: “According to a Los Angeles Times report, lawyers for Avelica-Gonzalez in June settled those convictions, for driving under the influence and for receiving stolen car tags, in the hopes authorities would vacate the deportation order.” The story also references The Rev. Carias: “Carias, according to the letter emailed to McDonnell earlier in the day and given to deputies, “is and has been a faithful and very active member, local church leader and … has 25-year-old deportation orders resulting simply from entering the U.S. without permission as a teenager.” The Los Angeles Times reported that ICE explained the July 24 action in a written statement, calling Carias “a repeat immigration violator who has assumed multiple identities and nationalities over the years in order to evade federal immigration enforcement. Other nations, including and especially Mexico, do not tolerate violations of its laws. Just ask Marine Andrew Tahmooressi, who accidentally entered Mexico and rotted in jail for seven months. Why should we be the only nation not allowed to enforce its laws? Respectfully submitted.

  9. Pjcabbiness says:

    Thank you T. Scott Ball.

  10. The Rev. Fred Fenton says:

    The sharp division of opinion shown in the preceding replies illustrates the deep divide in this country about moral and religious beliefs and obligations. As I read the Bible, a fundamental teaching from beginning to end is neighbor love. Thus I support and commend the demonstrators in the article above. The silence of most pulpits in America, and of most Jews and Christians regarding the cruel immigration policies of the Justice Department, shows me how the Nazis were able to round up and deport the Jews in Germany. I call on all people of good will to join the sacred resistance movement before it is too late. Resist. Insist. Persist.

  11. Pjcabbiness says:

    Resist muddled, progressive thinking. Resist factually inaccurate political analogies. Insist on thoughtful analysis and sound theology. Support law enforcement in their anti-illegal immigration efforts. Reduce violent crime, drug trafficking, economic larceny and societal disruption and disintegration by promoting the apprehension and deportation of those who are here illegally. Support legal immigration and those who have followed the rules. Support immigrants who are self sufficient and contribute to our economy, science, medicine, engineering and trade. Reduce the demand for cheap, illegal immigrant labor, etc.

  12. Doug Desper says:

    Notwithstanding the false equivalency of protecting national sovereignty as being the same as “rounding up the Jews”, look at facts straight on.

    “ICE collusion…?” The real collusion is between leftist social justice warriors and the governments of the so-called “sanctuary cities”. ICE is doing its job. Illegals who have broken our laws, committed terrible crimes, and who come from countries who would not tolerate their behavior, are being deported away from the ability to further harm Americans. Kate’s Law is finally a reality with absolutely no help from the Democrat Party. It is a sin that it has taken this long to enact it. People who have flaunted our sovereignty are being deported – just like as would occur in their own countries of origin. The true collusion is not told, and that is how leftist organizations are successfully pressuring communities to “host” illegal immigrants with the end-game of attempting to register the same as Democrat voters. Two years after the implementation of California’s AB 60 on Jan. 1, 2015, an estimated 806,000 undocumented residents (illegal aliens) have received driver’s licenses, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The Election Integrity Project found that 11 California counties have more registered voters than voting-age citizens. Los Angeles County officials informed EIP that “the number of registered voters now stands at a number that is 144% of the total number of resident citizens of voting age.” It’s only our national sovereignty and the peace and welfare of native-born Americans at stake, right?

    Meanwhile the communities that encourage illegal immigration are going to the bottom financially.

    A study from the Migration Policy Institute exposed that illegal immigrant families received nearly $1.3 billion in Los Angeles County welfare money during 2015 and 2016, nearly one-​quarter of the amount spent on the county’s entire needy population. The costs of education, police and fire, medical, and subsidized housing can total $24,000 per year in government spending per family, much more than would be paid in taxes. This at a time when California is 400 billion in debt. Heck, it’s only money, right? Or, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, “Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.”

    Collusion? You see it.

  13. Pjcabbiness says:

    Solid analysis Doug Desper. Thank you.

  14. David Horwath says:

    Once again, thank you Doug Desper.

    In the immigration discussions, start with “What part of the word Illegal do you not understand”, then ask “What makes you illegals so good that you don’ t have to follow the laws of the land?”

    The basic reason illegals sneak across the border is economics. Stand on any bridge across the Rio Grande, then look north and south, and you will understand why the illegal aliens break the law and sneak into USA. Why should the USA care for the illegals when their own countries should be caring for them? Eliminate the economic incentives. Immigration reform should include hefty fines for any employer or contractor who hires an illegal followed by immediate deportation, and eliminate all welfare or benefits to illegals.

    As for the comments about the USA depending on illegal labor, if you apply the laws of supply and demand to illegal immigration, then you will understand why youth and black unemployment is so high among American citizens.

  15. Jawaharlal Prasad says:

    “The basic reason illegals sneak across the border is economics.”

    All the more reason to create more jobs and see that all nations are run by competent leaders and able to plan their economy free from external interferences. Wage disparity is not due to free market forces but well contrived rules and regulations put in place by financial institutions. This ensures that a section of society will always remain poor subject to exploitation.

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