A minor victory cheered the more than 30 supporters attending William Gonzalez’s hearing at the Portland Courthouse this January. Some feared that the president’s removal of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans who came to the US decades ago might already be impacting people in our community.
William, a permanent resident, came to the US 38 years ago as a 12-year-old, with his mother who was granted asylum because of threats against her life in El Salvador. He has been harassed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since he applied for citizenship. In 2017, ICE required him to wear an ankle bracelet though he has not been a flight or security risk and has only had one DUI infraction since about 2001. William has worked 10-12 years as a cook at the famous Benson Hotel and has been involved in the union. He says the bracelet has to be recharged about every 8 hours, making it hard to get a full night’s sleep. Sometimes ICE can’t detect its signal from the basement kitchen where he works. When ICE can’t detect it, they can come to his house to question him.
William and his lawyers said the support of 40 letters and over 30 people at the hearing positively influenced the judge who ruled that the bracelet was to be removed and the harassing visits to William’s home to stop. William still had to pay a bond and further hearings will determine his immigration status.
People at the hearing were from The Immigrant Support Network, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), ACLU, Havra Shalom Jewish congregation, Quakers, the Benson Hotel, and Unitarian and other churches. A representative from IMIrJ said it’s gratifying to see so many people at the hearing, but what is really needed is passage of compassionate Immigration Reform and the Real Dream Act.
The Maryknoll Affiliate Book Group has been discussing the experiences of immigrants in the US, guided by Miguel De La Torre’s Trails of Hope and Terror. That book emphasizes that Jesus was an undocumented refugee in Egypt and offers Christian responses to the alien.
Now we see people of color detained and arrested as they leave the county court house or go to work. Citizen protesters have been arrested as they block the path of Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) vans. Immigrant attendance at church services and classes is down, perhaps due to fear of being in public. Executive orders have rescinded the DACA program that helps young immigrants, Dreamers, legally remain in the US to study or work.
Most of our readers are familiar with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, but perhaps not everyone is familiar with Mark and Louise Zwick in Houston, Texas.
They were volunteer missioners in El Salvador in the late 1970s but were forced to leave following death threats related to the civil war at the time. Upon their return to the US, they saw the need to help the refugees from Central America and commented that, “If we had any guts, we’d start a Catholic Worker House.” They founded a house of hospitality under the name of Casa Juan Diego in 1980, and ever since they have dedicated their lives, on a fulltime volunteer basis, to helping the needy.
How is your chapter, your community, responding to immigrants?
Since many immigrants in the US are threatened with deportation, various organizations are offering sanctuary and solidarity:
What can we do? What will we do?
What would Jesus do?