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Immigration raid aftermath will last weeks, months, if not years

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

June 20, 2018: Latino nonprofits and legal aid groups are bracing for a long, hot summer trying to help more than 100 undocumented immigrants and 200-plus children in the weeks following this month’s ICE raid on an Erie County landscaping and garden operation.
 

The women were shipped to a federal detention facility in Michigan, while the men were transported to a private prison near Youngstown, hours from the children they were forced to leave behind in the Norwalk and Willard areas. The detainees had their cell phones taken away, allowed only to make a limited number of phone calls each week, thus making them only able to communicate sporadically with loved ones since the raid at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center.

A team of attorneys from Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) traveled to Michigan Thursday to speak with approximately 35 female detainees out of concern they don’t have proper legal representation and their due process rights are in jeopardy.

“Amazingly, for everything that they’ve gone through, they’re in good spirits,” said Patty Hernández, ABLE senior attorney. “But, of course, it’s something they’re really struggling with. They’ve told us some heartbreaking stories. They’ve been separated from their families in a way that doesn’t make any of us feel any safer, doesn’t do anything for this country.”

Many of the detainees already have expedited deportation hearings scheduled the first week of July. Ironically, the detainees could be shipped out of the United States while U.S. freedom is celebrated during the July 4th holiday. ABLE plans to try to represent as many of the detainees as possible but has issued a call for help from pro bono attorneys. A separate team of lawyers has already gone to Youngstown to interview the men.

“We think we’ll be able to put together a strong group of attorneys comprised of ABLE, private attorneys, and other nonprofit organizations. We’ll put together as strong of a legal team as we can, but the need is much greater than the resources,” said Ms. Hernández.

 

Downtown protest on June 15th

Several groups staged a lunchtime protest Friday, June 15th in downtown Toledo, drawing about 75 protestors, including retired priests, nuns, and nonprofit groups working directly with the Mexican-born immigrants caught up in the recent immigration raid.

The Toledo rally was organized and sponsored by the Social Justice Subcommittee of the Toledo Chapter of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Pax Christ at Corpus Christi Parish near the UT campus. In Ohio, similar protests were held one day before in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. The groups contend the separation of families is a human rights issue.

Sister Julia Hutchison of the Sisters of Notre Dame came to the rally to seek how she could hook into helping the effort. She stated the raid and its rallying cry for assistance has left her heart a mixed bag of emotions.

“This effort—courage. Our government—depression,” she said. “My heart breaks just at the thought that this could be happening in this country, that we would treat anyone, by mandate of our own government, like this. Our brothers and sisters are coming across to seek something.”

At the same time, an ongoing food collection has been launched across Northwest Ohio to continue to feed the children left behind, many of them infants and toddlers. Most are in the care of family, friends, and loved ones who have no access to the children’s belongings and are in desperate need of basic items. The raid occurred while their parents were at work and the children staying with a babysitter or relatives. In most cases, the raid swept up one or both of their parents.

A collection held Saturday, June 9, 2018 at Toledo’s Walbridge Park yielded a large truckload of relief supplies, including diapers, wipes, baby formula, food, clothes, and household items. But nonprofit groups believe their work has just begun, as the kids may be without their parents for an undetermined amount of time and, in some cases, the separation may be permanent.

“While our community may be divided on the appropriate approach to immigration reform, the well-being of children is a bi-partisan issue, read a Facebook post for the event page Feed the Children Left Behind. “Our work has just begun, as these children and families are only beginning the difficult and confusing journey of detainment.”

Food and cash donations can be dropped off at three Pathstone locations during normal weekday business hours: Area Office on Aging building, 2155 Arlington Ave., Toledo; 143 S. Main St., Bowling Green; and the main office, 2453 County Road V, Liberty Center.

The group posted recommended shelf-stable food donations on its Facebook page, including pinto beans, rice, macaroni and cheese, tomato sauce, tortillas, canned tuna and chicken, canned vegetables, potatoes, bottled water, snacks, paper plates, and bleach, among other items. The group also is encouraging people to shop a wish list posted on Amazon and have the donations shipped to the Liberty Center Pathstone office.

“After the raid, the amount of solidarity and collaboration among the different agencies is really outstanding,” said Beatriz Maya, managing director at La Conexión in Bowling Green. “It’s a very positive outcome in the middle of all this tragedy.”

“It has galvanized a lot of people in a lot of cities because it’s so necessary,” said Ms. Hernández. “If we’ve never seen this much movement before, it’s probably because we’ve never seen such nonsense coming from our own government before. We’ve never seen children being ripped away from their families knowingly, deliberately.”

A tough road lies ahead though, coordinating long-term relief efforts while engaging the affected families and the resulting fear among the rest of the undocumented immigrant community that has resulted from the raid.

“That is the difficult part—not only the collaboration of the agencies, but the mobilization of the people, of the population, because there are so many things going on, that you really need to choose what to do,” said Ms. Maya.

The director of La Conexión pointed out the raid has had a “chilling effect” on other immigrant families across northern Ohio. In particular, ABLE and her agency have collaborated in the past on sessions outlining guardianship and power-of-attorney issues, trying to prepare immigrant families for just such a raid and what to do with their children if they do end up getting deported.

“That’s what this policy wants, right? They want to terrorize the population,” she said. “Some of the families couldn’t come or they didn’t think it was such an urgency. Right now, we are getting calls from everybody asking for power of attorney. So that has become an absolute priority for our families. That is one of our focuses right now, to make sure the families are protected at least in this sense. Do you know what it is to lose your kids? I cannot even begin to think about it.” 

La Conexión serves not only Wood County, but the five counties which surround it: Henry, Ottawa, Sandusky, Hancock, and Seneca. As a small nonprofit, the organization will focus its efforts on its client base and try to help when possible elsewhere. 

 

AG Sessions and his biblical references

Just down the road in Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week defended such immigration raids as zero tolerance enforcement of law-breakers. But he angered Latino activists by quoting the Bible to justify breaking apart families.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” said Sessions.

“That’s so hypocritical, really,” said Ms. Maya. “There are so many things you can quote in the Bible, particularly when they say we have to take care of the aliens, because we were aliens in the land of Egypt. There are so many things you can pick and choose—and, of course, everyone has a bias.”

“That leaves me frozen and incredulous,” said Sr. Hutchison. “You can quote the Bible for anything, for any purpose by pulling out strands, pieces, words. But the Bible’s message is the message of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ said let the children come to me. Never, never did it talk about rejecting. You don’t find it anywhere in Scripture.”

Many faith leaders have criticized Sessions, a Sunday school teacher in his home state of Alabama, for purposely misrepresenting the meaning of the Bible passage and its larger context. She points to Romans 12, which includes the line “Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.” That passage seems to run counter to the policy Sessions was defending in the Fort Wayne speech.

“I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our Church leaders,” Sessions said during the speech. “I do not believe scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation state for having reasonable immigration laws.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who claims to be a conservative Christian, answered a question about Sessions' comments during a media briefing, saying, “it is very Biblical to enforce the law.”

“As a little girl, I was always told to be careful, because the devil himself can quote Scripture to his advantage,” countered Ms. Hernández. “There’s nothing biblical about separating families. There’s nothing biblical about separating children from their moms, their dads, criminalizing them for wanting to provide for themselves, provide for their families—wanting the American dream at we are so proud of in this country.”

Sessions maintained the goal of the policy and its strictness have been misconstrued, stating it is not to “be mean to children.” Instead, the attorney general said the point is to crack down on potential child trafficking or abuse. He explained that parents who choose to make potentially deadly treks through desert terrain and dangerous areas near the U.S. border are making the choice to put their children at risk.

As the downtown Toledo rally occurred on June 15th, a Mexican national pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of forging records and stealing identifies. The defendant may be the linchpin in the case against the migrant farmworkers rounded up in the ICE raid of June 5th in the Sandusky area.

Martha Buendia-Chavarria admitted to counts of manufacturing fraudulent documents and aggravated identity theft, among other crimes, telling a federal judge through a translator that she would meet clients at pizza shops near her home in Marion, Ohio with fake papers they used to get jobs at Corso’s and elsewhere. Federal authorities allege that Ms. Buendia-Chavarria and her associates manufactured upwards of 1,000 fake identities.

Her arrest in early June led to a wider investigation that led to the immigration raid at Corso’s locations in Sandusky and Castalia. She is being held at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker, Ohio, pending her sentencing in early October.

Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/26/18 13:04:00 -0700.

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