Thursday, June 21, 2018

When God shows up at ICE

Today we held a rally out front of the ICE offices in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I pulled up in my car, and parked right next to a friend. She works for Catholic Charities, and was bringing a young mother and her three year old daughter for a "check-in." They were rather concerned she might be detained.

Another woman was with the family, a friend of theirs and a pastor of a church in Los Angeles. She asked if we could pray together before they went in, so we did.
Lutherans at the ICE Lunch for Sanctuary
and Against Separating Families

After the prayer, our rally started gathering in the shade of a tree near the sidewalk, and the family stood at the door. ICE has offices in Fayetteville, but they keep the building unlabeled. If you want to stop by and see it, the office is at 2887 North Point Circle, right across from Saied Music.

Normally, the family would go in, and there would be a lengthy process, all with the possibility of detention. However, today the ICE employee actually came out to the front door, unlocked it, and handed the mother and three-year old a small piece of paper, and said, "See you in six months." Then she went back inside and re-locked the door.

To be clear, they all showed up worried she might be detained and separated from her three year old daughter. Instead, she went home hands in the air praising God.

God is at work, sometimes in small ways, but this was a God thing.

Then we held our rally. 40/29 news was present, so you'll probably be able to watch about our rally on the news. An immigration lawyer in town, Drew Davenport, gave us an update on the legal situation (such as it is). It's not pretty, and basically boils down to Jeff Sessions reversing protections for asylum seekers at the border for cases of domestic abuse, which then expanded into the zero tolerance policy harming thousands and thousands of families (did you know they have been detaining a 1000 people per day?!).

Representatives from Catholic Charities, Arkansas United Community Coalition, and People Power also spoke. I in particular shared that congregations are called to do their part, which means especially walking alongside undocumented people and going with them to their check-ins, etc, because it raises the likelihood of positive outcomes.

Congregations should learn how to become, and then sign up to be, sanctuary congregations.

Meanwhile, cities can also emulate Austin, Texas and become Freedom Cities.

While we met on the sidewalk out front of ICE, people working in neighboring businesses came out to watch us from afar. This was somewhat amusing. And periodically the ICE staff would peek out through their blinds. About 30 minutes into the rally, three police cars pulled up, stood around, stared at us, walked past us without interacting with us, and then left.

Which felt more like "watch and threaten" rather than "protect and serve." But we waved and smiled and used our live stream Facebook feature to monitor them while we also listened to those speaking.

It's not everything. It doesn't fix the mess we're in. But the regular gathering of such groups, especially in ways that bring to light the presence of systems of oppression, does move things in the right direction. And while we were there, the feeling was palpable. God's liberating Spirit was present among us.

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