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Pastor tells story of families torn apart by deportation

Wed, Jun 12, 2013

“Every Sunday, between 15 and 30 people gather after our 11 a.m. service to meet with paralegals and volunteers from our legal program,” said the Rev. Walter L. (Slim) Coleman, pastor of Lincoln United Methodist Church in Pilsen and associate director of Centro Sin Fronteras, a partner agency of the Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois (CAAAELII).

“Among them are some who had a family member arrested by immigration during the week, some who have ongoing cases facing deportation, others who have lost their jobs as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tightens their grip on companies with undocumented workers,” Coleman said. “And then there are the children, some whose father or mother has already been deported, some who worry that their father or mother will be deported in the next few weeks. Some of them are U.S. citizens. Some are DREAMers, [youth who came before age 16 with their parents] who we helped to receive the two- year deferments offered to them when Obama was in election mode – now facing the loss of their parents.

“Across the country, 1400 people are deported every day and hundreds of children are left behind or forced to leave their home country with deported parents. For us each Sunday this is not a statistic – it is the reality of broken lives and broken families – children with broken dreams and broken hearts.

“On some Sundays we have whole groups of workers who have been told not to come back to work because ICE has done an audit of Social Security numbers. Suddenly they are out of work, ineligible for any kind of unemployment to help feed their families.

“We have become good at fighting these cases. Still in most cases we are just finding ways to delay the deportation until a new reform law is passed. The irony of the Obama administration actually increasing deportations while the President professes his commitment to immigration reform does not escape anyone. The November Latino vote seems to have shaken the Republicans and brought them back to the table. Still, the people worry that the Democrats will play the game they have played before: undermine the negotiations so as to blame the deportations on the Republicans in the next elections.

We hope not. In church we pray for the families and the children – and we pray for Congressman [Luis] Gutierrez [D-Chicago], the one elected official who has remained consistently in our corner for all of these years. And we hold out and we hold on. One thing is sure: those families and children with papers are bound together in our church with those who have no papers, bound together by the tears of children.”

Mauricio Roman, 25, is a CAAAELII development associate from Mexico who is undocumented but a DREAMer. He said that the proposed law monetizes citizenship to the highest bidder in terms of skills and education instead of the ideals expressed in the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

By Duncan Weinstein & Sarah Berz
StreetWise Editorial Interns

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