A project of the Center for Community Change

ICE roundups have church community in turmoil

Colorado communities are still reeling from the major blow dealt by recent raids in Pueblo where tens of families have been ripped apart. The community Church has received over 100 calls from parishoners seeking help in the aftermath.

I posted an action alert below on the coleman amendment that would make scenes like this more and more familiar throughout the US- we must act NOW to stop the senseless destruction of family and our communal values.

Read more from Pueblo:
 
By NICK BONHAM
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN

The telephone hasn’t stopped ringing since Monday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church.

That is when word started spreading about immigration raids in Pueblo and the surrounding area.

“I have received more than 100 calls,” Father Marco Salinas said after Wednesday’s 7 a.m. service. “They ask me for help and recommendations. I feel bad because what can I do but pray?”

Salinas said he knew of at least 20 people arrested in the early morning roundups by agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Gail Montenegro, an ICE spokeswoman, said she knew of 15 arrests of fugitive aliens from Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Poland.

Fugitive aliens are immigrants who failed to comply with a judge’s order to be deported. The operation is still ongoing, she said.

Of those arrested, the majority are members of Mount Carmel, and are husbands and fathers. Salinas said.

A group greater than 50 gathered Wednesday night at the church in The Grove, but not for Mass.

Members of the Denver-based Mexican Consulate were in town to discuss the rights of Mexican nationals and to explain the process for obtaining passports, green cards and identification cards.

But, most of the conversation centered on the raids, the children whose fathers have been taken away and what families can do to reclaim their loved ones. One woman, who did not want to be identified, said the arrest of her husband caused her to cancel a party for her 18-year-old son, who is graduating from the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind.

Her husband was arrested at their home at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Married for 24 years, the woman said her husband called, telling her to go ahead with the party – but she said she can’t.

The woman said she and her husband had been working the last 10 years to become American citizens and paperwork was being processed.

What will she do now?

“No sabemos,” (“I don’t know) the mother of three adult children said.”Que vamos hacer aqui?” (“What are we going to do here now?”)

The woman said she may return to her birthplace of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Marcela de la Mar, the Mexican Consulate’s director of culture and community activities, said the meeting was planned a month ago as part of regularly scheduled visits to communities in and out of the state.

“It just happened to be during this situation,” de la Mar said.

Most of the crowd wanted answers and information about the raids, though.

“All the issues were to refer to this, or to refer to that, but no raid,” said Adriana Fernandez Ruffer, a member of Pueblo Immigrant on the March, a group supporting comprehensive reform of immigration laws. “All the people want is the real situation about the raid.”

Consulate members passed out brochures, information, phone numbers and a red-white-and-green card listing the Mexican immigrant’s rights in case they’re stopped by police. The card tells the bearer he, or she, has:

* The right to call the consulate office.

* The right to remain silent, or just give name and address.

* The right to hire a lawyer or ask to speak to one.

The immigrants also were advised, “Don’t sign any forms, especially if they are in English.”

Local immigration lawyer Guillermo Garibay offered additional advice: “No abra la puerta,” or don’t open the door when la migra, or immigration officials, come to your home. Garibay said, “Once you answer (the door), they can ask anybody for IDs.”

The phone also hasn’t stopped ringing at the Commission of Human Services, where Consuelo Chavez works.

“Everyone’s scared,” Chavez said in Spanish, her voice hoarse from all the talk. “Everyone is calling, and calling, and calling.”

City Councilman Ray Aguilera, Pueblo County Commissioner Anthony Nunez, members of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo and other groups and dignitaries attended the meeting.

Mount Carmel was bustling Wednesday night, but the crowd could have been bigger.

Salinas said members of the congregation are scared to leave their homes, go to work or attend a church function.

“Someone was scared to go to a prayer group because they heard they were going to get arrested along the way,” Salinas said. “It is very difficult for me because these people are like my family.”

In light of this week’s events, a rosary vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mount Carmel, 421 Clark St. A sign-up list was offered for the Pueblo Police Department’s Spanish Language Academy, where immigrants can learn about their rights. Sessions will be held Aug. 14, 16 and 18. Contact Sgt. Franklyn Ortega, or training officer Eric Gonzales at 549-1200, for more information.

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