Pastor among Dreamers waiting for citizenship

The Rev. Orlando Gallardo was 15 when his mother decided it was worth the risk to send her youngest child across the border of Mexico illegally to give him a chance at a better future.

“My mother always worried about me. She pushed me to get an education,” he said.

Gallardo had an older brother, a U.S. citizen through marriage, living in Iowa. He agreed to take parental rights and responsibilities for his youngest brother and filed the papers to get legal status for Gallardo.

“Just coming to the U.S. as an ordinary person is very difficult. I got denied,” he said. “My mother and brother made a decision I should just come to the U.S. without documents — that it was my best shot.”

He has a harrowing tale of his journey into the U.S., from waiting in the freezing river naked and afraid of being abandoned at one point in a hotel with strangers and no food.

“I was 15 years old; I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he said.

Be sure to add the alt. text

The Rev. Orlando Gallardo was commissioned in the United Methodist Great Plains Conference as a provisional member last year. He serves as associate pastor at United Methodist Trinity Community Church in Kansas City. Photo courtesy of Orlando Gallardo

Gallardo, now 33, is a graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology and associate pastor of United Methodist Trinity Community Church in Kansas City. He got a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals when President Barack Obama signed the executive order in 2012.

DACA allowed certain undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

During the presidential campaign, now-President Donald Trump promised to terminate amnesty programs issued by President Obama and the fate of DACA is unknown at this time.

Nearly 120,000 young people with DACAs, also known as Dreamers, are awaiting a response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about the status of their applications for initial or continued inclusion in the DACA program, according to data released in September.

However, the Homeland Security Department is continuing to accept and process requests.

“There is justifiable fear among those who have DACA about their future,” said Rob Rutland-Brown, executive director of National Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist immigration ministry that offers free legal assistance to immigrants.

“Will they lose their work authorization? Will the government use their personal information against them? What happens when their DACA expires? These are all great questions,” Rutland-Brown said.

“JFON sites across the country are receiving an unprecedented amount of calls not just from those with DACA, but from immigrants in general about what their options will be in the Trump Administration,” he said. “Currently JFON sites are not helping people apply for DACA because, based on what Trump has said, it is likely that he will end this executive action and there is a cost and a risk to applying.”

There are two proposals in Congress for how to deal with DACA recipients if Trump repeals the executive order.

A bill introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., would extend protected status for three years while Congress works on a long-term solution.

The second bill by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., echoes language in the Graham-Durbin bill but adds a proposal to require Homeland Security Department to detain and place in deportation proceedings any undocumented immigrant arrested or convicted of a serious crime within 90 days of his or her arrest.

There is also a bipartisan proposal in the Senate called the Bridge Act that would also provide temporary relief from deportation and continue work authorization to undocumented youth.

 “JFON serves hundreds of aspiring young Americans who have DACA, and we’re inspired by their stories every day.  They are school teachers, students, fellow churchgoers, neighbors. This is their home. They should not have to fear losing their jobs or being deported,” Rutland-Brown said. 

“Justice for Our Neighbors will continue to remind our communities and our leaders in Washington that those with DACA represent what it means to be American and deserve permanent access to the same opportunities as all Americans,” he said.

Be sure to add the alt. text

The Rev. Orlando Gallardo serves as associate pastor at United Methodist Trinity Community Church in Kansas City. He leads the young adult group and does outreach to the Latino community. Photo courtesy of Orlando Gallardo

Gallardo believes his mother’s prayers got him to this point in his life. He counts it as divine intervention that he got into high school in Waterloo, Iowa, into college at the University of Northern Iowa and to Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City.

An internship at Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, ignited his call to ministry within The United Methodist Church.

He is a provisional member of the denomination and appointed to the church where he does ministry with Latino and Anglo young people. He was married July 16 to a “beautiful woman named Emily.”

If he is deported, he may be forced to leave the U.S. and go back to Mexico for as much as 10 years. He has petitioned for a waiver from that ban.

“With DACA, I was able to answer my call to ministry. I know a lot of DACA recipients that have been able to develop themselves and they are really afraid now,” he said.

Gallardo is working to make his church a sanctuary church that would shelter anyone threatened with deportation.

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Mission and Ministry
Ruth Moreno shows her brother, Lino, how to keep his hands warm as the sun rises behind them on the Santa Fe Bridge over the Rio Grande in Juárez, Mexico. They make the two-hour cross-border journey each school day to attend the United Methodist Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Lydia Patterson Institute is a dream maker for young students

The United Methodist college-preparatory school is supported by the South Central Jurisdiction and many local churches and individuals provide scholarships.
General Church
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey observes the results from a February 26, 2019, vote to strengthen The United Methodist Church's policies against homosexuality. The vote came on the last day of the Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Mo. Delegates approved the Traditional Plan, which strengthens penalties for LGBTQIA clergy and prohibits same sex weddings. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Special general conference tops the news in 2019

Division within The United Methodist Church was on full display during February’s special session in St. Louis, attracting both denominational and public attention.
Social Concerns
Bishops Harald Rückert and Rosemarie Wenner of Germany recount the role the Christian faith played in the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. During the Council of Bishops meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C., bishops were challenged to remove barriers of various kinds. Photo by Heather Hahn, UM News.

Bishops encouraged to break down barriers

Bishops both celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and agreed to work toward helping refugees overcome roadblocks to settling in the U.S.