United Methodist presence strong in Chicago rally

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Bishop Sally Dyck became the third United Methodist bishop to be arrested since President’s Day in an international campaign calling for President Barack Obama to stop deporting immigrants with no criminal record, which is separating children from their parents.

 “We were marching for justice for our own people, members of our congregations and our communities,” Dyck said, reflecting on the day’s action, also led by Congressman Luis Gutierrez, human rights leader Elvira Arellano and more than 50 United Methodist clergy and laity.

Forty people, including the bishop and other United Methodists were arrested and issued citations after blocking the entrance to the Chicago Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

The protestors blocked the office for eleven minutes “to symbolically shut down the ICE offices signifying the 1,100 people who are deported every day,” said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto and Lincoln United Methodist churches in Chicago.

On Feb. 17, Bishops Minerva Carcaño and Julius Trimble were among those arrested by U.S. park police in front of the White House as they called for an end to deportations.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society and other United Methodist churches and organizations are participating in an international effort spearheaded by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network calling for action on the weekend of April 5-6 to tell the president “two million deportations are too many.”

The days leading up to April 5-6 action will be an important time for United Methodists to rally around this issue, Dyck said. “The United Methodist Church needs to do this in as many communities as possible across the country.”

Sign of hope

Arellano’s presence at the rally was “a sign of hope,” said Dyck.

In 2006, Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church gave sanctuary to Arellano for a year. She was arrested when she left the church and has been living in Mexico while she continues to advocate for immigration reform in the U.S.

She was detained for a few days but has been given a six-month period to seek citizenship.

Arellano crossed the border from Mexico recently with Saulito, her U.S. citizen son, and her five-month old baby Emiliano to highlight the crisis faced by many mothers who are deported.

Speaking to the March 27 rally, Arellano described the “trip from hell” taken by many desperate immigrants on the top of a train to cross the border. “The train is a place where dreams die,” she said.

“She described the violence against families with U.S. born children … their citizenship is seen as a sign of money and (they) are often kidnapped at knifepoint and held for ransom,” said the Rev. Michael Mann, associate director of mission and advocacy for the denomination’s Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference. Mann was one of the 40 arrested.

Mann said Gutierrez told marchers if the Republican majority in House does not compromise on immigration reform, President Obama is prepared to sign an executive order allowing millions of undocumented workers to stay in this country.

“The United Methodist presence at the rally was amazing,” said Mann.

 “I am so proud of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to walk beside and with our Latino pastors and laity,” Dyck said.

The March 27 action also is the beginning of an “Easter Initiative” by Familia Latina/Sin Fronteras  Coleman said. Advocates hope to gather one million signatures on a petition that they will present to the President on Easter Sunday.

The petition asks the President to extend the deferments he offered to students under the DREAM Act to their parents and the parents of U.S. citizen children and offer immediate parole for those deportees with U.S. citizen children or dreamer children who seek asylum.

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

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