Welcoming our neighbor

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How to take action: adapted from a list courtesy of The Rev. Fabio Sotelo

1. Share Stories – It helps us to change minds and hearts. When we hear from immigrants — who they are, where they are from, why they are here, what they do — we can learn the challenges that they face; we can learn their needs.

2. Clergy, preach on the issue – Our tendency is not to offend people and not bring politics to the pulpit. Is that what Jesus is inviting us to do? How are we exercising our prophetic role in our churches?

3. Make ourselves available to immigrants – When we are available, people can call us and tell us firsthand what is going on, who and how people are detained. If I am able, I go to visit and talk to the family of detainees to listen and ask the question, how can we help them.

4. Connect with others – There are churches and organizations that are working on the issue: the Latin American Association, immigration law firms, and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. This is a huge job, and we need others.

5. Offer workshops on immigration – Invite leaders and immigration attorneys to talk to our communities and answer questions. Get resources from those organizations.

6. Plan for an emergency – Help people to develop a plan if they are picked up by the police, no matter their status. Many don’t know what to do. They are in a panic. Having a plan can help them be prepared. Who will be contacted? Can they get an attorney? Who will care for their family? How will bills get paid?

7. Visit people who are detained – People are being held in Stewart Detention Center. They can be held for many years. Visit them. Collect items for them: jeans, tennis shoes, carry-on bags. If people are deported, they start over with nothing. El Refugio is a resource that can help. It is a volunteer-driven ministry of hospitality and visitation serving immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center, their families, and friends.

8. Ask U.S. citizens to write letters in support of detainees – Ask the family to provide enough information so the letter has some concrete content: Do they pay taxes? Do they have a clean record? How long have they been in the country? What kind of work does that person do? And who is here with him/her in the country? Show their contribution to the economy of this country and the hardship that they and their family will face if they get deported.

9. Establish English as a Second Language (ESL) program – Hosting a program helps develop relationships. Teachers get to know people, and immigrants can develop English skills. If they can have a conversation with the police, for example, perhaps interactions may go more smoothly.

10. Fundraise – Money raised through collection or otherwise can be used to support detainees and their families and/or to support an organization that is already doing the work. Many of the people deported are breadwinners. Funds can go to help families cover the expense of food, gasoline, phone calls, and food for the people in the detention center. If people can afford a lawyer and bond can be negotiated, the minimum bond is $1,500. Some are signing papers agreeing to be deported because they cannot afford these things.