By Kathy L. Gilbert - United Methodist News Service
During the weekend of April 5-6, many prayers were said for immigrant families torn apart by deportations and those praying are hoping President Barack Obama is listening.
United Methodists joined with other faith groups and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in a weekend of action to ask for temporary suspension of deportations, which will soon reach 2 million.
Three other denominations — Episcopal, Catholic and Assemblies of God — joined with United Methodists in a “kind of radical action for a little, very conservative area” near Safford, Arizona, for a rally and prayer vigil said the Rev. Sherry Brady, organizer, and pastor of First United Methodist Church.
“This isn't meant to be a divisive rally. We're just sending a message:'There's something you can do now, Mr. President: Extend Deferred Action and suspend deportation.' Let indifference end here and now,” she said.
Those gathered heard stories about women such as Leydi, whose husband was deported and whose family has spiraled into homelessness; and Claudia, who was arrested when she called for help when her husband was attacking her and who is fighting to stay in the United States with her three young children.
In Norristown, Pa., Pilar Molina has made the pain of deportations personal for United Methodists, including Bishop Peggy Johnson who led a prayer vigil at Haws Avenue United Methodist Church April 6.
In January, Molina’s husband, Israel Resendiz Hernandez, 34, a construction contractor, was arrested by immigration agents in Norristown. Imprisoned in a county jail, he faces deportation on charges of repeatedly crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, including a trip for his father's funeral last fall.
Molina was at the prayer vigils and told those gathered she remembered how hard it was to grow up without a father. Her two daughters, Caitlin, 9, and Ariana, 3, are asking their mother each day when their father will come home, she said.
Molina met a group of United Methodists, including Los Angeles Area Bishop Minerva Carcaño, in Washington on Presidents Day, Feb. 17, when the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and other groups led a prayerful protest in front of the White House. Many participants, including Carcaño and Iowa Area Bishop Julius Trimble, were arrested. Chicago Area Bishop Sally Dyck and more United Methodists were arrested at a protest in that city on March 27.
“These are just a few of almost two million stories that illustrate the tragic consequences of the policy of mass deportations. While the Administration claims that deportations are only being carried out against those deemed ‘threats to society,’ these stories clearly show that is not the case. There are many, many more stories as well,” said Bill Mefford, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
Mefford is collecting stories from churches that participated in the weekend of action to present to President Obama.
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615)742-5470 or [email protected].