U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - San Antonio Field Office3523 Crosspoint Dr., San Antonio, TX 78217Attn: Field Office Director, Daniel Bible
Dear ICE San Antonio Field Office Director Daniel Bible,I am writing in support of Austin Sanctuary Network leaders ALIRIO GAMEZ (A# 208270481), HILDA RAMIREZ (A# 202072764), and IVAN RAMIREZ (A# 2020727) to urgently ask that they be granted their freedom, protection from deportation and legal status. Alirio, Hilda and Ivan are beloved community members currently living in sanctuary in two Austin congregations, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. I am a member of one of the spiritual or community organizations that are part of the Austin Sanctuary Network. We have embraced Hilda, Ivan and Alirio and are committed to supporting them until they are free.
Alirio fled violence in El Salvador and would face likely death if he were deported to his home country. I am appealing to you to grant the request for extensions of his current deferred action, which was filed with your office January 23, 2019. I understand that his attorney has yet to receive a confirmation of receipt. An extension of Deferred Action would confer Mr. Palacios Gamez with critical time and access to participate in proceedings currently pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals. As a current recipient of Deferred Action, he has a currently pending Motion to Reopen his asylum case with the Board of Immigration Appeals. This was filed in light of his diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
HILDA & IVANHilda and her son, Ivan, from Guatemala, fled to the United States after facing threats of violence. I am appealing to you to grant the request for extensions of their current deferred action, which was filed with your office January 23, 2019. I understand their attorney has yet to receive a confirmation of receipt. An extension of Deferred Action would confer Ms. Ramirez Mendez and her son Ivan with the critical time and access to administrative actions currently pending before US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
A Texas District Judge ordered that it was not in Ivan's best interest to return to his home country of Guatemala; he now has pending an I-360 Petition and a motion to reopen with the Administrative Appeals Office. We urge that this mother and 12-year-old son are given a two-year extension of Deferred Action, so they may continue to pursue lawful residency.
As asylum seekers, Hilda, Ivan and Alirio followed the laws of the United States. They came seeking refuge and, instead, were cruelly detained in the inhumane conditions of a detention center. After their release, they received orders of deportation. Still seeking refuge and safety, they are currently in sanctuary where they are cared for and supported by communities of faith in the Austin Sanctuary Network. As Alirio said, "I entered Sanctuary because I have a right to live, and I want my life to be respected."
We are inspired by historic sanctuary movements in the United States. During the 19th century, churches provided safe havens for escaped enslaved people. In the 20th century, as refugees fled from civil wars throughout Latin America, churches provided sanctuary for these immigrants, many of them asylum seekers. Sanctuary draws from our faith traditions and is centered on compassion for those fleeing violence. It is driven by the personal stories of those facing deportation and the consequences to those individuals of forced removal. Today, tens of millions of people all over the world have been forced to leave their homes due to violence, poverty and persecution, only to be further terrorized as undocumented immigrants in the United States. We feel called to raise our voices in condemnation of our nation’s mistreatment of undocumented immigrants. Our concern for these individuals calls us to assist and protect them.
Within sanctuary, however, there is limited safety but not the freedom to work or live to support oneself or one’s family. Physical sanctuary is not a sustainable model, but another form of confinement immigrants under threat of deportation are forced to seek in order to avoid death. While living in sanctuary, undocumented immigrants across the country have experienced severe mental, emotional and physical health consequences common among people in confinement. For Alirio, this includes developing diabetes while in sanctuary, an illness of which his family has no history. Hilda and Ivan have experienced compounding trauma and mental health concerns. Rather than experience the health consequences of facing detention, the terrifying threat of deportation to face the death they fled, or seeking refuge in a confining church building, immigrants deserve to seek safety and thrive.
FREE OUR FRIENDS IN SANCTUARY
Hilda, Ivan and Alirio, throughout their fight for freedom, have courageously risked their lives to bring attention to their cases. Due to their leadership and my convictions, I stand in solidarity with the nearly 50 people who are living in sanctuary in churches across the United States and urge that ICE grant relief in each of their cases. These individuals are not threats to the United States, and they want to contribute to our society and fulfill their dreams for themselves and their children. Seeking asylum is not a crime and should not be prosecuted as one. Recently, enforcement priorities have been so broadly defined under a zero tolerance policy that they lump together groups as disparate as violent criminals and victims of violence seeking asylum. It seems that all undocumented immigrants are priority enforcement targets. The recent disturbing case of Samuel Oliver-Bruno who was detained and deported during a scheduled US Immigration and Customs Services biometric check in has had a chilling effect on our community.
Immigration authorities still have authority to grant prosecutorial discretion. I am aware that you have this power as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent working for the United States government. If asylum seekers like Hilda Ramirez, Ivan Ramirez, and Alirio Gamez, people who are facing threats of violence with enormous community equity, cannot be granted this relief, it would seem that few immigrants would be candidates for prosecutorial discretion.
I am appealing to you to use prosecutorial discretion to grant this relief for our beloved community members and leaders in the Austin Sanctuary Network. I stand with Alirio Gamez, Hilda Ramirez and Ivan Ramirez, who deserve their freedom from the threat of detention, deportation and death. I urge you to grant their petitions for a two-year extension of deferred action and continued relief through your power of prosecutorial discretion while their cases are pending. As long as they are unsafe and under the threat of deportation, we pledge to fight for their freedom at their side.
LET MY PEOPLE GOAs a person of faith, I am mortified that our faith traditions to protect and honor immigrants are violated more each day. And, as an American, I am confounded as our leaders make a mockery of our core principles while the world watches. I feel compelled by all that is sacred to declare the timeless message given to Moses at the burning bush, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, “Let my people go!” I cannot remain silent about our nation’s mistreatment of undocumented immigrants. As much as I value non-partisanship, I do not believe being non-partisan means ignoring injustices done against vulnerable members of our human family. Many of our scriptures tell me we should offer immigrants the same human rights as citizens. The prophetic voices of our traditions tell me the greatness of a nation does not reside in its economy or military, but in how it treats the most vulnerable among us.