Five of us from St. Paul’s UCC in Rio Rancho went to protest the possible deportation of a father, Exslander Galindo Duarte, leaving his two US citizen children here. His wife, their mother, had already been deported in May. We went because to not go meant somehow approving this action.
We have all seen images of what look like kennel cages filled with children, infants to 17, on our TVs and some have heard the cries of the children being separated from their parents. Now here in Albuquerque at ICE headquarters a similar situation was playing out. ICE is located in an isolated part of southeast in the city in what is a pleasant-looking building with beautiful and well-manicured Southwest landscaping. We were there with approximately 100 or so people with homemade signs because we were called to be witnesses to what would happen to the Duarte family.
Mr. Duarte, visibly upset, gave a brief statement to the people there to support him. I cannot imagine the stress he and his family have endured so far. “My kids have suffered enough already by ICE deporting their mother right before Mother's Day,” Galindo Duarte said. "Hopefully, ICE will do the right thing and let me stay here after Father's Day."
We then also heard from his attorney, Roxie De Santiago, who again reminded us that the “United States government is breaking the law by not allowing these immigrants to seek asylum once they are on U.S. soil.” Those who support this action of the US government are participating and condoning in the breaking of the law we signed as members of the United Nations. But even if we had not signed this resolution, we are held accountable because of our humanity.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions a few days earlier said domestic and gang violence were no longer acceptable reasons for asylum. How dare he! Most of those seeking asylum are women and children, fleeing from just such abuse.
Can you remember a time not too long ago when there was a debate on what constituted torture? Are we going to allow another discussion on what constitutes child abuse?
We were there for Duarte, his children, and all the other Duartes that have to endure this agony. We sang, we chanted, we prayed carrying homemade signs.
Duarte, to follow the law, has to report to ICE headquarters every month or so. He realizes that by reporting and following our law he could still be arrested and deported. Following the maze and often contrary dictates of our immigration law can still get one deported. His appointment with ICE was at 9:15. By 9:30, he and his lawyer walked out. Everyone who had come let out a great cheer, hugged people who were strangers an hour ago and some wept in their arms. He doesn’t have to report again until January. A victory, maybe a small one, but nevertheless a victory. It felt good to witness it.
So where do we go from here? Small actions, small victories and prayers will add up eventually to the “tipping point,” the point where the inevitable will happen. The cruelty will stop.