NJ Clergy Support Immigrants

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

A hundred parishioners from several New Jersey churches took to the streets in Newark to join Catalino Guerrero from Mexico and José Estrada from Guatemala, who are both facing deportation, and raise their voices to stop immigration policies that hurt non-criminal immigrants.

Catalino Guerrero, a Union City resident, went to his appointment with ICE agents in Newark with his wife and two children. What was supposed to be his last appointment turned into a rescheduled appointment for March 10.

Guerrero’s case has a humanitarian angle due to the fact that he is diabetic, suffers from heart disease and no longer has relatives in Mexico, which would leave him without a place to live if he is deported. He has no criminal record.

Years ago, a lawyer offered him a residency through political asylum, which led Guerrero to the situation he endures today.

Activist Catalina Adorno, from the organization FAITH-NJ, was surprised because it is not clear if this is a denial of Guerrero’s petition for residency and a deportation order, or if the purpose of the new appointment is for him to bring more documentation.

“During the appointment, Mr. Guerrero’s attorney presented a petition to allow him to stay. No immediate response was issued. Instead, he received a new appointment and was told to bring his passport,” said Adorno.

Margarita Guerrero, his wife, hopes that the appointment will bring good news, but she was worried that the case may end up taking a different direction.

For now, the religious collective has promised to remain involved in the case, and they expect to make decisions on further actions in the next few days.

After the march, Rev. J. Brent Bates, rector of Newark’s Grace Church, led an interfaith prayer alongside other priests in attendance, and held a press conference.

Fairview resident José Estrada, another Hispanic man who has an appointment with ICE on Feb. 27, was also in attendance.

“My family and children depend on my job. All I ask for is a chance to do something for my loved ones,” said Estrada.

The Guatemala native spent a year in immigration prison in the city of Elizabeth. His appointment was scheduled for Dec. 30, but it was changed to Feb. 27.

Organizer Archange Antoine has seen the problems of immigrants and refugees up close.

He said that his cousin was killed as he escaped Haiti and that his father was a refugee, adding that he wants to offer his support because no one should or have to go through the experience of having to return to their country if they are leaving for political reasons or violence.

The imam of the Masjid Ibrahim mosque, wearing his traditional religious clothes, made it clear that he believes that there are no color, racial or religious differences when it comes to raising one’s voice and demonstrating in favor of immigrants, whether refugees or not. “It is time for unity,” he said.

In the meantime, the faithful lifted their signs, written in English, Spanish and Arabic, which contained a sentence that should be in the Bible: “No matter where you are from, we’re happy you’re our neighbor.”

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