Faith leaders, activists plan next steps on immigration

Rev. Craig Schaub of Parkway United Church of Christ holds a clipboard for volunteers to sign during an event on immigration activism held on Monday.

Faith leaders, activists plan next steps on immigration
April 27
05:15 2017

Photo by Todd Luck



The next steps that the faith community can take in reaction to heightened immigration enforcement, including participating in a Welcoming City joint statement, was discussed at a meeting held at Parkway United Church of Christ on Monday.

Winston-Salem has gotten attention recently after a coalition of residents asked for the city to declare itself a Sanctuary City. Since Sanctuary Cities aren’t allowed by state law, City Council Member Dan Besse created a symbolic Welcoming City resolution to reaffirm immigrants and refugees that Winston-Salem is safe. Due to fears of retaliation from the General Assembly, some on the council were reluctant to support it and Besse withdrew the resolution last week, rather than face an uncertain vote.

Besse is now gathering endorsements for a Welcoming City joint statement, which includes community, faith and elected leaders. Besse told attendees Monday he’d gotten the support of members of the City Council, county commissioners, school board and even a state lawmaker so far. He plans to make the joint statement on the steps of City Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 1.

“I’m looking to … put a positive bow on that effort and continue to move on with all the other things that the community is doing to try to help in this,” said Besse.

The resolution was mainly just reassurance. The Winston-Salem Police Department and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office don’t check the immigration status of those they-serves, though they do abide by ICE retainers on those already in custody. Besse said he didn’t expect that to change as the City Council hires a new police chief to replace the retiring Barry Rountree.

The discussion at Monday’s meeting went well beyond symbolic statements. David Fraccaro, director of FaithAction International House in Greensboro, talked about giving a “moral, faithful response” on immigration. FaithAction House pro-vides services to immigrants and connects them with the wider community so  “strangers become neighbors.”

He said that President Donald Trump’s executive order widening deportations beyond undocumented immigrants with felonies is being felt locally. He said in recent weeks, several men from Libya and Central America without criminal records in Greensboro where taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and are now at a detention center in Georgia awaiting deportation.

Among the options for actions that were discussed was the possibility of housing an undocumented immigrant in a house of worship, something that Rev. Kelly Carpenter of Green Street Baptist Church and Parkway’s Rev. Craig Schaub have been looking into.

Fraccaro said though ICE can raid any building with a warrant, there is currently a policy against raiding houses of worship, schools and health centers unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“The idea is that ICE is not going to raid a house of worship, not because they absolutely can’t although they’re not supposed to, but because it would be a public relations nightmare,” Fraccaro said.

Despite that, he said, there’s only about 15 cases of this currently happening nationally and none in the South. There’s a lot of logistics that go into converting a private part of a church into living space and providing for the basic needs of the individual or family that would be living there.

“We want congregations to start having this conversation because we don’t know what might come in six months,” said Carpenter.

There were several actions church leaders were ready to move forward with and signed volunteers up for. These included a rapid response network that would act as witnesses to ICE enforcement actions, lobbying state and federal lawmakers against legislation targeting undocumented immigrants, and beginning “stranger to neighbor” events to bridge the gap between immigrants and the rest of the community.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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