Priming to help immigrant neighbors

Group 236

by Karen Krueger

Our immigrant neighbors are in a time of heightened anxiety. Synod staff have received inquiries from concerned congregation leaders who want to demonstrate Christian love in circumstances of fear, especially after a confrontation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents outside of a hypothermia shelter at a church in Alexandria, Virg. this month.*

CASA Maryland ( and CASA Virginia ( maintain a hotline and have prepared graphics-rich resources in multiple languages to inform immigrants of their rights.

A longer Q&A, including “What do I do if a family member, friend, is arrested by ICE?,” and video are also available from the sites. (NOTE: From the home page, select “INFORMACIÓN SOBRE LAS REDADAS DE ICE Read More” to get to the video and a printable letter in Spanish, “Estimados amigos,” with the hotline number, and use the links above for the handouts.)

The ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod added an appendix to their Disaster Mitigation and Response Plan, Community Immigration Raid Preparation/Response Guidelines and Resources. With the definition of a disaster as “an event beyond the control of those affected, which causes great harm, suffering, and damage for which those who are affected need outside assistance in order to sustain and rebuild their lives,” and the experience in 2008 of an ICE workplace raid in Postville, Iowa **, the synod urges congregations to be proactive.

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In their materials, find a list of national resources and suggestions for congregational preparations: (especially Appendix 2).

“Church response should focus on the meeting of human needs (food, housing, shelter, daycare, etc.), connecting individuals to outside legal and human support systems, and working toward immigration advocacy and reform along with the wider church,” writes the Rev. Joelle Colville-Hanson, Director for Evangelical Mission in the Northeastern Iowa Synod.*** “Clergy are typically allowed access to detained immigrants and can garner information on their personal/family needs (where legal documents are located, names and locations of children, area relatives who may provide guardianship, etc.) and/or offer information as to the rights of a detainee (IF s/he has been properly trained/informed to do so—NEVER advise unknowingly).”

Do you have suggestions for local resources which may be useful in our congregations? Please share.

* See reports, for example:
** See reports, for example:
*** “How to Prepare to Help your Immigrant Neighbors” in God’s work. Our blog. (February 16, 2017)