“Do good, do what is just, do what is kind, and you’ll be following Jesus.”
– Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
In mid-April, clergy from Latino congregations in the Diocese of El Camino Real gathered at the diocesan offices at Sargent House in Salinas for a meeting about immigration issues, actions and responses.
The meeting was led by Rick and Margaret Baldwin, members of St. Mary’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Pacific Grove and co-founders of the Immigration Task Force of Monterey County – a group of concerned individuals who works to educate local immigrant families of their legal rights and helps to protect those whose rights are violated.
Issues discussed include recent practices of ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement), how to reduce fear and protect the rights of immigrants, hotline and rapid responders, “Know Your Rights” cards, resources and more.
A key emphasis was family emergency training, said Rick Baldwin, to help prepare families for a detention or deportation of one or both parents. The task force has developed legal paperwork in the event of a parents’ sudden detention so families can appoint a caregiver who will make sure children can be picked up from school and brought home.
The other need is reuniting children with their parents following a deportation. “If the parents are deported, in most cases their children are US citizens, who will need a passport to reach the parents,” says Baldwin. “You need to appoint somebody to take them across the border, and they also need paperwork so they can cross and come back.”
The task force is trying to engage the Latino community to help with such increasing cases of family crisis. “We’ve formed a coalition with churches, unions, school districts, Catholic charities and local community groups to reach as many people as possible and spread the word,” he added. “Many organizations are doing similar work so we want to coordinate with them and not duplicate efforts.”
Clergy also learned about Project Red Card, created to help immigrants understand and assert their rights and to defend themselves against constitutional violations. Red cards provide critical information in Spanish on how to assert these Constitutional protections, along with an explanation to ICE agents in English that the individual is choosing to do so.
The Immigration Task Force roots lie in the first meeting of Indivisible Monterey County in early 2017. At this meeting, several county residents expressed concern over the growing anti-immigrant climate stemming from the last presidential election. They spoke of undocumented friends who were afraid to go to work and whose children refused to go to school because they were terrified that their family would be torn apart by deportation. These individuals shared a strong desire to protect immigrant communities from the increasing threat of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.
Baldwin says the task force is focusing on holding trainings at schools and churches, where parents are more confident they can attend without fear of an immigration raid. Task force members will give attendees a stack of red cards to distribute to others, then set up training sessions and follow-up work.
“Gathering of immigrants” story-sharing at St. Mary’s Pacific Grove
On Pentecost Sunday, May 20, the “Walking Together” ministry of St. Mary’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and La Iglesia de San Pablo Apostol sponsored a “Gathering of Immigrants” event. One hundred parishioners from the two congregations, as well as guests from All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Carmel, met at St. Mary’s to have lunch and share some of their families’ immigration story. St. Mary’s in Pacific Grove is home to many English-speaking retirees, while San Pablo’s in Seaside is made up of first generation Spanish-speaking immigrants. The event was co-chaired by the Rev. Martin Juarez from San Pablo and Kirsten Matsumoto from St. Mary’s.
When speaking from the podium, attendees spoke in either English or Spanish. As is fitting on Pentecost, headsets and a professional interpreter made it possible for “everyone to hear the Word in their own language.” Tables included people from both congregations; each table included a bilingual person and a leader whose job was to ensure that everyone had a chance to tell part of their story. Some told stories of crossing the border in search of opportunity, others spoke of grandparents escaping persecution, and many told of their ancestors making their way out of poverty, coming to a land where hard work would pay off for future generations.
Canon Jesus Reyes put these stories into the context of the Judeo-Christian tradition: how are we to treat the stranger, the outsider? Katherine Herbig, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, placed the individual immigration stories into the context of American Immigration history. She demonstrated that immigration has been contentious throughout our history, with each successive wave of immigrants being resented by those who had come previously. She described an April gathering in downtown Salinas where representatives from the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries in Monterey County stressed that their businesses could not survive without the labor of recent immigrants. She concluded saying that Federal immigration policy is broken; it doesn’t meet the needs of either employers or families.
St. Mary’s Walking Together ministry was a founding member of COPA (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action), a broad-based, non-partisan organization of 28 member institutions. The majority of these institutions are religious congregations in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties who work to improve the lives of people in our region.
COPA works to bring together a diverse cross-section of the region by sharing stories and building relationships, first within institutions and then across them. Members of Walking Together and parishioners from San Pablo have engaged in conversations for over a year, developing the trust that served as the heart of the memorable gathering at St. Mary’s.
Walking Together and San Pablo members also worked together on the creation of Esperanza Care, a Monterey County program that provides healthcare to 3,500 low income adults who don’t qualify for other health insurance. Many parishioners at San Pablo receive healthcare through this program.
-Jack Herbig / All photos by J. Herbig