Bay Area ‘solidarity network’ aims to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation

Tatiana Sanchez |San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/07/bay-area-solidarity-network-aims-to-protect-undocumented-immigrants-from-deportation/

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/07/bay-area-solidarity-network-aims-to-protect-undocumented-immigrants-from-deportation/

SAN JOSE — Building on a national movement to protect immigrant communities, faith leaders and local and state politicians on Friday pledged their support to undocumented immigrants who fear deportation under the Trump administration.

During a press conference at City Hall, the grassroots organization PACT — People Acting in Community Together — launched a “solidarity network” to protect targeted community members.

The network includes 70 congregations throughout Santa Clara County. Some have pledged to offer sanctuary to families at immediate risk of deportation while others will provide various forms of support to these individuals, such as connecting them to legal resources. Others will participate in PACT’s Rapid Response Team, a group of volunteers that plans to show up to the scene of local ICE raids to document the incident.

“Most immigrants don’t have criminal records. They work hard to live here. They have jobs to pay the bills and to cover what’s necessary to raise their children,” said Gerardo Vazquez, Spanish-speaking ministry pastor at San Jose First United Methodist Church.

Vasquez said he uses passwords while visiting the homes of undocumented families in downtown San Jose because they’re afraid to open their doors to strangers.

“This is the time for churches to stand up for immigrants — Latinos and non-Latinos,” he said.

Churches across the country have established themselves on the front lines of the immigration debate in recent months, with hundreds even vowing to provide refuge to undocumented immigrants who are in deportation proceedings, in what’s become known as the “Sanctuary Movement.”

Outside the largely-immigrant Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in San Jose on Nassau Drive hangs a banner reading, “Refugees and immigrants welcome.” Though the parish doesn’t plan on housing undocumented immigrants, it’s established itself as a sanctuary church and is a member of PACT’s solidarity network.

“Now is not the time to be silent. Now is not the time to be afraid. Especially for us as clergy and as a faith community, we need to stand up and move forward in a positive light in expressing our protection for the people,” said the Rev. Robert Fambrini, pastor of the church.

Sanctuary churches may only help a few thousand people in the country and won’t interfere with immigration enforcement in a significant way, according to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The Washington, D.C-based think tank supports stricter immigration enforcement.

“Some people get really worked up about it,” he said. “From my perspective, I would encourage churches to take an illegal alien in as sanctuary. At least they would no longer be living off of taxpayer funds.”

Faith leaders on Friday — a diverse group that included priests, Muslims, monks and rabbis — passed around matzah to bring to light the “affliction” of undocumented immigrants.

Politicians at the event included San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Santa Clara County Supervisor David Cortese; District Attorney Jeff Rosen; Assemblyman Ash Kalra; and U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

Though elections have consequences, said Lofgren, “In the end … the power will be in our hands. Let’s never forget.”