Immigrant leader enters church sanctuary to stand against Trump’s deportation machine

NEW ORLEANS, November 15, 2017—An immigrant father is taking sanctuary in a New Orleans church today to avoid imminent deportation, which would put the lives of his two U.S. citizen daughters at risk, as well as his own.

Jose Torres

Jose Torres is a New Orleans community leader and loving father of two U.S. citizen girls who have serious health issues. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ordered him to report to an immigration check-in on November 15 with a plane ticket in hand to “self-deport,” even though:

  • Jose’s two young daughters rely on him to survive
  • Jose’s youngest daughter was born premature and suffers from life-threatening seizures
  • Jose faces immediate threats to his life in his country of origin
  • Jose is seeking a visa as a survivor of human trafficking
  • ICE itself previously used its prosecutorial discretion to stop Jose’s deportation, recognizing his value to his family and community and the absence of any threat to public safety

Instead of attending the check-in today, Jose accepted an offer of sanctuary in First Grace United Methodist Church. With the church’s protection, Jose will speak out publicly to expose the reality of parenting in the shadow of President Donald Trump’s immoral deportation machine.

“My greatest responsibility in life is to my little girls,” Jose said. “I also feel a responsibility to speak out for the millions of other immigrant families who are living in fear, who take a risk every time they make a simple act of love or care, walking their child to school, buying groceries, going to church, going to work.”

WATCH: Video of Jose

READ: Petition for Jose

VIEW: Photos of Jose and his Family

Pastor Shawn Anglim of First Grace Methodist Church said “Providing sanctuary is what we get to do for each other. It makes us the church. It makes our community better, our government better. Our country better. Once again, there is a vicious and dangerous spirit in the land that has been normalized. It is the duty of our communities to resist it, and offer a compassionate prophetic way forward.”

First Grace member, Fred Roberts, said: “We all know why we’re here today. Donald Trump decided to stir the pot. And a whole lot of people are suffering for it. But he forgot one thing—he’s not the chef. We take our orders from above.” He also mentioned “detention and deportation have become huge money-makers. People are being physically abused, sexually assaulted, and are dying in this country’s detention centers.”

A fellow immigrant leader in the Congress of Day Laborers, Leticia Casildo said, “Our lives have never been easy. Because we’re immigrants, because we’re black, because we’re indigenous or simply because we’re different, we’ve had to fight against discrimination and hate. It’s been one year since Donald Trump’s election. We’re done crying, we’re done suffering. It’s time for us to lift our voices and put an end to the lies being told. No longer will we be this country’s scapegoat.”

While in sanctuary, Jose will share scenes from his daily life online as he continues to care for his family and organize against anti-immigrant attacks.

His daily acts of love for his family and community—playing with his children, attending community meetings—will become public statements of resistance, shared on instagram, twitter, and youtube below with the hashtag #HowIResist. Jose’s community will also be showing their support through the hashtag #JoseIsMyNeighbor.

Background

Jose came to the U.S. in 2005 at the age of 18, fleeing death threats in his native El Salvador. He survived nightmarish violence on the notorious La Bestia train on the way.

After he arrived in the U.S., he was lured by an employer and held in forced labor on a Texas ranch. The employer threatened him with arrest and deportation if he tried to flee.

Jose nevertheless escaped and came to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. He laid down roots in the city, becoming a father of two U.S.-citizen daughters, Julissa (8) and Kimberly (2), as well as a community leader and an advocate for human rights. In 2010, he helped establish a designated space in his community of Gretna, Louisiana for low-wage workers to seek work safe from wage theft and criminalization, and, after being released from immigration detention, went to D.C. to speak out against the abuses of the private prison industry.

Jose’s two daughters suffer from chronic health conditions that require Jose’s constant support: Kimberly has had a life-threatening seizure disorder since birth, and Julissa has chronic tonsillitis. Jose drives them to doctor’s appointments, fills their prescriptions, and makes sure they get the love and care all children need.

Jose has a one-time, expunged DUI charge, but ICE itself determined in 2016 that Jose posed no threat to public safety, and granted him a Stay of Deportation based on his importance as a father and community member.

Standing Against Trump’s Deportation Machine

Under Trump, however, ICE is now ordering Jose deported. Since Trump was elected, immigration enforcement has become unprecedentedly hateful and draconian: in recent days, immigration police detained a 10-year-old immigrant girl with cerebal palsy while she was recovering from surgery. In the Gulf Coast and throughout the country, families who have been in the U.S. for decades and do not know life in their country of origin are being told they must leave the country immediately. In the first six months of 2017, immigration arrests by the New Orleans ICE Field Office quadrupled compared to the previous year and deportations quintupled.

NOWCRJ Immigration Organizer Chloe Sigal said: “Jose’s public stand shows the bravery required of millions of immigrant families face just to live their everyday lives. Trump claims that immigrants, Black people, Muslims, and transgender people are the problem. Jose is rejecting a vision of the United States based on racism and pre-dawn raids on families, and is creating one based on freedom and human dignity.”

CONTACTS:

Chloe Sigal, csigal@nowcrj.org, 504-655-6610

Rachel Taber, rtaber@nowcrj.org, 504-258-1000

SOCIAL MEDIA:

#JoseIsMyNeighbor #HowIResist

Instagram: PapaDeJulissaYKiki

Twitter: @PapaDeJuliYKiki

Youtube: Familias En Resistencia

Facebook: Congreso de Jornaleros