“Shelter From the Storm”
Isaiah 25:4 – “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall…” -NIV
2019 has been a difficult year for children from immigrant households whose families have lived in the eye of the sociopolitical storm that continues to rage in the United States of America. This is a storm that has brought forth the implementation and enforcement of inhumane immigration policies that have brought terror and trauma to immigrant communities. In a recent report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement interim field director Matthew Albence informed that the agency has deported 267,258 immigrants between October of 2018 and September of 2019 across the nation. This report represents an increase of 11,000 deportations when compared to the previous year. 14.473 of those deportations were executed in the states of North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina during those twelve months, an increase of over 15% when compared to the previous year. These cold numbers fail to properly communicate the devastation that immigration-related detention and deportation of immigrants brings to communities and families. As it happens with storms, such as hurricane Dorian, those most vulnerable are affected the most. This is the case with children who are members of the thousands of households that have been torn apart by the violence of deportation. It is the case of the millions of children who are members of households that are vulnerable to potential immigration-related detention and deportation.
As these children’s families prepared for hurricane Dorian to make landfall in early September of this year throughout Eastern North Carolina, they had an additional fear. In addition to making proper preparations for the coming storm, such as preparing their homes and property and in some cases evacuating high-risk areas, they also faced the very real possibility that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would be patrolling and/or conducting operations in or near the shelters that their families needed so desperately. This had already happened in 2018 when Hurricane Florence came to North Carolina. David Salazar, a Raleigh, North Carolina area community organizer and advocate of the immigrant community, stated that during Hurricane Florence it was quite traumatic for immigrant families to see Department of Homeland Security agents “…on the side of the roads and in supermarkets cause many not to go to shelters for fear of being arrested.” He also indicated that many where asked to provide photo identification to enter shelters or to access safe zones for evacuees. Statements such as these, which come straight from the community, illustrate how immigrant community faces a hurricanes in the midst of a storm that is already raging that has resulted in the separation of thousands of families. In response to reports of fear from the immigrant community and the backlash from that community’s advocates, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement indicating that they would not be conducting operations or executing warrants in shelters or evacuation zones during hurricane Dorian. However, they also reported that their agents were likely to be present in the areas affected by Dorian to assist during the crisis brought by the hurricane. Far from being seen as a source of relief, this statement was seen as a source of further anxiety by immigrant families across North Carolina. We know that some of these families, especially those who live in Eastern North Carolina, continue to deal with the aftermath of hurricane Dorian. We also know that the majority of these families, continue to suffer while living in the eye of the sociopolitical storm that continues to rage in the United States of America. In the same way that the Spirit of God prompts us to respond to the humanitarian crisis brought forth by hurricanes such as Dorian, may the Spirit of God also inspire, drive, and empower us to respond to the humanitarian crisis brought forth by the enactment and enforcement of inhumane immigration policies.
Prayer: God, we came to you who are our refuge from the storm. We pray with those affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters throughout the world. We humbly pray with those affected by hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, in North Carolina and across the Eastern United States. May your Spirit continue to inspire us to respond With compassion to the humanitarian crisis brought forth by Dorian. May She also inspire, empower, and drive us to respond with compassion to the humanitarian crisis brought forth by the sociopolitical storm raging in the United States of America, at the center of which immigrant children and their families continue to suffer. May it be so.
Edgar A. Vergara Millán