"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hispanic church minister in trouble for helping Latino immigrants in Iowa

Francisco Miraval

As a philosopher, I learned very early in my career that reality is not always what it seems to be. As a believer, I know that is always the case, because there is more than one dimension in our world (Isaiah 45:18, 2 Cor. 12:2-4), even if we do not see those other dimensions.

However, when a minister at a Hispanic church in a small rural town gets in trouble with federal authorities for trying to help Latino immigrants who were allegedly being abused, my notion of what is reality and what is not, what is justice and what is not, begins to crumble.

I know God works in mysterious ways, but if pastors or ministers can be summoned to a grand jury for defending the rights of immigrants, perhaps it is time to re-think what we think is the reality around us.

Let me share the story with you. Please, read all the links, and then you decide.

Ron Wahls, a guidance counselor in the Postville school district in northeast Iowa and a minister of a local Hispanic church, said to the Des Moines Register he has been summoned to appear next month before a grand jury, due to alleged “misunderstandings” regarding Social Security numbers used by Latino immigrants he helped in the past.

Wahls denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations against him “probably stem from Postville residents who resent the presence of Hispanics in their town.”

For the complete story, click here.

Postville is a city of 2,500 people (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), with 20 percent of Hispanic population. Many of those Latino immigrants came to Postville attracted by Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meatpacking company in the country.

On May 12, 2008, more than 300 hundred Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, other federal agents, and local police, arrested almost 400 people at Agriprocessors, in what federal authorities described as the “largest immigration operation in the history of the country.” (For details, click here.)

Ironically, Wahls may have been one of the persons who created the opportunity for the raid. In June 2006, Walhs met with representatives of the Jewish community to talk about the “working conditions” of Hispanic employed at Agriprocessors, including allegations of abused against immigrants. For the complete story, click here.

According to documents released by ICE on May 20, 2008, and found here and here, with additional details here, those allegations led to the investigation that eventually led to the arrest of the workers and the summons of Wahls.

If I understand correctly the sequence of events, some Latino immigrants told their minister in 2006 they were being abused. The minister contacted some people and tried to help the immigrants. That led eventually to a federal investigation. Then, on May 12, 2008, almost 400 those same immigrants the minister wanted to help were arrested. Two weeks later, all those immigrants were already sentenced and many of them will be deported soon. And now the minister is in trouble.

Do we really understand what is happening before our eyes? Are we ready for a reality that is not what it seems to be? Are we ready and willing to be pastors at a time when, as it happened many times during the past 2,000 years, being a pastor is no longer a glamorous profession, but a costly one?

Nota: Para una historia en español relacionada con este tema, ver esta nota.

NHCLC meeting inspire Jewish pastor to preach against racism

Francisco Miraval

After preaching at a meeting organized by NHCLC representatives in Colorado on May 5th, 2008 (see details on our blog entry dated May 14), Pastor Michael Walker, senior pastor at Church in the City in Denver, shared with his congregation his sermon about Transcending Discrimination in the Church.

Dr. Raleigh Washington, of Promise Keepers and of Road to Jerusalem Ministries, joined Pastor Walker to share some insights about how to overcome racism inside our churches.

During his sermon, Pastor Walker quotes NHCLC Global Chairman Dr. Jesse Miranda, agreeing with Dr. Miranda that racism is a sin.

The complete sermon (68MB) is here. Scroll down to May 2008 to find Transcending Discrimination in the Church. Then, double-click the link to listen, or right-click to download ("Save target as").

Latino pastors community leaders denounce “prayer ban” at ICE jail in Denver

By Francisco Miraval

More than 50 Latino pastors and community leaders, representing several local churches, denominations, and organizations, met in Denver on Friday, May 23, to denounce what they called a “prayer ban” at the regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

According to Pablo Castellanos, of Centro AMISTAD in Boulder, 18 Christian women (16 from Latin America, one from China, and one from Indonesia, a pastor) were recently denied the opportunity of praying together at the ICE detention center.

Castellanos, from Mexico, is a well-known and respected educator and writer who came to Colorado several decades ago. Every Wednesday morning he talks about immigration issues at Radio Luz in Denver. During a program two weeks ago, a caller alerted Castellanos about the situation at the detention center.

Upon verifying the situation, Castellanos called Latino leaders and pastors to a meeting, urging them to join him with the double mission of helping the 18 Christian women and restoring Christian prayer inside the ICE facility in Aurora.

“We want ICE to respect the rights of these detainees, including freedom of religion. These women should have the freedom to pray. The only thing left they have is their God, and they should be able to pray together, as members of other religions are allowed to do,” Castellanos said to the pastors and leaders.

Pastor Carlos Lopez, founder of En-Hacore Ministries in Denver, is very familiar with this situation, because three years ago he was detained for three months at that same facility and eventually deported to his native Argentina, in spite of having proper immigration documents. (Once the mistake was cleared, he was allowed to return to the United States.)

Lopez confirmed the “prayer ban” does exist, but he explained, it is something related more to security and safety issues than to religion.

“They can say we can’t pray together, but they can’t stop us from leading others to Jesus or from talking to our God,” Lopez remarked.

Lopez said he rededicated his life to Jesus inside that detention center, leading him to establish En-Hacore (a name taken from Judges. 15:19), a ministry to those inside the ICE detention Center in Aurora. “Fifty Latino immigrants accepted Jesus and ten were baptized during 2007,” he said.

However, after a change in the administration of the detention center and after new security norms went into effect, Lopez was denied the authorization to continue his ministry there.

While in the process of re-obtaining his credentials, he prays somebody else will take his place, “because there is a great need for a Spanish-speaking ministry there.”

Castellanos informed that ten of the Christian mothers detained at the ICE facility in Aurora are from Mexico, two from El Salvador, two from Nicaragua, and one from Honduras, in addition to the women from China and from Indonesia.

Castellanos said the current immigration crisis should not be understood as “only a Latino problem.”

“Our sisters from China and from Indonesia are mothers separated from their children just as our sisters from Latin America are mothers separated from their children. We are going to help them all, regardless of language or culture,” he said.

Castellanos already contacted both the Mexican consulate and the Guatemalan consulate in Denver, and he requested a meeting with local ICE representatives to explore the possibility of ICE allowing at least some of the mothers to be freed on bond (or with electronic monitoring systems).

“We don’t want to see our mothers wearing orange uniforms. But if we are divided, our divisions will do more damage than any efforts done by any anti-immigrant group,” Castellanos said.

“We show our loyalty to this country and to the values of this country in our work, our art, and our culture. We just want an opportunity to be part of this nation, including the part of respecting the rights of our people,” he concluded.

Francisco Miraval is the director of Hispanic Group of the US Christian Chamber of Commerce (based in Denver, Colorado) and a member of the NHCLC board.

Nota: Para una noticia en español relacionada con este tema, ver este artículo.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Hot Summer Looming on the Horizon

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

One of the most pressing issues facing our cities is the “traditional problem” of community police relationships between minority groups, particularly African Americans and Latinos.

It is a problem that is growing more serious as the relationships continue to grow more desperate and with more open contempt toward the police. In New York City, we have the Sean Bell case where three NYPD officers were acquitted in a criminal court, but now along with four other officers are facing departmental charges of violating internal police rules.

The seven police officers are being charged for violating several departmental rules for misusing their police issued weapon and for failing to follow departmental rules in processing the crime scene.

This after Sean Bell was killed and two of his friends were wounded when 50 shots were fired at the unarmed men celebrating Bell’s upcoming wedding the next day.

In 2002 the United States Department of Justice investigated the Cleveland Police Department over issues of whether police officers engaged in a pattern of “unconstitutional conduct.”

In a subsequent follow up investigation by the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 2003 through 2006, not much had really changed. During that period of time, the newspaper found 4,427 incidents where the CPD reported use of force was used.

The Plain Dealer investigation found the police department reported 4,427 incidents where the use of force was justified. The newspaper did report however, the department found one case where the use of force was “inappropriate.” And that was after “reforms” were put in place.

The Los Angeles Police Department is legendary in the number of Federal Justice Department investigations or internal reviews on police misconduct. Unfortunately it shows how easily these audits can end up on the shelf.

From the corruption of the Rampart Precinct, the Gang Unit, and lack of command and control tactics used in crowd control, such as last year during a peaceful protest that turned violent only after the police department started what I call a “police riot.”

During that riot, police shot rubber bullets and high pressure pepper spray at peaceful demonstrators, including elderly and young children and the news media. To the credit of Chief William Bratton, several high command officers were demoted or chose retirement after a internal investigation.

Chief William Bratton in my opinion is perhaps one of the best police chiefs in the country. He is a very reform and open minded cop who enjoys working with community groups trying to resolve community relationships.

Yet, even with that strong commitment from Bratton, there is more mistrust today and turmoil among many Black and Latino activists in LA who blame the cops for every single act of use of force.

In Denver, developing its own reputation for shooting the unarmed mental health cases and doing a better job of making sure the victims are shot dead after multiple bullets into their bodies.

Two years ago, one police officer actually called for the fire department so they could use the ladder to make sure a suspect was not in the housing development. Fortunately for the suspect, he was gone, unfortunately for an elderly Latino gentleman drinking from a Pepsi can in his bed, and was shot dead because the officer thought the can was a gun.

A year before that, police shot and killed a young Black man who wielded a large knife “and lunged at the officer” and was shot dead. The family had called police because they could not control the 15 year old who had a history of mental illness.

Last week, after a Latino gentleman – apparently drunk, angry, diabetic, and who had cut a large gash in his arm, showed up at a confirmation party for his daughter, and then left the scene after the police showed up.

They insisted on calling the suspect back to the scene, where his neighbor stood between him and the police pleading with the police to stop the shooting of rubber bullets, tasher shots, and pepper spray at the suspect and at himself.

In the end, the victim was shot at least 8 times…dead in front of his family, friends and neighbors.

A week before, after police chased a young Latino teenager on the north side of Denver, no reason given, but after the officer caught the teen, jumped up and down on the back of the teenager, seriously injuring the teenager’s back,lacerating his liver, and causing serious kidneys injuries.

And we wonder why the Latino and Black clergy are up in arms in Denver. There has been no public comment from Mayor Hickenlooper, Manager of Safety Al LaCabe, or Chief of Police Whitman about either case.

At least Bratton has condemned police misconduct in his department repeatedly when he has seen it, and in the opinion of many leaders in the Denver community, which is what happened in both incidents without a single word of public condemnation or concern about the misconduct.

Last weekend in Denver/Aurora alone there were 7 gang related and police shootings.

Unless the Mayor, Police Manager, and Police Chief take control of the community discussion, it is going to be a long hot summer in Denver and in other cities across the USA where government leaders ignore the cries of injustice.

In Denver, Black and Latino clergy are demanding to speak with the Mayor, and thus far, this mayor is content to hide behind his 70% approval ratings, forgetting his city is made of up of 36% Latinos, and 20% Black populations.

As MLK said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

Which person are you….the silent….or the bad?

Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries – Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is Life a Bowl of Cherries?

Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Far beyond the headline news of the largest Federal immigration raid totaling close to 400 individuals in the history of the United States, there is another important story not getting near the attention it should.

It is the sad story of lies and abuse of immigrants on the harvest trail. A story of expectations and hope promised, and nothing but uncertainty and fear delivered.

The United Farm Workers are trying to raise awareness about the plight of the workers and their families who recently left Washington State and who were promised jobs in the cherry orchards near Shafter, California. They left Washington State after Stemilt Growers Company promised them jobs in California. They packed what belongings they had, and traveled expecting to the find the jobs promised and to be able to provide for their families.

Now what would you do if you were promised a job in another state by the world’s largest supplier of freshly picked cherries? If I didn’t have a job, and Stemilt Growers Company promised me a job, I would take the company’s word and promise of a job and move to where I could take care of my family.

The problem is when they arrived in California, the jobs promised didn’t exist. There was no housing, places to shower or bathe, unless you wanted to bathe with the ducks and fish in a water hole?

As for sleeping arrangements, they did’t exist either. Some workers slept in their cars, others found cardboard boxes, and others simply slept out in the open. If you were lucky, you might have spelt in a tent.

To make matters worse, only a handful of the immigrants were hired and the rest were told to hang around and maybe more jobs would open up.

Now with no jobs, no expectation of getting one, little or no money left over from their trip, no housing, and nothing but uncertainty left, they were told they could camp out in the orchards.

They went public with their plight and complained to the news media which covered their story. Backed by the United Farm Workers, the news media exposed the problems facing the unemployed immigrants.

Angry and upset,representatives from Kyle Mathison Orchards/Stemilt Growers Company called the sheriff department to get the migrants out of the orchards. Now with the cherry growers throwing them out, there was no hope.

Now imagine this, this company claims to treat workers fairly. What is fairness when you provide no housing, no jobs, and broken promises and the company calls the sheriff department to throw you out or have you arrested?

This is what is wrong with companies that claim to take care of workers. First off, Stemilt Growers Company claims to take care of workers? When Kyle Mathison Orchards promises more jobs than they know they will be able to fill, yet they continue to promise jobs, when in fact, they knew there are really not enough jobs.

This is an abuse and the lack of very basic worker’s protections just allows companies to take advantage of workers with little or no regard for the worker. This is wrong, and in the scope of issues facing migrant workers, this one is very real to the workers traveling a great distance only to find out the promised jobs simply do not exist.

So while the nation watches the ramifications of the largest immigrant raid in our country in disgust and awkwardness, not knowing what to do, farmer workers far from the national headlines and public awareness, are left in a hopeless situation as well.

The sad part of this story is, that as long as immigration reform is ignored and worker protections laws are not put in place, immigrant workers will continue to be displaced in society, and will continue to suffer in a climate of fear, hatefulness, prejudices, and racism.

It is time for a reasonable resolution for comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot keep playing games with immigrant workers lives. We need a new national affirmation to work together to find a solution to this disgraceful stain of injustice on our Constitution.

Or maybe we need to start a boycott of cherries from the Mathison Orchards/Stemilt Growers Company – supposedly the “largest shipper of fresh-market sweet cherries in the world.”

Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries – Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hispanic Christian Leaders in Denver Pray Against Racism

By Francisco Miraval

Dozens of Hispanic Christian leaders, as well as Christian leaders from different ethnicities and nationalities, and more than 200 brothers and sisters from several local congregations, gathered on Monday, May 5, during the evening at a church in west Denver to pray in unity for God’s intervention against racism and to confess and ask God’s forgiveness for the racism and the discrimination that still exist among Latinos and inside the churches.

“Only when we put the Kingdom of God’s culture above our own culture and language, only when we recognize and confess our own sin of racism, and only when we ask God for His supernatural intervention, only then there will be a solution to the immigration crisis in our country,” said Pastor Arturo Vargas, of Centro Cristiano Amistad, and member of the advisory board of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

The meeting began with a meditation brought by Pastor Mario Mencos, of Ministerios Internacionales El Shaddai, where the event took place. After reading selected verses from Isaiah 60, Mencos urged the congregation to realize “we have our responsibility to build the Kingdom.”

Then, Pastor Jude del Hierro, of Confluence Ministries, led the congregation in a time of worship. And Pastor Dennis Rivera, District Superintendent of the Central Latin American District of the Assemblies of God (headquartered in Denver) spoke about “the reasons why we are here tonight.”

Rivera emphasized the need to acknowledge racism for what it is, a sin, and to acknowledge that “we, as Hispanics and as Christians, should confess and repent from the racism in our community and in our churches.”

Rivera also explained that earlier that same day, Christian men and women from the United States and from Mexico, representing many different races, prayed together at the international bridge between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, under the leadership of Dr. Cindy Jacobs, as a symbolic act of asking God to put an end to racism.

Pastor Michael Walker, of Church in the City, in Denver, brought the message from the Word of God. Walker, born in a Jewish family (his grandfather was a rabbi), spoke about Galatians 3:28, reminding the congregation that “we are one in Jesus Christ.”

Walker shared his own experience of being discriminated against, first for being a Jew and later, after accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior, by the Jewish people. But, he said, “He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” (Ephesians 2:14)

Pastor Vargas then led the congregation during a time of prayer and consecration, asking publicly forgiveness for racism, discrimination, and ungodly attitudes Hispanics and Christian Hispanic people show against people from other ethnicities and nationalities.

Vargas asked Pastor Joseph Nsabimbona, originally from Burundi (Africa), and assistant pastor at Church in the City, to come to the pulpit and asked him to forgive the discrimination from Hispanics to African and African American people.

“Hispanic leaders made history today. It is a humbling experience to be here today,” Nsabimbona said.

Vargas then asked for forgiveness form Pastor Scott Carranza, of Crossroads of the Rockies, representing the White people; from Pastor Rivera, representing Mexican-American people; and from Pastor Walker, representing the Jewish people.

After an intense time of consecration with the whole congregation kneeling at the altar, asking for God’s forgiveness and for His guidance for the future, Pastor Walker closed the service reciting in Hebrew the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:22-27).

“Today has been a historic day for the people of God in Denver. Today, in unity, we have pierced the darkness,” Walker declared.

Such was the blessing and the movement of the Holy Spirit at the meeting, that local Hispanic Christian leaders are already working to organize similar events in the near future.

Francisco Miraval is the director of Hispanic Group of the US Christian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the NHCLC board.

Dirigentes cristianos hispanos de Denver oran en unidad contra el racismo

By Francisco Miraval

Decenas de dirigentes cristianos hispanos, acompañados por más de 200 hermanos de distintas congregaciones y por representantes cristianos de varios grupos étnicos oraron en unidad el pasado lunes 5 de mayo para pedirle a Dios que intervenga en contra del racismo y para confesar y pedir perdón por el racismo y la discriminación que aún existe dentro de la iglesia y dentro del pueblo hispano.

“Solamente cuando pongamos la cultura del Reino de Dios por encima de nuestra cultura y de nuestro idioma, cuando reconozcamos y confesemos nuestro propio pecado de racismo, y cuando pidamos unidos en oración la supernatural intervención de Dios, entonces tendremos una solución para la crisis inmigratoria”, dijo el Pastor Arturo Vargas, del Centro Cristiano Amistad, y miembro del consejo asesor de la Conferencia Nacional de Líderes Cristianos Hispanos (NHCLC, en inglés).

El encuentro comenzó con un meditación del Pastor Mario Mencos, de Ministerios Internacionales El Shaddai, donde tuvo lugar la reunión. Sobre la base de versículos selectos de Isaías 60, Mencos exhortó a los presentes a recordar la responsabilidad que nos compete de construir el reino.

Tras un momento de alabanza bajo la dirección del Pastor Jude del Hierro, de Ministerios Confluencia, el Pastor Dennis Rivera, superintendente del Distrito Central Latino Americano de las Asambleas de Dios (con sede en Denver), compartió “las razones por las que estamos aquí”.

Rivera enfatizó la necesidad de reconocer que el racismo es pecado y que, como hispanos y como cristianos, debemos confesar y arrepentirnos por el racismo dentro de nuestra comunidad y dentro de nuestras iglesias.

Rivera también explicó que ese mismo día, por la mañana, hombres y mujeres de Dios tanto de Estados Unidos como de México, y de distintas razas, habían estado orando en el puente internacional entre Laredo y Nuevo Laredo, bajo la dirección de la Dra. Cindy Jacobs, como un acto simbólico de clamor a Dios para que se termine el racismo.

La predicación de la Palabra de Dios estuvo a cargo del Pastor Michael Walker, de Iglesia en la Ciudad, en Denver. Walker, de origen judío, tomó el versículo de Gálatas 3:28 para indicar que “todos nosotros somos uno en Cristo Jesús”.

Walker compartió su propia experiencia de discriminación, primero por ser judío y luego, tras entregarse a Cristo, por su propio pueblo. Pero, dijo Walker, “Cristo es nuestra paz, derribando la pared intermedia de la separación” (Efesios 2:14).

El Pastor Vargas dirigió entonces a los presentes en un momento de oración y de consagración, pidiendo públicamente perdón por actitudes racistas, discriminatorias e intolerantes de los hispanos y de los cristianos hacia personas de distintos grupos étnicos y nacionalidades.

Vargas invitó al Pastor Joseph Nsabimbona, originario de Burundi (Africa) y pastor asociado de Iglesia en la Ciudad, para pedirle perdón por la discriminación de los hispanos hacia los africanos y afroamericanos.

“Los hispanos hoy hicieron historia. Es una experiencia de verdadera humildad estar aquí hoy”, comentó Nsabimbona.

A continuación, Vargas hizo lo mismo con el Pastor Scott Carranza, de Crossroads of the Rockies, en representación de los blancos; el Pastor Rivera, representando a los méxico-americanos, y con el Pastor Walker, en nombre de los judíos.

Luego de un intenso momento de consagración en el que toda la congregación se acercó al altar para, de rodillas, pedir perdón y buscar la dirección de Dios, el Pastor Walker concluyó el servicio recitando, en hebreo, la bendición sacerdotal de Números 6:22-27.

“Hoy ha sido un día histórico para el pueblo de Dios en Denver. Hoy, en unidad, hemos quebrado las tinieblas”, declaró Walker.

Debido a la bendición y al movimiento del Espíritu Santo que trajo esta reunión, ya se están planificando eventos “de unidad” similares para el futuro cercano.

Francisco Miraval es el director del Grupo Hispano de la Cámara de Comercio Cristiana de Estados Unidos y miembro de la mesa directiva de la NHCLC.

Marriage, The Democratic National Convention and Latinos

Marriage and Family Advocates to rally during DNC
By Electa Draper
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 05/13/2008 04:13:29 PM MDT

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation and the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders announced today they will host a rally in support of traditional marriage and family in Denver during the Democratic National Convention.

The Catholic Latino association's executive board, which includes Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez, is working with prominent national Latino leaders to encourage the Democratic Party "to stand up for marriage."

The Democratic Party has deviated from its commitment to the institution in the last 20 years, said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr. of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

"When mom and dad are in the home it is the primary antidote to the Latino dropout rate, proliferation of gang activity, drugs and a number of social ills," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, an adviser to Alliance for Marriage, said that while the groups are in favor of every single American's civil rights; the party needs to affirm that the institution of marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.

"We don't want anyone touching that because it works for our community," Rodriguez said.

The Virginia-based Alliance for Marriage and CALL, founded in September and based in San Antonio, say they are nonpartisan coalitions that include religious and business leaders, civil rights advocates and legal experts.

Rodriguez said that Democratic candidates are expected to receive a greater percentage of Latino votes than in past recent elections. It could be more than 60 percent, he said.

The planned rally would encourage Latino voters to urge leaders to protect marriage, he said.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Where are the Mighty Men of Valor?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

There is another story in the Arizona Republic today (May 8) about the ICE raid on April 12 against a group of men out on a religious retreat. But even after the April 12th arrests of the men who were part of a Christian men's retreat...the Latino Evangelical Church outside of Arizona remains outrageously silent.

Oh Church, where is the righteous indignation and condemnation of the injustice toward God's mighty men of valor?

Can we hear from churches from across this nation that will take a stand against the arrests and deportations...and the jailing of the Pastor Maldonado for almost two weeks in jail?

What about the pastor's 12 year old who witnessed the insensitive work of law enforcement and ICE? What a nightmare for this young man to have see. To watch ICE agents mistreat and disrespect his father...who is a Man of God? How can we not be shocked and angered?

Yes, they have the authority to arrest, but where is the discretion these officers could have used?? When we allow these agents to interfer with our religious worship, prevent others from singing and praying in public, and arresting and deporting the men straight from the campground and we remain silent and hidden from the authorities, something is terribly wrong?

What about the families that expected the fathers, husbands, brothers in the Lord to come back excited and inspired to serve the Lord? Instead the shock and fear of their loved one being detained and deported must have been a horrific shock for the families.

Now the whole valley of churches in this part of Arizona are stunned and afraid of further police action against them. And can you blame them? Not one other church outside of this valley that I have read has taken a public stand against this police action.

If it can happen in Arizona, it can happen to any church, in any city, or in any state in the Union!

We are facing perilous times...and with the silence of the good people against the evil committed against the Church, this is not acceptable anywhere!

I say stand up now and stand against this injustice and insane action by the county law enforcement and ICE in Arizona against the Church.

What has to happen to our Church before we stand up and say enough? Do we understand the ramifications this has across the country? We need to send the message loud and clear to ICE that they stay away from our Churches which represent the House of God.

Where are the mighty men of valor that will stand and be ready to defend the Gospel with the Churches in Arizona?

Pastor Maldonado said they were "terrified." We should all say we are "TERRIFIED and "rightiously angered and opposed" to this injust treatment of good people...good Christian people!

Wake up Latinos! Wake up Church!

Read the news story down below....after the SAVE Act news article,

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Based Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

SAVE ACT Perpetuates Immigration Debacle

SAVE Act perpetuates, rather than reforms, our immigration policy

By Samuel Rodriguez Jr. - San Francisco Chronicle, Op-ed
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - Web Link

Expressions of hatred and xenophobia toward immigrants, at an all-time high, are producing widespread fear in the Latino community. Unfortunately, the echo of a hate-filled climate is now making its way through Congress. Anti-immigrant forces in the House are capitalizing on fears and stereotypes to push the SAVE Act, a bill that would throw more money at our broken immigration system instead of engaging in the hard work of meaningful reform.

The SAVE Act is touted by proponents as an "enforcement" bill, but it would in fact put us on a slow, painful path toward detention and deportation. The bill is championed by hard-line groups that advocate a strategy called "deportation by attrition." As it sounds, this philosophy espouses making the lives of immigrants and their families so difficult that they simply give up and self-deport.

This approach is inhumane and unworkable for a variety of reasons. First, the SAVE Act would require local police to enforce immigration law, a policy that deters immigrants from reporting crimes and diverts police time away from serious threats to public safety. It would allocate millions of dollars for the construction of 8,000 additional detention beds for immigrants awaiting deportation.

Second, the legislation drastically expands an employer verification system that is wrought with errors - 17.8 million, according to the Social Security Administration itself. Forcing employers to verify eligibility status of their workers before this database is updated could jeopardize the jobs of millions of U.S.-born and immigrant workers alike, whose information has been entered incorrectly in the system.

Enforcement of our nation's borders is essential, as is holding employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers. However, if enacted without a legalization program for workers already here, these measures would seriously threaten the livelihoods of immigrants and their children around the country. What is more, the SAVE Act does not realistically address our labor needs and makes no attempt to provide a legal workforce for employers who want to do the right thing.

In an election season where vulnerable politicians fear looking soft on immigration, the SAVE Act already has a hefty 151 co-sponsors, 10 of whom are from California. In the Latino community, we regret that politicians are attempting to score political points at the expense of immigrants who have come here only to work and create a better life for their families.

We can do better. At a time when all remaining presidential candidates promote humane and effective approaches to fix our immigration system, it is time that Congress recognizes that scapegoating immigrants is not the right approach. It plays to the fears of Americans, instead of our past as a nation of immigrants and our capacity to build strong communities together.

This country was built on the contributions of generations of immigrants. We should not allow Congress to turn our backs on this legacy and take us down a road that would create more fear in our communities and push immigrant families further into the shadows. Our leaders should pursue legislation that embodies our best values - reuniting families, strengthening the economy and restoring the rule of law.

Samuel Rodriguez Jr. is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, America's largest Hispanic Christian organization

ICE Crackdowns on Churches

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Illegal-immigrant crackdowns have Valley churches on edge
Worshipers deported after retreat

by Daniel González - May. 8, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Once a month, Manuel Maldonado leads a group on a spiritual retreat to the mountains in central Arizona, where out in nature members feel closer to God.

But an April 12 retreat to a campground near Prescott was devastating to the group.

A camper complained the group was making too much noise. Yavapai County sheriff's deputies arrived, questioned the church members about their citizenship and called federal immigration officials. Nine church members, including the pastor, Maldonado, were detained; seven were later deported to Mexico.

"We are brothers who went there to praise God, and they treated us like delinquents," said Maldonado, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Agape in west Phoenix.

The deportations have sent a shock wave through the large and fast-growing network of Latino evangelical churches in Arizona and across the nation, many of which are filled with undocumented immigrants.

Local pastors fearful of stepped-up immigration enforcement are canceling retreats north of the Phoenix area. Some national church leaders are concerned the deportations could open the door for immigration raids at churches.

The Prescott deportations echoed incidents in the Valley that have raised tensions between church leaders and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. A crime sweep by sheriff's deputies in September resulted in arrests of undocumented day laborers near a church sanctuary in Cave Creek, and another on Good Friday led to arrests of illegal immigrants in east Phoenix.

"We don't feel safe for the Latino people," said Hector Ramirez, pastor of Iglesia Wesleyana in Phoenix. He canceled a trip this weekend to the Assembly of God Camp in Prescott that involved seven Valley Latino evangelical churches and 80 members. The retreat will be at one of the churches.

"We are afraid not only that our undocumented members could be deported but that members with papers could be hassled about their immigration and detained," he said.

Authorities say they aren't targeting church gatherings or churches. The Prescott incident was in response to a noise complaint. The deportations, however, show how local police, even in rural areas, are becoming more aggressive in calling federal authorities when they encounter suspected illegal immigrants.

Retreat plans changed

The men from Maldonado's church originally planned to hold their spiritual retreat near Sedona. They changed plans after hearing that police in northern and central Arizona were cracking down on smugglers transporting loads of illegal immigrants.

They decided instead to hold their retreat at the White Spar Family Campground.

Maldonado said there were 11 men in his group. One also brought his 12-year-old son.

The group arrived at the campground in three vans about 3 a.m. He said some members set up tents; others slept in their vans.

Maldonado said the group started singing and praying around 6 a.m. One member played a guitar.

The church's worship style is loud and animated. But at the campground, Maldonado said, they kept their voices down.

"We were praying and singing very peacefully," he said.

A little after 7 a.m., Yavapai County sheriff's deputies arrived and said someone had complained about noise.

Deputies asked members for identification and, after several showed Mexican ID cards, began asking church members whether they were in the country illegally. After they said yes, a deputy called Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"At this point, we were terrified," Maldonado said.

An ICE official questioned each member over the phone and determined that nine of the 12 were possibly in the country illegally. Deputies handcuffed them and drove them to the Prescott jail in vans, Maldonado said. ICE officials then transported them to Phoenix for processing.

Solitude important

Alfredo Aragon, a Latino Christian missionary, said spiritual retreats are an important aspect of church life. They provide members a chance to worship in solitude away from the distractions of the city, he said. Many congregations hold a retreat once a month in places such as Sedona, Flagstaff, Payson and Prescott, especially during the warmer months, he said.

"(Now), the ones who don't have papers are not going to want to travel to these places," Aragon said.

Local and national church leaders say they are afraid the deportations may open the door for law-enforcement officials to begin conducting immigration raids at churches. Along with schools and hospitals, they have generally been regarded as off-limits.

"The federal government basically had . . . an unstated agreement with the church, with clergy that said, 'We are never going to go into your churches. We are not going to go and ask you to identify who is undocumented. We respect your constitutional right . . . to exercise your religious convictions,' " said Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Rodriguez contends that spiritual retreats are considered by law an extension of churches because, under the U.S. Constitution, people have the right to worship freely.

ICE officials would not comment about Rodriguez's claim that ICE has an unofficial policy not to question people in churches about immigration status.

Rodriguez said he is mobilizing the organization's network of 18,000 Latino Christian churches to call on the three presidential candidates to condemn the deportations.

"If they were all White, and they were making noise and they were celebrating with Celtic music and the local authorities were to come in, would they have asked for proof of citizenship? My inclination is absolutely not," Rodriguez said.

Dwight D'Evelyn, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, denied deputies racially profiled to question the church members about their citizenship. He pointed out that the deputies were responding to a noise complaint.

D'Evelyn said it is standard procedure for deputies to ask for identification while investigating crimes.

"Whether it is a church group or a bunch of bikers, it doesn't matter," he said.

The Sheriff's Office has a policy against asking crime victims or witnesses about their immigration status. But deputies have discretion to call ICE if they encounter someone they suspect is in the country illegally, D'Evelyn said.

Fighting deportation
Meanwhile, Maldonado is back living with his wife and five children in a trailer park off Buckeye Road and preaching at his 70-member church.

He is the only one of the nine church members detained who is fighting deportation. The last of the nine detainees was released after ICE officials determined he was in the country legally with a work permit.

Maldonado was taken to a federal detention center in Florence, where he spent 17 days.

He was released April 29 after pastors and church members raised $4,000 for his bond. He is awaiting a deportation hearing.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Remembering the Days of Old"

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

In all of this debate surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, there is one interesting issue that some Latino religious leaders have failed to do and that is to raise their collective voices once again. Once again it seems we are comfortable sitting in the balconies of the 50’s and 60’s and watching the action.

During the early days before the Civil Rights Movement, I often heard stories about how we Latinos were mistreated as an ethnic group. How we were forced to use different bathrooms, drinking fountains, denied the use of our native language, and had to read the ugly signs posted around town “No Mexicans or dogs allowed.”

The personal burden of having to carry the perpetual battle of hate and discrimination and yes, open racism were no doubt emotionally and deeply felt pains and sorrows our parents and their parents had to endure.

I remember the turmoil around our country, reading the headlines, watching the Huntley Brinkley report on black and white television. We would watch the images from the South, we would see the Black ministers leading the fight and I watched in horror how law enforcement treated people as they beat them with batons, shields, and little lead weapons encased in leather called saps.

Yes, and who can forget the local fire departments using their water hoses to blow protestors off their feet with high water pressure hoses.

Yes, those were the days of the Civil Rights Movement. Very rarely did you see a Latino pastor or religious leader joining Dr. Martin Luther King or the Black Clergy in the streets. I have often thought about that as I grew up. Where were we in that movement? Why did our clergy not participate in an era when Civil Rights were needed in our country?

It took Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson to push through the 1965 Civil Rights Act through one of the most prejudiced and mean spirited members of Congress. Imagine to pass the 1965 Civil Rights Act giving people who had been denied the right to vote, "the right to vote". How was it necessary to legislate Federal Legislation just to open more doors of greater opportunity for Blacks and Latinos and other minority groups just some 40 plus years ago??

But did we lift a hand in that battle? I mean do you remember seeing many if any of the pioneers of our movement or other significant role models in the streets?

Recently we met with a group of Black ministers in a Black/Brown Dialogue to see if we could find common ground on which to begin to work together.

Almost immediately early in the first meeting, a very well respected and well known Black minister asked, "Butch, where were your people when we fought in the streets of Alabama, Los Angeles, and other cities across this country?

Do you even understand the pain and agony we have had to carry in our hearts for generations, even from the days my people were brought over in slave ships, and treated with the indignity and hate of the white slave owners?

Do you know what it is like to trace your family tree to a slave ship and slave owners? This is the pain and sorrow we carry, even till today."

Those comments came back and are very real to me in light of the controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as his sermons are being scrutinized and still being taken out of context even though he has asked the reporters to listen to the whole sermon...not just selected voiatile sound bites. While the Gospel of Jesus Christ covers our pain, our agony, and our anger, does it mean that we have forgotten our history, our heritage and what may have happened to the blessed people in our past?

From our family’s perspective, I have heard the hateful stories of how Latinos or “Latins” as we called ourselves in those days were treated and how my parents had to endure the hate, the racism, the prejudice, and hateful people.

As I was growing up in elementary school, I always had the misfortune of attending schools where I was about the only "Mexican" in class. I always came from “the wrong side of the tracks” as they used to say.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and I mean sit back and think about the past for a moment.

This country as wonderful as it is, has not always been kind to our “ancestors,” my parents, to my generation, and certainly to my children. It is still a country with work in progress when it comes to race relations, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

There are times when I have spoken to a group of people when I have voiced these views along with the feelings of humiliation, anger, despair and hopelessness at the state of race relations in our country. And I always spoke the truth.

The one term I literary hated for people to yell at me was “to go back where you came from!” I have researched our genealogy along with the assistance of a professor who foot noted his work. We can trace our family ancestors back 17 generations to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa and Spain to Northern New Mexico.

And guess what? I am where I came from right here in the Southwest.

On this land along with the Pueblo Indians of Northern New Mexico we lived together. Yes, there was conflict and rebellion on both sides. But look at the names of some Indians who hold Indian governmental positions within their tribes and there names are Romero, Rael, and other Latino last names.

When one looks back at the injustice of how this nation treated our people, how can we forget that history when there is still plenty to be angry about?

When a Tancredo demands that we be deported back to Mexico, just don’t forget, that this country has deported our people, some USA citizens many times in the past. The green INS vans of the early 30’s, Operation Wetback in the 50’s, and now the random raids and deportation of the 21st century, still detaining USA Latino citizens.

How can we not accuse this nation of injustice, land theft, mistreatment of our people, despised and forced to the “work no other American wants to do?” How can we judge Rev. Jeremiah Wright for his outrage and indignation of how the African Americans were treated?

In the Book of Deuteronomy in The Song of Moses in Chapter 32, Moses knew his time was near. He assembled the Elders of the Tribes and all the people and begins to recount the history of the nation’s journey through the desert.

At one point he admonishes his people “to remember the days of old: consider the long generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, they will explain to you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind” To remember their history and how the Most High was always there to lead them and protect them.

There are times when I write, speak, or preach and I may use some of the examples of what this nation has done to our people. How we were mistreated even when our fathers went to war to defend this land. How when they came back from the war, they were no long “American heroes” but now just plain “ old dirty Mexicans.” These are stories my father used to tell me.

How can we not remember these indignities? How can we not recount this injustice to my father to my own children? Who will tell our churches to stand up for justice when we see it is needed. Rev. Martin Luther King said, “when there is injustice against one, it is an injustice against all.”

Remember your days of old? How then can you accuse Rev Jeremiah Wright of being un-American or a traitor because he preaches truth and justice and clearly has not forgotten his past?

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Based Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212