COLUMBUS – Immigrant rights groups and faith communities in Ohio are mobilizing to help Central American refugees who fear deportation.
Federal officials this week began targeted raids to apprehend adults and children who illegally crossed the border after May 1, 2014.
Brennan Grayson, director of the Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Center, says many of the removal orders are for people who didn’t have attorneys assisting in their asylum cases.
“Without having a proper representative to advocate for them, we’re really missing the ball here and wasting a lot of our resources chasing people around that have legitimate claims,” he states. “A better use of our resources would be to make sure individuals have representation so the right decision can get made.”
Tonight, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and the Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Center are gathering community members to discuss the situation and develop ways to protect immigrants from deportation.
The Department of Homeland Security says families targeted in the raids did not enter the country legally and exhausted appropriate legal recourse.
But Rev. Noel Andersen, national grassroots coordinator for the Church World Service, maintains the asylum process is flawed, with most refugees losing their case.
“You have to collect documentation from your country of origin, which is very difficult to get if you had fled violence that was threatening you the next day,” he points out. “It’s hard to have everything in order when you arrive to the country you are fleeing to.”
Church World Service is coordinating a nationwide network of congregations that are opening their doors to those who might be in danger of deportation.
Andersen says the churches are offering a place of refuge and helping immigrants fight their deportation.
“Try to reopen their case if their case has been denied,” he says. “Try to apply for prosecutorial discretion as well as trying to get them a lawyer and appeal their asylum case.”
Led by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, dozens of organizations sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that the raids be stopped and refugees be protected from persecution.