Opinion

Congressmen commend congregations offering sanctuary

The Durham City Council last week passed a resolution asking U.S. Reps. David Price and G.K. Butterfield to intervene on behalf of two fathers in sanctuary in Durham.

Samuel Oliver-Bruno, who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, is living at CityWell United Methodist Church. And Jose Heriberto Chicas, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, is at St. John's Baptist Church School of Conversion. Read the resolution here: bit.ly/2s92Jfn

Here is the congressmen’s response”

Dear Members of the Durham City Council:

Thank you for your resolution adopted on June 4, 2018, supporting the participation of North Carolina religious congregations in the sanctuary movement.

The decision by communities of faith to provide safe haven for immigrants and refugees is an act of charity with strong scriptural foundations. Unfortunately, the sanctuary movement is also a sobering reflection of just how far U.S. immigration policy has strayed from these foundations, and from core American values. For decades now, Congress has promised, yet failed, to reform our broken immigration laws to meet the needs of our economy and to offer a pathway to millions of otherwise law-abiding residents to become full members of society. Now, the election of Donald Trump has turned what was a festering problem into a desperate crisis.

Among many other troubling actions, President Trump has given his immigration agencies a green light to ramp up their deportations of individuals who pose no threat to their communities, reversing years of bipartisan efforts to focus immigration enforcement on dangerous criminals. These actions are tearing apart families and fraying the fabric of communities. They are undermining local law enforcement and the relationships of trust they need to keep our communities secure. They are diminishing our global standing and defiling our shared American values.

In this context, the congregations in Durham and across the country that have chosen to provide sanctuary to individuals facing deportation are serving as the last line of defense preventing these individuals from being torn away from their families and condemned to uncertain fates in countries that are often only distant memories. We join you in commending these congregations for their compassion, their humanitarianism, and their sense of social justice.

Your resolution draws attention to the cases of Samuel Oliver-Bruno and Jose Heriberto Chicas, two individuals who have taken sanctuary in Durham. We are aware of Mr. Oliver-Bruno and Mr. Chicas’s cases and have contacted ICE directly to support their requests for stays of removal and ensure they receive all due process to which they are entitled. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to compel ICE to grant their requests; ultimately, it is within ICE’s discretion whether and when to enforce an immigration judge’s removal order.

Your resolution also calls for us to introduce private bills to provide relief for Mr. Oliver-Bruno and Mr. Chicas. Unfortunately, due to policy changes implemented by the Trump Administration and the Republican majority in Congress, private immigration bills are no longer effective tools for granting stays of removal to individuals facing deportation.

Nevertheless, we are committed to continuing to advocate on behalf of these individuals and to ensure that every legal recourse has been exhausted. We are also committed to continuing to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that offers individuals in this country without documentation a pathway to citizenship and establishes a more sensible and humane process for immigration enforcement.

We are grateful for your outreach and advocacy in this and other matters of importance to our shared constituents.

Rep. David E. Price and Rep. G. K. Butterfield reresent the Fourth and First Congressional Districts respectively.

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