Pouring rain didn’t stop the crowd gathered outside FaithAction International House on Greene Street near Downtown Greensboro on Monday evening. They came to protest recent ICE raids in Greensboro, which in recent weeks have led to the removal of immigrants from their families to a for-profit detention facility in Georgia.
The full length porch was packed with people; latecomers gathered on the muddy lawn, sharing umbrellas as they listened to local faith leaders and family members of immigrants who have been detained by ICE agents in recent weeks.
“As far as I’m concerned, these are God’s tears,” said FaithAction Executive Director Rev. David Fraccaro, indicating the rain. “These men are our neighbors and our friends. Crossing the border or overstaying the visa in order to escape devastating poverty or violence does not make you a criminal, it makes you a survivor.”
Fraccaro condemned the recent executive order on immigration as a move based in “racism, classism, and misplaced fear,” the results of which are crackdowns on undocumented people with no criminal records and valid asylum claims.
The crowd then heard from the friends, wives and children of detainees. One woman, speaking through an interpreter, told how her husband was taken by ICE on his way to work.
“Her daughter is scared to be left alone,” said the interpreter. “She fears that immigration will come for her as well.”
A little girl, her voice quiet even through the microphone, shared her regrets about the day her father disappeared.
“I’m sad because the last time, I didn’t get to say goodbye to him,” she sobbed. “He leaves very early….I started crying at school because I didn’t know what to do.”
Not knowing was a common theme among the families of detainees, who have no idea how long their loved ones will be held in the detention center, whether they will be released only to be deported, or whether ICE will come for them or their children next.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim members of the Greensboro Faith Leaders Council also spoke out against the raids and encouraged others to do the same, so that public silence will not be mistaken for consent.
“This is a growing tide. It’s slowly growing towards more and more and more aggression,” said Wasif Qureshi of the Islamic Center of Greensboro. “I don’t know where it goes next. But we stand in the shadow of the Civil Rights Museum. I remind myself that it can take an ugly turn…we don’t want to see that in our community.”
Rabbi Andy Koren of Temple Emanuel reminded everyone of the Biblical command to embrace immigrants, as found in Leviticus: “‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him…you shall love him as yourself.’”
The Faith Leaders Council pledged to support all those affected by ICE activity and to continue the push for a clear legal pathway for asylum seekers to gain legal status. The council also called on the community for help, whether by calling their elected officials or sharing news of the underreported raids on social media. Most importantly, people were encouraged to express love and acceptance for immigrants who feel rejected by their chosen country.
“There’s something really wrong here,” said Fraccaro to the damp crowd. “But our newcomer community is resilient and strong. And as you can see, they are not alone.”
FaithAction International House is designed to help new immigrants on the path to citizenship and encourage community involvement across lines of culture and faith. For more information, visit www.faihouse.org.
Mia Osborn is a Greensboro-based freelance writer who hails from Birmingham, Alabama.