In reaction to the immigration policies set forth by the current administration, clergy members of many faiths have been making themselves visible. One such way has been to reach out to regional Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Acting Field Office director Elizabeth Godfrey in order to demand the release of over 120 men who are imprisoned at the Federal Correction Institution in Sheridan. The men in question are seeking asylum and have not been able to speak to an immigration lawyer despite having passed credible threat interviews.
Leading the local charge has been Oregon’s Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), a group of over 140 faith communities that are working to push back against the treatment and prosecution of asylum-seeking immigrants in our country. One of the IMIrJ members who has been involved in the recent activity is Reverend Barbara Nixon of Corvallis.
On August 7, Reverend Nixon and two other clergy members showed up at the Portland ICE field office and asked to speak with Godfrey, who they believed was on site. Denied access, they then asked to deliver a letter to the acting director, however the letter was intercepted by an ICE official who refused to say whether Godfrey was present or not. In response, Nixon and the other two clergy members sat in front of the driveway entrance to the ICE facility, at which time all three were arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.
Following her arrest, I spoke with Reverend Nixon, who offered a statement.
“How we treat the stranger—the immigrants among us—says so much about who we are and what we value. What is happening in our state…and elsewhere is, for me, the sad microcosm of what is happening throughout our nation—where fears of all kinds have interfered with the best, most loving possibilities of who we are.”
As protests at the ICE facility in Portland continue, six more clergy members were detained on August 14. With all of the activity of the IMIrJ, Reverend Nixon encourages people to keep the focus on the asylum-seekers.
“I keep comparing my experience to the experiences of the men imprisoned in Sheridan…their captivity and treatment is such a violation of basic human rights. It is inexcusable and utterly unnecessary.” she added.
To contact Elizabeth Godfrey regarding the imprisonment of the asylum-seekers call 503-326-3302. To learn more about the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice visit www.imirj.org
By Erica Johnson