[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] In an effort to educate and assist the immigrant community of Houston, Christ Church Cathedral held an immigration forum with attorneys and community leaders to inform immigrants of their rights and to discuss the Trump administration’s new focus on deportations.
The forum was hosted by the Rev. Simón Bautista, canon missioner for latino ministries and outreach at the cathedral.
Recent executive orders, as well as Texas State Senate Bill 4, will require all Texas law enforcement agencies to comply with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agents. The move is provoking anxiety among a vulnerable population of immigrants in the U.S. without documentation who fear being profiled under what is effectively a sanctuary city ban.
“Bishop Andy Doyle, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and Christ Church Cathedral welcome everyone. This is a place blessed by your presence,” said the Rev. Barkley S. Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral.
Getting advice from lawyers instead of notaries, carrying up-to-date identification and calling state legislators to ask them to vote against SB 4 were the key pieces of advice given by the panel.
“Have doubts of the news you see and read on social media. It is better to get your information from your consulate,” said Ignacio Pinto-León, a Houston attorney.
During a Q&A, participants asked the experts about their particular cases. Many wondered how long it would take for their petitions for permanent residency to be approved because they wanted a way to work towards American citizenship. Others attended the forum to be informed and to help family members and friends.
“The recent political (actions) have put everyone on edge because it puts people that are undocumented in a fearful state,” said Fabian Berrios, a member of San Mateo, Bellaire. “It’s important to stay informed and help those who are seeking assistance.
The Rev. Willie Bennett, an organizer with The Metropolitan Organization, encourages immigrants to talk to their clergy and express their worry.
“It is going to take a diverse community such as the one here at Christ Church Cathedral to teach and share the reality of what we are going through. I challenge you to share your story—it’s the only way we can make a change long term,” Bennett said.
“The value of these informational forums is that they offer a unique opportunity (for) people to hear credible information about their concerns, their issues, their personal cases or of their acquaintances,” Bautista said. “These forums unite religious and community organizations, consulates and lawyers in one place for one common interest. We, at the cathedral, are proud to be able to collaborate in these offerings.”
Read article in Spanish here.