by John Allen
A few months ago I scheduled a meeting with the Chief of Police in my community.
We had run into each other around town in the past, and he was kind enough to come over and introduce himself when I was new to the community. In prior conversations we had spoken in general terms about our town. Both its beauties, and its hidden struggles. This afternoon though I had just one question to ask him: “What would you do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked for your help?”
This is something that any of us could do today to work toward the safety of immigrants and refugees in your community. Go and ask key civic leaders how they see their relationship with ICE. At the bottom of this article is a list of questions you could take to leaders. Take notes on their replies.
ICE relies heavily on the cooperation of local agencies in seeking individuals to target for deportation and in raids and operations to round up people for deportation. Leaders in our congregations, as they are leaders in their town or city, have a responsibility to speak to those with power and authority to guide them toward just and compassionate exercise of that power.
For his part, our Chief was clear and forthright. He would never cooperate with ICE in operations to detain or deport people because of their immigration status. His reasoning was clear: he did not want to lose the trust of undocumented individuals in our community. He did not want them to be afraid to step forward if they witnessed a crime, or if they were victims of abuse.
“How about this,” he said as we were wrapping up, “If ICE calls me to let me know that they are going to be operating in this area and asks for my help, I’ll say no. Then I’ll call you.”
What if every one of our pastors in Massachusetts committed to having that conversation with their local Chief of Police? You might not get the same response I did, but you might be surprised. Let your local leaders know that you do not want them working with ICE, and that you will back them up if they catch heat for refusing to do so.
It’s just one small part of all we need to do. But you could do it today.
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