Sr. Rene Weeks Assists Immigrants after ICE Action

The largest workplace raid this year took place in Salem, OH on June 19. At that time 140 people working at a meat processing facility were detained by ICE and transported to a processing center about an hour away. Around midnight that night, some families began receiving notices that certain people were being released and could return home, either because it turned out that they were working legally or for humanitarian reasons (medical reasons or because their detention would leave children in a home without a parent.) Transportation was coordinated to get them back to Salem.  The next day an additional 15 were released, leaving a total of 80 detained now. The men are all being held near Youngstown while the women are mostly in a facility six hours away near Battle Creek, MI. (Of these 80 we have been warned that many, if not most, face deportation.)

On Wednesday, June 20, a number of local immigration attorneys, as well as paralegals and translators, were available at Centro San Pablo. People poured in as soon as word got around. A local restaurant provided lunch for 150 people that day.

On Thursday, June 21, several representatives from the union representing the employees at the company arrived in town and asked if our site could become their base of operations. They also contacted other local churches involved with the immigrant community to make them aware of the union presence.

Beginning on Friday and every day since, the union reps have been helping us coordinate the outreach efforts, both to benefit those who are still detained as well as those who are free but no longer have work and the families of all affected.  Several immigration attorneys have been offering pro bono services. We have had the benefit of a number of translators, several of whom have come from as far as Cleveland and Pittsburgh for a day. There are days when we have no attorneys at the Center because they have traveled to the detention centers to meet with detainees.

We have begun asking families to fill out Emergency Assistance Forms so we can get an idea of their needs for the next month or two. Using donations from the union as well as our parish, the local community, churches and beyond, we hope to be able to provide help with basic living expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) for a month or two to allow families time to make wise decisions about their future.

Since the raid happened two days before payday, the union has been able to collect paychecks for all employees. Even if the employee is detained, a relative is able to collect that paycheck at the Center with proper identification. The company will also pay out accrued vacation, etc. so at the moment no one is totally without money,

One of the other churches in town has taken over the task of coordinating food assistance to families besides the resources offered generously by our Salem Community Food Pantry. We have been ensuring the adequate presence of Spanish interpreters at the pantry to assist.

Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated at this time.

If you would like to assist Sister Rene in her work, please click here. 

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