More horror and outcry over threat of ICE raids in Philly
Her father’s head was cut off with a machete three years ago in Honduras, she says.
Elizabeth, who did not want to use her last name, welled with tears outside the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the 1600 block of Callowhill Street. ICE currently has an open case on Elizabeth and her three daughters. She said they fled to the U.S. from violence in Mexico, after fleeing to Mexico from violence in Honduras.
“If our countries weren’t that violent we wouldn’t choose to leave our families, to leave everything behind,” she said through a translator. “We come here for protection…In our countries there is no protection for us. There is no police protection. There is no way we can protect ourselves.”
Surrounding Elizabeth were fellow immigrants, activists and members of the clergy. They came to ICE’s Philadelphia office to drop off a letter, signed by over 275 pastors, rabbis, and nuns in the region. Their message for federal authorities is the same one that has been pounded by immigrant advocacy groups across the country for the last month: “Stop the raids.”
Since Jan. 2, over 121 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended in a string of programmed raids targeting Central American families — families like Elizabeth’s.
There have been dozens of unconfirmed reports of immigration raids in the area. But the local ICE office reportedly said that their current operations are not part of the national crackdown.
Nonetheless, those behind Tuesday’s petition to ICE remain concerned about both the big and small picture of large-scale deportations.
“ICE raids … distance Americans from the plight of the undocumented by dehumanizing them and us,” said Rev. Amy Yoder McGloughlin of Germantown Mennonite Church, one of the clerics to sign the letter. “These are hardworking folks who could be assets to the country. But all we have come to see is their legal status.”
Standing outside the ICE office, Rabbi Shawn Zevitt of the Mishkan Shalom Synagogue shared his mixed feelings: “This is a building that I was welcomed into to become a citizen of this country,” Zevitt, who immigrated from Canada, said. “It’s a place that welcomed me warmly.”
Zevitt pulled out a tattered copy of a rabbi’s manual that his grandfather had purchased when he came to the U.S. in the early 1900s, before going to Canada. Its pages are Hebrew and Yiddish speeches for rabbis to give at Jewish weddings. But there was one phrase in English that always stood out to Zevitt: the third verse of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”
“What we’re taking a stand for here is for everybody’s freedom, both American born and those who are finding haven in this country and contributing so beautifully to it,” Zevitt said.
The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, which organized the action, said it will continue to protest ICE's deportations.