The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
This past Friday night, our Deputy Director Rachel Laser gave a D’var Torah at the Temple in Atlanta about the story of Juan Martinez. Juan was born in Cieudad Hidalgo, Mexico, and when the factory in his hometown closed, Juan crossed the Mexican-American border without papers in search of a job and a better life. He came to a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia to live with his brother, where he has lived for the past 14 years. All that time, he has worked diligently as a painter.
In July 2012, Juan was pulled over by a Georgia police officer for allegedly failing to stop at a red light and arrested for driving without a license. Although these were his only charges, he was placed in detention and deportation proceedings began. Juan was released from detention in response to community pressure, but at his court date in July 2014 he received an order of removal. That order of removal is still active. Now more than ever, wonders whether he will be forced to leave the life he has worked hard to make for himself and his wife.
Juan, and many people like him, would be granted legal status under Senate bill 744, Congress’ best attempt at Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Yet, we have been extremely frustrated by Congress’ inability to pass this bill, and we are morally outraged by the continued deportations of hard-working people like Juan. Instead of sitting idly by, the Religious Action Center has been working for months with Rabbis Organizing Rabbis lift up our collective voices to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ask ICE to stay the removal order. We do not offer legal assistance, but we do call ICE and let them know that we think these individuals should be allowed to stay in our country.
Already, we’ve helped Yestel Velasquez, a member of the New Orleans community who helped to rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina. In May, he was caught in an immigration raid, and by August he was told he would be deported within a week. Under the direction of Rabbis Organizing Rabbis’ lead organizer, Joy Friedman, our rabbis placed almost two dozen calls into two different ICE offices, and Yestel was granted a year-long stay of his deportation. We met a similar situation with Catalino Guerrero, a Newark resident who had suffered a stroke in 2011, but who was recently ordered to self-deport. Rabbis placed numerous calls, and Catalino received a year-long stay of his order of removal. We have a similar ongoing case in Arizona with a father of two children named Luis Lopez-Acabal.
These were great successes, and so Rachel’s D’var Torah last week marked a new approach for our efforts to fight unfair deportations. Previously, we have worked with only rabbis from many different states to show a national priority for stopping unjust deportations. In Juan’s case, however, we’ve been working with members of local congregations to call on behalf of someone in their area. With these calls, we can make real differences to right injustices in people’s lives, and by harnessing the power of our congregants as well as our rabbis we can give relief to even more people who are under the threat of unfair deportation. Now, you can be a part of righting this injustice! Take action and call ICE on behalf of Luis and Juan, and ask for a stay to their order of removal.