Immigration Task Force Forums 2022

December 19, 2022 Julie Lustic

In the past year, The Task Force has presented two educational forums. The first two-part forum, “Bringing the Border Home” was held on April 24th and May 1st, 2022. We heard from professor of history John Flores on the topic of “They are Here Because we are There”. This was an engaging presentation about the root causes of immigration. We also heard from immigration attorney, Brian Hoffman about current policy implications for “people on the move”. This forum also includes discussion about work at the Mexico/US border from a Presbyterian perspective and faith-based advocacy for positive change.

The second forum, “Matthew 25 Goes to the Border”, was held on November 13 and 20, 2022. We heard a presentation from Jack Lesniewski working in Guatemala with Mennonite Central Committee ( a relief and development organization of the Mennonite Church) about the reasons Guatemalans (in particular) migrate to the US. In this same forum we also heard a presentation on “Current Policies that Create Systems of Decendency”, by Marissa Lemon Garza, Executive Director of Las Americas.

In the November 20th session, Caly Fernandez, who works with Puentes de Cristo (Presbyterian organization addressing needs at the border), talked about conditions on both sides of the border and the work that Puentes de Cristo is doing to address these need/issues. This session includes and extensive and informative question and answer period with Caly.

Both of these forums were held on line to reach a broader audience. Both were intended to bring focus and attention to what is happening at our southern border as thousands of immigrants per day seek asylum in the United States. The links to all the forums are listed below. Also, visit Puentes de Cristo for more information.

Matthew 25 Goes to the Border (1 of 2)
Matthew 25 Goes to the Border (2 of 2)

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Immigration Task Force Summary of November 30th, 2022 meeting

December 19, 2022 Julie Lustic

The Immigration Task Force met on November 30, 2022 at the home of Anne and Jeff Smith.
Present: Jeff and Anne Smith, Julie and Gary Lustic, Steve Sedam, Sharon Shoemaker, Nonie Stack, Chris Henry
Excused: Virginia Weiss, Charity Stock, Cynthia Lehman, Quentin Smith

A summary of the discussion is provided below:
The Task Force welcomed Chris Henry, who has expressed interest in the work of The Immigration Task Force. The team provided her with an overview of recent Task Force activities, goals of the group.

Emmanuel decided that he did not care for the internship at Salani’s Garage, so is no longer working there. He has some of his own tools and is able to do some work on his own such as oil changes. Brian Hoffman, his attorney, is optimistic that Emmanuel may be able to get his work permit soon.

Educational Forum
Links to the two sessions of the forum will be forwarded for addition to the church website as soon as they are available. Steve indicated he would also forward the link to the information regarding the Colonias for placement on the website. Members of the team expressed disappointment regarding the quality of the sound for the first forum and acknowledged that the second session would have been better if one of the scheduled presenters had not had to cancel. On a positive note there was time for plenty of questions during the second session and those in attendance appeared to be engaged in the conversation. More importantly, despite reserving the time through the church earlier, there were communication difficulties resulting in multiple programs sponsored by the church who met at the same time. This resulted in a lower than desired attendance. The group decided that future programming would not be beneficial with the exception of an opportunity for the group to report on their experiences of the trip to the border. It was suggested we might be able to present our report as part of Lenten activities.

Mission Trip to South Border
Jeff presented a spreadsheet covering anticipated costs. Nonie spoke with the director of the Basilica Hotel, where we will be staying. He provided room options and said that as the church is tax exempt, daily room charges would not be taxable. Each room has either a double bed, 2 or 3 twin beds, with each room having its own bathroom. Based upon estimates that include air fare with checked baggage, hotel charges, the rental of 2 eight-passenger vans, gas for the vans and food costs, the estimate per person ranges from $1,195.39 to $1,512.35 per person. Charges were based upon an arrival date of 2/12/23 and return on 2/18/23. Originally the arrival date had been planned as 2/13/23 but given the significant scheduling proposed by Caly Hernandez, it may be better to arrive on 2/12/23 (Sunday) and then be ready to go the next day. Jeff left a voice message for Caly to clarify a preferred arrival date. Air fare is based off of current charges for an Economy flight on American Airlines with departure of 7 AM on 2/12/23. The flight has one stop in Dallas. We will need to clarify with the airlines whether they will set aside a certain number of seats for our group, or how it will need to be handled.

Based upon a response to Sharon’s e-mail, there are 11 to 12 people who have
expressed interest in going on the trip. This would leave 3 to 4 available spots for
anyone else who is interested in going, as the maximum number who can attend is 15. There is money available through Justice and Mission, approximately $3500.00. The group discussed offering scholarships to those who might want to go but need financial assistance, but also allow for us to donate money to the various agencies working on the border who we will be visiting. In the past when scholarships were offered, funds ended up not being used for this purpose. Another possibility is to use a portion of the funds to cover the bus rental, which would reduce the average cost per person by approximately $200.00.

Jeff suggested that we discuss appropriate donations with Caly. Caly had mentioned
the possibility of the team bringing t-shirts to be distributed to those arriving at the
border and we will clarify what she is interested in us providing.

The Task Force decided to sponsor an informational meeting on Sunday Dec. 11, 2022, after church in South Hall with a start time of 12:15 PM. Anne Smith will reserve the room and have an e-mail sent out to the congregation notifying them of the meeting. The next meeting of the ITF will be 6 PM on Wed. 12/14/22 at the church with the goal of finalizing plans for the trip.

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Immigration Task Force

December 19, 2022 Julie Lustic

Summary of December 14, 2022 meeting

Present: Jeff and Anne Smith, Julie and Gary Lustic, Steve Sedam, Sharon Shoemaker,
Nonie Stack, Chris Henry, Quentin Smith
Excused: Virginia Weiss, Charity Stock, Cynthia Lehman
A summary of the discussion is provided below:

Posting of Recorded ITF Forums
Julie reported she spoke with Kurt Haas who advised her the length of the recorded ITF
forums would take up too much space on the website. The group discussed options,
with no final decisions made. There will be a revamping of the FHC website.

Upcoming Trip to the Border
Jeff reported on the meeting with congregational members who were interested in going
to the trip to the Border. At this time there are 13 who have committed to going to the
Border, which leaves 2 potential openings. Quentin suggested that an e-mail be sent to
4 individuals who had expressed an interest in going but have not yet committed, to let
them know that there are 2 openings so that it will be on first come, first served basis. In
addition, the 13 who have committed to going will need to provide room preferences for
the hotel.

Mark and Carol Wedell have offered their home so that the group can view the
documentary, “Missing in Brooks County”. Steve suggested we arrange a time to speak
with Anna Hinajosa who can discuss with us issues of white privilege as it pertains to
the immigration issue. Jeff will check with the Wedells to see if they are available on
January 12 or 13 with a proposed time of 6 PM. Steve will check with Anna regarding
her availability for a zoom meeting with those planning to attend the Border Trip.
We have approximately $3500.00 from Justice and Mission to spend on supplies,
donations to the various organizations we visit. We can also subsidize costs for those
who will need the assistance. We will determine who might need financial assistance. A
possibility remains to use some of the monies to lower overall costs for each person

Jeff will check with those who are committed to going to see if they are amenable to a 7
AM departure, as proposed, or if they would rather leave at a later time. Depending
upon the time of departure, it may impact the cost.

Concerns about Emergency Care in Lake County
Sharon discussed a situation in which a co-worker had taken someone who is Latino to an
Emergency Room in Lake County. The waiting time was excessive and the person who was ill
eventually left. She later died. Another person waited a long time and was later admitted with
symptoms of a stroke. Someone reported that they were told that because they were Latino it
was assumed they were using the ER as an urgent care center and so were triaged as low on the
list to be seen. The group discussed various options as how to approach the hospital to discuss
our concerns regarding what appears to be an inequitable treatment of Latino patients in the
ER. The group discussed the potential of obtaining statistics regarding Latino patients in the ER
and whether they experienced a delay in treatment well beyond the average non-Latino
patient. Quentin suggested that we talk to Hola regarding their experiences and for feedback,
with a potential to have a meeting with the Director of the ER. Sharon will get additional
information to verify that the reported incidents are occurring at the same hospital.

The next meeting will be scheduled dependent upon input from those going to the Border and
information/recommendations from Caly.

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Immigration Task Force

December 3, 2022 Julie Lustic

The Immigration Task Force of Forest Hill Church presented a 2-part program, “Matthew 25 Goes to the Border”, on Sunday November 11 and 20, 2022. It was a journey of education and action in support of immigrants seeking a better life. The series addressed the current situation at the Texas/Mexico border. One of the topics was about colonias, substandard housing developments along the border in the United States, where residents lack the basic services such as drinking water, sewage treatment, and paved roads. To find out more about colonias, watch the following video for information on the Texas A&M Colonias Program.


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From the Ministry of Adult Spiritual Growth:

November 28, 2022 Antoinette Richardson

Advent is a time of waiting, anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ in a physical body just like ours. Christians everywhere and throughout time have used Advent to reflect, to deepen their experience of God coming to us in the flesh.

For Advent this year, the members of the Ministry of Adult Spiritual Growth have decided to try something different. In the past, we have offered special Sunday morning Advent classes as a way for people could enhance their spiritual growth. However, many people find attending Sunday morning classes difficult or not appealing. We know that such classes reach only a small portion of our worshiping community.

At our most recent meeting, we considered ways to reach out to the entire church community during Advent. We decided to have an Advent Email each week on Monday morning, with a reflection about the theme of the week and its application to everyday life. We know that our fellow church member, Jean Reinhold, has written wonderfully poetic Advent reflections. So we asked, and Jean has generously agreed that we can use her writings for our Advent emails this year.

Each week during Advent, you will receive an emailed reflection by Jean on the theme of the week from the Ministry of Adult Spiritual Growth. You will find the first Advent email, on the theme of Hope, on the next page. We hope that you will read and re-read this reflection throughout the week as a way of deepening your experience of this time of waiting.

from Ann Williams and the entire Ministry of Adult Spiritual Growth

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FHC Immigration Task Force

October 10, 2022 Julie Lustic

Summary of September 1, 2022 meeting

The Task Force met in the FHC Library. 

Present: Gary and Julie Lustic, Steve Sedam, Sharon Shumaker, Anne and Jeff Smith, Quentin Smith, Nonie Stack

Excused: Cynthia Lehman, Virginia Weiss and Charity Stock

A summary of the Task Force discussion is provided below.

Emmanuel, Idrissa and Issoufou

Emmanuel is continuing to work part-time at a garage in the West Side. He is using public transportation to get there. A plan for possible purchase of an electric bicycle for Emmanuel has been tabled for now. Jeff is checking to see if there are any garages in the East Side that will give him a job. He is able to do basic mechanical tasks. Supplemental income has been requested from Justice and Mission, and we could possibly use some of this money to purchase some tools for him. Emmanuel is back in school. He recently visited a fire station in Cleveland Heights. His goal is to eventually become a fire fighter, but he will need to obtain is GED in order to apply. He is very motivated to meet his goal.

Idrissa and Issoufou are doing well in Montreal. They both have places to live and have obtained their Canadian work permits. They have full time positions at an Amazon facility in Canada. Jeff continues to be in communication with both of them.

Leonor and Family

Sharon spoke with Leonor who still would like to go to Mexico to see her ill mother. Anne Hill suggested we follow up with Deb Kline. Deb Kline indicated Shontel Brown’s office is interested in the case and desires to be more involved in immigration issues.

Margaret is interested in becoming an obstetrical ultrasound technician and has resumed her studies. Margaret received $500.00 from the Education Fund a few months ago. An individual outside of Forest Hill Church has continued to make regular contributions to that fund. The boys are back in school.

Jose’s work status is unknown. Because he and Leonor are now married, his status is OK for now and he is not in violation. Elizabeth has added Jose as part of the process for obtaining Leonor’s U-Visa.

Educational Program Update

Steve has been in contact with Ann Williams regarding dates. We need to schedule at a time that does not interfere with planned programming for Greater Cleveland Congregations. November 13 and 20, 2022 are available for Adult Education and this works for Emily Miller. The program will be presented in a 2 session format due to the extensive amount of information to be presented. There will be 2 speakers for each session. It will be a Zoom presentation as speakers are from Mexico and Texas. Emily has indicated this will work for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Session One

Central America. The presenter is Jack Lesniewski, MCC, Co-Country Director for Guatemala and El Salvador.

Session Two

Sharon noted that plans will need to be finalized soon, as Emily will be leaving her current position with MCC in February 2023.

A possibility of opening the trip up to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was discussed, as they have a new pastor who has reached out to Sharon and expressed an interest in immigration issues. Presbytery could potentially be invited. It was determined that the trip first be open to FHC members, then possibly others in the Presbytery. 

Airfare will be expensive, approximately $500.00 per round trip plus accommodations, local transportation and food. Julie suggested we put out a notice in The Tower that a plan is under consideration for a trip to the border in January or February and recommend interested parties plan to attend the Zoom meetings in November. Jeff and Nonie will assist Steve in putting together a plan.

Quentin commented that the forced dependency that immigrants are experiencing is due to an inhumane system and as a result immigrants are made to feel that their status is their responsibility, adding to a feeling of helplessness. This perspective will be reviewed with Emily.

Due to the need to finalize plans for the Educational Forum and potential trip to Mexico, the next meeting of the Immigration Task Force will be September 29 at 7:30 PM. We will meet in the FHC Library.

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Minutes of May 17, 2022 FHC Immigration Task Force Meeting

May 25, 2022 Julie Lustic

Attending: Gary and Julie Lustic, Steve Sedam, Sharon Shumaker, Quentin Smith, Nonie Stack, Virginia Weiss

Anne and Jeff Smith were unable to attend this evening. To help keep the task force informed, Jeff sent a couple of emails in advance of the meeting. They are summarized here:

The church continues to receive monthly donations of $100 from a person who lives in Twinsburg. She has faithfully been donating to the Sanctuary Fund in support of Leonor for a few years. Another person donated $500 to the Sanctuary Fund at the end of March. With funds available, Jeff is able to send Leonor Garcia financial support monthly. He believes the balance in the Sanctuary Fund remains at $1,209.

Emmanuel has been working a fair amount so he has money for his personal living expenses. Jeff asked for ideas on how Emmanuel’s iPhone can be inexpensively upgraded to at least an iPhone 7, either through a purchase or donation. 

The task force met on Zoom for an hour. Here is a summary of their deliberations.

The Task Force supports the purchase or donation of a new iPhone for Emmanuel. 

Sharon spoke to Leonor Garcia recently. Things seem to be going well in general. The application for Jose is proceeding. Eric is graduating from high school soon. Leonor wants to do another party like what was done for her wedding last fall but have this party be for Eric and Aidan; Eric in honor of his high school graduation and in celebration of Aidan’s birthday this summer. Details forthcoming.

Task Force members were asked for their evaluation of Bringing the Border Home. Their reaction was uniformly positive. Steve and Sharon presented a list of possible follow-up activities for the task force to consider as follow-up to Bringing the Border Home. There was consensus for:

Task Force will discuss in more depth later:

The next meeting of the Immigration Task Force is July 23 at 7 p.m.

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Minutes of April 19, 2022 FHC Immigration Task Force Meeting

May 25, 2022 Julie Lustic

The presentation Anne Smith and Sharon Shumaker made at a recent Inter-Religious Task Force on Central America conference went well. They received a $100 donation for their time. These funds were deposited in the FHC Sanctuary Fund. 

The government of Canada is giving Idrissa and Issoufou $700/month until they receive work permits which should take only three months. In texts to Jeff Smith, Idrissa expressed considerable gratitude for the support he received while living at the church. We all miss them but are relieved to know they are well.

Everyone was pleased to see Leonor Garcia and her three boys at church on Easter. They all appeared to be doing well. Jose was working that morning and could not attend.

Sharon submitted an application for an Endowment grant for $5,000 total to assist Leonor with obtaining her work permit and with including Jose on her UVisa application. Jeff will inform Justice and Mission of the $750 of the previously approved Endowment grant (scholarships for a virtual tour) coming back to the Endowment as it is not being used.

An online educational forum, Bringing the Border Home, hosted by the ITF will take place on Sunday, April 24 and Sunday, May 1 from 9:30 – 10:30 on Zoom. Emily Miller with the Mennonite Central Committee has been exceptionally helpful.

Jeff will speak to the 4-person new members class (two young families) about the work of the task force.

The balance of the Education Fund for use by the Garcia/Bernal family is $3,238. The Asylum Fund (to support Emmanuel, Idrissa, and Issoufou) and the Sanctuary Fund (to support the Garcia/Bernal family) each have around $1,000 left.

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Bringing the Border Home

April 21, 2022 Antoinette Richardson

Sunday, April 24 & Sunday, May 1, 2022; 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” — Matthew 25:35

The Immigration Task Force of Forest Hill Church Presbyterian invites you to attend “Bringing the Border Home,” a two-part online (Zoom) journey of education and action in support of immigrants seeking a better life. Learn about the current state of the immigration crisis and what you can do to help alleviate their suffering.

You will learn about:
Immigration History: “They are here because we are there”
Immigration beyond the US Mexico Border. government policy implications for people on the move
Border work from a Presbyterian perspective
Faith-Based Advocacy for positive change
As part of adult education at FHC, there is no charge for “Bringing the Border Home”. To register, click on this link fhc.breezechms.com/form/a8709f1462 and follow the prompts. Once you are registered, you will be sent the Zoom link to participate in the event and other information.

For more information, contact Sharon Shumaker at itf@fhcpresb.org.

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ITF Minutes from 2/22/2022

March 8, 2022 Julie Lustic

Attending: Sharon Shumaker, Gary Lustic, Julie Lustic, Anne Smith, Jeff Smith, Charity Stock, Virginia Weiss, Steve Sedam

Welcomed: Cynthia Lehman

You were missed: Quentin Smith, Ron Register

Cynthia was welcomed to the meeting. She wanted to be with us this evening as she is worried about the men from Burkina Faso.

Emmanuel, Idrissa, and Issoufou

No new updates on the whereabouts and condition of Idrissa and Issoufou. They were last tracked by phone a week ago today. Jeff will consult with immigration attorney Brian Hoffman about the responsibilities and risks for the church and its ability to house others who are out on bond in the future. Emmanuel seems to have adjusted well to living by himself. He goes to the Cleveland Heights Rec Center nearly every day and is continuing with his ESL studies. He wants to continue doing work and helping at the Pantry.

Leonor and family

Leonor called Sharon a couple of weeks ago. She sounded good. Jose can be in the U.S. but does not yet have a work permit, so he is not shoveling snow this winter. Leonor’s work permit needs to be renewed. Elizabeth Ford will do the filing, but it costs about $2,000. Elizabeth has done a lot of pro bono for them. The Task Force will determine how best to be of assistance to them in handling this important expense. 

With the next monthly payment to the family, the Sanctuary Fund will be depleted. This fund, established through the generosity of the broad FHC family has helped to sustain Leonor and her family for several years.

Eric and Margaret are interested in being real estate agents. Perhaps the Education Fund can assist in covering costs needed for them to become licensed real estate agents.

Survey results and U.S./Mexico Border tour

Steve gave an update on the survey of FHC members and friends to assess interest in the work of the task force and of a border tour in particular. The survey results appear below. There is greatest interest in a two or three hour Zoom educational program. Day of the week to be determined. With Task Force members interested (8 people) plus the 6 people from the task force, a good-sized group (14) can be assembled for a virtual tour. We are looking to do this in April. Considering 3 hours for one evening at $30/person. Will use the grant from the Endowment to pay for those who need financial assistance.


IRTF wants the task force to present a one-hour program on Saturday, March 5 at the IRTF office, 11:30 a.m. to a group of OSU students who are examining immigration issues. Sharon, Anne, and Cynthia will put something together possibly also involving Zongo, Emmanuel and/or Jonas.

New Task Force member

Noni Stack was enthusiastically and unanimously approved to be a new task force member. Welcome Noni!

Next meeting

March 30, 7 p.m. at the Smith’s

Results of ITF survey of FHC members and friends

14 responses: 5 task force members, 9 FHC members

Responses from the 9 non-task force members

  1. Federal legislation and policy, 8
  2. Separation of children from their families, 7
  3. Life in detention centers, 6
  4. Quality of life at the border, 5
  5. Root causes, 4
  6. The migration experience, the journey, 3
  7. Other, 1
    1. Through a Zoom educational program, 7
    2. Articles in the TOWER newsletter, 5
    3. The weekly church e-news, 4
    4. The FHC website, 2
    5. Other, 1
  1. Single day Zoom educational program, 6
  2. Multi-day Zoom educational program, 4
  3. In-person border, 1 (plus one maybe)
  1. No, 8
  2. Yes, 1 (Anona Stack)
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