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FHC Immigration Task Force

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

  • Sharon Shumaker will provide the welcome and introduce the FHC Immigration Task Force. Sharon will provide a description of the purpose and format as well as ground rules for the Zoom presentation.
  • Emily Miller will be the moderator and introduce the speakers. 
  • The first speaker will address the root causes of individuals leaving

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

  • Marisa Limon Garza, Executive Director, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, will discuss how current policies create systems of dependency. This will include a call for constructive action. The Task Force will request Marisa provide specific information regarding these policies.

Session Two

  • Sharon will provide the welcome and ground rules for participating on Zoom
  • Emily Miller, MCC, will again be the program moderator and introduce the presenters.
  • Current Conditions at the Border will be presented by Abram Barbieri, Dulce Refugio, a shelter in Matamoros, Mexico
  • Caly Fernandez, Puentes de Cristo (Presbyterian border ministry in Hidalgo, Texas), will update on their work and provide an outline of a possible service trip there by Forest Hill Church in January or February 2023. She will provide information on what we might do and see, where to stay and where to fly, etc.
  • Sharon Shumaker will review next steps for those interested in going to Hidalgo, Texas.

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.