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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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Black Caucus Book Club Will Discuss”Some of My Friends Are…” Saturday, June 18.

May 19, 2022 Elizabeth Shaw

Our final book discussion before we break for summer will take place  (via Zoom)  Saturday morning, June 18 from 10:30 to 12 noon. We will be discussing Professor Deborah Plummer’s book “Some of My Friends Are…The Daunting Challenges and Untapped Benefits of Cross-Racial Friendships“. Why do neighborhoods tend to be primarily of one race? Why do both Whites and Blacks generally only have superficial friendships with one another? This book delves into these questions.  Deborah L. Plummer, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author, university professor and speaker on topics central to racial equality, inclusion, and mutual respect. She is most passionate about creating inclusive organizations and building peaceful communities.

Send an email to BlackCaucus@FHCPresb.com to register.

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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

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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FHC Immigration Task Force meeting on Zoom

February 8, 2022 Julie Lustic

January 13, 2022

Attending: Sharon, Gary, Julie, Quentin, Anne, Jeff, Charity, Virginia, Steve You were missed: Ron

Emmanuel, Idrissa and Issoufou

Jeff summarized a discussion that attorneys Brian Hoffman and Maureen DeVito with the help of a Moiré interpreter had with Emmanuel, Idrissa, Issoufou and Jeff. The purpose of the conversation was to inform them of the status of their appeal. This is a summary of Jeff’s summary:

The immigration court system is beginning to have hearings again. A one to three judge panel will review Judge Horton’s ruling (in December 2019, denying them asylum) and examine new evidence provided by the attorneys concerning this case, particularly information about the extent of the violence in Burkina Faso. The lawyers have been gathering information on what is happening in Burkina Faso and documenting why it is unsafe for the men to return. They have a Burkina Faso expert witness that will help them support what they are saying. Briefs are currently being written and will be submitted in February. The panel could take up to a year before making a decision. The attorneys believe the most likely scenario to be a referral back to Judge Horton for a ruling based on the new information. When this occurs, The Guys could apply for work permits. However, it currently takes on average 4 to 6 months for work permits to be approved. In speaking with Emmanuel, Idrissa and Issoufou, Jeff reinforced that this would be a long (over 2 year) process. 

Jeff encourages people to come forward with additional work for these men to do, e.g. home projects. Emmanuel is also an experienced auto mechanic. Shoveling snow does not seem to have much interest due to the cold.

John Lentz is working on getting them passes at the Cleveland Heights rec center. 

The Task Force discussed the idea of the men preparing a video about life in Burkina Faso. This could be put on the FHC YouTube channel and would be a way of educating the congregation and friends of FHC about their home country while also giving them a constructive way to spend their days during winter. Action item: Task Force members are to suggest topics for this presentation. A suggestion was made to use an interview format to help move the piece along. It was advised to have this completed and shown before Lent. We will aim for late February. Jeff said he would begin work on this soon and begun by consulting with the men to see if this is something they might be interested in doing.

The Asylum Fund has a current balance of $5,447. This fund has been supplemented by three different Endowment and Justice and Mission grants.

Leonor and family

All the necessary documents have been filed to get Leonor a U-Visa. Once it is issued, she can put Jose on her documents so that he can also get a green card and be in line for citizenship. But, for now, we wait. The granting of the U-Visa is not expected until around October 2022.

According to Sharon, Leonor’s health continues to need attention. She had COVID a while ago before their wedding. Jose’s landscaping work won’t get going until Spring or early summer. Eric is doing better. The younger boys are in school. 

There is a balance of $3,443 in the Garcia Education Fund and a balance of $933 in the Sanctuary Fund. Leonor and Jose are to be asked if the Education Fund should be rolled into the Sanctuary Fund or if they want to keep it separate to cover education related expenses for the boys.

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 should be distributed electronically soon. The next task force meeting will be timed to allow for an examination of the results of the survey.

Next meeting

February 17, 7 p.m., on Zoom

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Immigration Task Force

February 2, 2022 Antoinette Richardson

The Forest Hill Church Immigration Task Force would like to hear from you! The task force seeks to welcome the stranger by 1) providing support for Emmanuel, Idrissa, and Issoufou from Burkina Faso who live in the church while awaiting asylum and 2) Educating and mobilizing the church members and friends about the conditions and need for better treatment of immigrants at our border. We are preparing new initiatives for the new year and would like to be responsive to the interests of the FHC congregation and friends. We would greatly appreciate it if you could take just three minutes to respond to a five-question survey. Please click on the link below to begin. Thank you!

Gratefully,
The FHC Immigration Task Force
(Sharon Shumaker, Gary Lustic, Julie Lustic, Ron Register, Anne Smith, Jeff Smith, Quentin Smith, Stephen Sedam, Charity Stock, Virginia Weiss)

Immigration Task Force Survey: https://fhc.breezechms.com/form/975ed8.

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Immigration Task Force (ITF) Minutes-October 17, 2021

October 26, 2021 Julie Lustic

Attending: Anne, Charity, Gary, Jeff, Julie, Quentin, Sharon, Steve, Virginia

Quentin Smith, as a representative of the FHC Black Caucus, has joined the Task Force with this being his first meeting. Welcome Q, glad you are part of the team!

Leonor and family

On October 16, 2021, Leonor and Jose were married by their home in Akron by Pastor John Lentz. Many from FHC attended the celebration. As a married couple, it will be easier for Jose to attain U.S. citizenship. When Leonor gets her U-Visa, she can then submit papers for her naturalization process. Jose can be included on the application whereby he too can become a U.S. citizen. The procedure is complicated. Letters of support are needed for Jose. The Task Force will submit such a letter.

Based upon their input, the Garcia family continues to receive financial support from the Sanctuary Fund. Jose and Leonor will discuss the use of the Sanctuary Fund and get back to us about this matter.

PCUSA request

Amanda Craft, from the PCUSA immigration office is working on an advent devotional to focus on immigration this year. They want immigration voices to be featured and reached out to Pastor Lentz who passed the request on to the Task Force. The devotional is to be about two and half pages and be based on the lectionary of the day. Jeff and Charity offered to work on this and have it ready by the due date of November 5. 

Tour of the Border

The Task Force had yet another robust discussion about creating a tour of the U.S./Mexico border as part of our efforts to educate the congregation at FHC and other interested persons about the ongoing injustices being perpetrated there and how we can respond effectively. The tour is in cooperation with the Mennonite Central Committee. Funds through the FHC Ministry of Justice and Mission have been pledged for scholarship support for those who wish to participate in a virtual border tour but have limited finances. Sharon and Steve will discuss what to do with the tour and prepare a plan to be presented at the next meeting.

Further task force meetings

The group decided to alternate between meeting in person and on Zoom. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, November 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Smith’s home.

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Columbus Dispatch Writes about Plight of Asylum Seekers

October 4, 2021 Julie Lustic

Forest Hill Church guests, Issoufou Lembane, Idrissa Kiema, and Emmanuel Sabo, are asylum seekers from Burkina Faso in West Africa. Their asylum cases were denied in January of 2020. They have been living at the church for almost two years while they await their appeals. Read more about their stories in the Columbus Dispatch at the link below.

https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/2021/09/23/asylum-seekers-receive-high-bonds-ohio-immigration-court-ohio-detainees/5788065001/

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Burkina Faso 3 Updates

August 13, 2021 Julie Lustic

Issoufou, Idrissa, and Emmanuel have found many interests to keep them busy this summer.

They have had numerous landscaping jobs with both members and friends of members of Forest Hill Church. With each new job they are gaining confidence in their use of the English language, at least in the area of gardening. They now know about weeds, roots, edging, rototilling, shoveling yards of leaf mulch and soil, turning over beds, trimming bushes and planting. They have tidied up many a garden.

They have also been working hard at learning English. With both morning and afternoon ESL lessons with our dedicated volunteers several times a week, they are able to communicate quite well.

They have also been playing pickup soccer and riding their bikes around town. Here are a few pictures of them hard at work.

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