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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

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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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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Allied Organizations

August 12, 2021 Julie Lustic

Heights Friends of Immigrants (HFOI)

Heights Friends of Immigrants supports migrants and refugees locally in NE Ohio.  It provides education and takes action on various initiatives in defense and support of our immigrant sisters and brothers. Meetings are held on the first Tuesday evening of each month in rotation at St. Dominic Church, Forest Hill Church Presbyterian, and St. Paschal Baylon Church.

American Making Immigrants Safe (AMIS)

amisohio.org

The mission of AMIS is to inspire hope and contribute to the well-being of immigrants and families as they seek legal status in the United States by assisting with resources for legal services, education, basic living expenses, and self-sufficiency.

HOLA Ohio

holatoday.org

HOLA Ohio is based in Painesville with a mission to improve quality-of-life opportunities and empower the Latino community through outreach, education, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and skills development.

Catholic Charities Cleveland

ccdocle.org

Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland administers over 165 individual programs spanning a wide range of services available to persons from all walks of life across the Diocese of Cleveland.

Cleveland Jobs with Justice

clevelandjwj.org

Cleveland Jobs with Justice is a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations working together to promote workers’ rights in the Cleveland area through collective action.

InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF)

irtfcleveland.org

The InterReligious Task Force on Central America brings together people from various faith and secular communities to act in solidarity with oppressed peoples in southern Mexico, Central America, and Colombia through consciousness-raising and direct consumer and political advocacy to build long-term structural change.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

acluohio.org

The ACLU of Ohio is an affiliate of the national ACLU. Founded in 1920, the national ACLU includes more than 500,000 members in all 50 states, making it our country’s foremost advocate of individual rights.

PCUSA Office of Immigration Issues   

https://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/immigration/

The Office of Immigration Issues was established by action of the 216th General Assembly (2004) in order to provide legal advice and counsel to mid-councils and congregations regarding immigration issues.  The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has continued to expand the work of the Office by directing the Office to coordinate advocacy and education efforts and create worship materials.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)

https://mcc.org/learn/what/categories/immigration

Mennonite Central Committee in the U.S. helps to educate about immigration issues, advocates for sensible humane immigration laws, works to build peace in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and provides documentation services to help immigrants navigate the complex immigration system.

The Advocacy Program of the Latin American and Caribbean (LACA) region of MCC facilities

https://www.mcclaca.org/latin-america-thecaribbean-laca-region/

MCC LACA facilitates contextual analysis, strategic planning for advocacy, organizational strengthening, and strategic connections between partners.  It supports local and national advocacy action with partners and churches in the region, and with churches and constituency in Canada and the United States to address the structural causes of poverty, violence, and injustice.

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Allied Organizations

July 16, 2021 Julie Lustic

InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF)

irtfcleveland.org

The InterReligious Task Force on Central America brings together people from various faith and secular communities to act in solidarity with oppressed peoples in southern Mexico, Central America, and Colombia through consciousness-raising and direct consumer and political advocacy to build long-term structural change.

HOLA Ohio

holatoday.org

HOLA Ohio is based in Painesville with a mission to improve quality-of-life opportunities and empower the Latino community through outreach, education, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and skills development.

American Making Immigrants Safe (AMIS)

amisohio.org

The mission of AMIS is to inspire hope and contribute to the well-being of immigrants and families as they seek legal status in the United States by assisting with resources for legal services, education, basic living expenses, and self-sufficiency.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

acluohio.org

The ACLU of Ohio is an affiliate of the national ACLU. Founded in 1920, the national ACLU includes more than 500,000 members in all 50 states, making it our country’s foremost advocate of individual rights.

Cleveland Jobs with Justice

clevelandjwj.org

Cleveland Jobs with Justice is a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations working together to promote workers’ rights in the Cleveland area through collective action.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)

https://mcc.org/learn/what/categories/immigration

Mennonite Central Committee in the U.S. helps to educate about immigration issues, advocates for sensible humane immigration laws, works to build peace in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and provides documentation services to help immigrants navigate the complex immigration system.

The Advocacy Program of the Latin American and Caribbean (LACA) region of MCC facilities

https://www.mcclaca.org/latin-america-thecaribbean-laca-region/

MCC LACA facilitates contextual analysis, strategic planning for advocacy, organizational strengthening, and strategic connections between partners.  It supports local and national advocacy action with partners and churches in the region, and with churches and constituency in Canada and the United States to address the structural causes of poverty, violence, and injustice.

Heights Friends of Immigrants (HFOI)

Heights Friends of Immigrants supports migrants and refugees locally in NE Ohio.  It provides education and takes action on various initiatives in defense and support of our immigrant sisters and brothers. Meetings are held on the first Tuesday evening of each month in rotation at St. Dominic Church, Forest Hill Church Presbyterian, and St. Paschal Baylon Church.

Catholic Charities Cleveland

ccdocle.org

Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland administers over 165 individual programs spanning a wide range of services available to persons from all walks of life across the Diocese of Cleveland.

PCUSA Office of Immigration Issues   

https://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/immigration/

The Office of Immigration Issues was established by action of the 216th General Assembly (2004) in order to provide legal advice and counsel to mid-councils and congregations regarding immigration issues.  The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has continued to expand the work of the Office by directing the Office to coordinate advocacy and education efforts and create worship materials.

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How We Became A Sanctuary Church

July 13, 2021 Julie Lustic

During the first half of 2017, members of Forest Hill engaged Session and the Trustees around welcoming refugees and supporting non-citizen immigrants who live in our communities.  A dinner was held with US Together, an organization helping refugees.  A meeting was also held with representatives from HOLA Ohio, an organization based in Painesville that helps immigrants facing deportation.  Both Session and the Trustees supported these conversations. 

After these meetings, a two-to-three-month process for the leadership of Forest Hill Church to decide to become a Sanctuary Church and possibly hosting one or more individuals who are facing deportation was proposed.  This was to be part of the August 28 Session meeting agenda.  However, Rev. Lentz received a phone call on August 5 from HOLA relating an immediate need to provide sanctuary for an individual facing deportation.  This required this process to be fast-tracked.  A special Session meeting was called for August 6.

The individual facing deportation was from the Akron area, had been in the U.S. for over 20 years, worked, and paid taxes.  She was a homeowner.  She had no criminal record.  She had four US citizen children, ranging in age from 4 to 20.  Her oldest daughter was studying at Kent State University.  Years before, she had been given an order of deportation after a fraudulent attorney submitted a poorly done application for a green card, the process to begin a path to citizenship.  She was given a stay of removal in 2011, which allowed her to stay and work in this country.  This stay has been renewed annually at her check-ins with immigration.  When she went for her 2017 annual check-in, immigration officials, without warning, put a GPS ankle monitor on her, telling her she needed to leave the country by September.  This news devastated her family and many in the community.  

At the August 6 meeting, Session reviewed what Sanctuary from a biblical, historical, and Presbyterian perspective is.  Sanctuary is an ancient practice of providing refuge in sacred spaces from secular legal action.  There are many scriptural references to provide sanctuary, including Leviticus: “The alien living among you must be treated as one of your native-born” and Matthew: “I was a stranger, and you invited me in.”  In 2016, the PC(USA) General Assembly reaffirmed support for the ministry of sanctuary and the ethical obligations of congregations to defend a family’s integrity when faced with deportation.  The General Assembly called on congregations to provide sanctuary in appropriate circumstances to express the scriptural call to love our neighbor.  

During the Session discussion, the logistics for providing suitable living space and amenities and legal issues were reviewed.  It wasn’t known if the woman threatened with deportation would be staying at the church alone or with all or some of her children.   It was noted if we were to go forward that a good communications plan was needed for the congregation and the groups using the church and the community.  The trustees reported that they had already investigated the location and cost to install a shower.  Since the church has a full kitchen in the wing where the living quarters might be located, the woman could cook for herself, provided groceries were brought to her.  It was discussed that someone would most likely need to stay with the woman at night, as we did for our Family Promise guests.  

Following the lengthy discussion, it was moved that Forest Hill church provide Sanctuary for whatever length of time was needed to work out the woman’s legal status.  The motion was seconded.

Since this was such a significant decision, Reverend Lentz asked for other references that would help us make this momentous decision. Some of those cited included: “Lord prepare me to be a Sanctuary,” “Give me your tired and your poor,” “Let the children come to me.”

After leading all in prayer, Reverend Lentz asked the Elders to vote either “Yes, I believe this is the will of God for FHC to take this action at this time” or “No, this is not part of God’s will for FHC at this time.”

The motion was unanimously approved.

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La Familia de Dios: The Kin-dom of God ~ John 11: 32-36, Ruth 1: 1-18

November 4, 2018 Peg Weissbrod

Today’s sermon begins at the 17:30 mark.

One of my favorite scenes in all of cinema comes from the animated movie Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, it takes place in the mind of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley. The main characters are Riley’s emotions. Read the rest of this entry »

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