UMC lay leader detained by immigration
On the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 7, Humberto Barralaga, evangelism leader at Prayer House United Methodist Church in Dodge, Kansas, was detained by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inside his home and taken to a local detention center.
According to Pastor Raciel Quintana, "two officials, who were not wearing the jackets that identify them as ICE, arrived at the Barralaga family home very early in the morning and knocked on the door. Because of the cold, he invited them in and once inside, they called other officials who were outside the house waiting to arrested Pablo, taking him out in handcuffs and half dressed."
Barralaga was transferred to the Chase County jail.
"The family is receiving advice from a lawyer, who was able to find out that Pablo does not have a deportation order, so they are seeking bail so he can be released, but everything will depend on the judge," explained Pastor Quintana.
"As the family’s pastor, we have been accompanying them together with the congregation, who has been visiting them, creating prayer chains and fasting, and arrangements are being made through the United Methodist Center of Mexican-American Ministries in our area so the family can receive migrant counseling during this situation," added Quintana.
Because his son is an American citizen and his wife, Emilia Barralaga, is a resident, Huberto was waiting for his son to turn 21 in the coming months to begin the application process for the family reunification policy, which allows undocumented people to recieve legal immigration status in the country.
Like thousands of families throughout the country, the Barralaga are faced with the dilemma of a severed family, anxiety and uncertainty of what will happen to Humberto.
"This is a tragedy that is affecting our communities and our churches,” says Pastor Quintana. “Our congregation has been deeply affected, but we have faith and we are putting the situation in the hands of God.”
The fears unleashed among the immigrant community following announcements of the executive actions of the new U.S. government, which will intensify raids and deportations, are having a negative impact, especially among Hispanic/Latino churches of all denominations, as reported by various media outlets.
"Churches are affected because these situations break the unity of families, bonds of faith and the unity of the church itself,” said Pastor Quintana. “Our brother is a fundamental leader of our evangelism project and now this could be seriously affected."
"We in the church are preparing detailed information of families that may be at risk of deportation so we can give legal protection to the children, in case the parents are detained and deported," said Pastor Quintana.
Because of this situation there is a a growing number of United Methodist Churches and other denominations declaring themselves as sanctuaries to protect immigrants facing the deportation processes and all the inconveniences that result from severing a family.
Pastor Quintana has now experienced this reality first hand. "I am Cuban and in my pastoral experience in this country, I have seen the injustices that are committed against Latino communities from other countries that do not have the same status that we Cuban immigrants have,” said Pastor Quintana. “As a Christian I think we should all have the same treatment and opportunities that this land offers, for those who come to work, do good and practice their faith honestly. ‘Injustice’ has a sister called ‘privilege’ and an enemy called ‘God’s justice’, that’s the one that really counts."
"In the church we must weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh, we must become part of the family, immerse ourselves in their struggles and tragedies, and make our solidarity visible,” said Pastor Quintana. “We need to have a stronger voice as Christians in political decision-making spaces because these unjust laws, like migratory laws, fracture the relationship between the state and the churches."
“I notified my district superintendent, Rev. Don Hasty, the Coordinator of Hispanic Ministries for the conference Corey Godbey, and Bishop Rubén Saenz Jr of Huberto Barralaga situation," adds Pastor Quintana.
* Rev. Gustavo Vasquez is the Director of Hispanic/Latino Communications at UMCOM. You can reach us at (615)742-5111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.