What it means to “Document and Accompany”
Our congregation is a partner church in the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition (MDSC). The Coalition is primary know for providing Sanctuary for immigrants who are facing deportation, and our church contributes in kind and financially to the support of Sanctuary. Another aspect of MDSC is Documenting and Accompanying. “Documenting” is simply recording the immigrant’s story and placing it in CIRC’s (Colorado Immigrant Reform Coalition) data base for understanding and monitoring potential unlawful tactics used by ICE. After the documenting comes “accompanying,” or walking in partnership with the immigrant while helping them become aware of resources (such as legal services) that will keep protect them from being separated from their families and friends.
by Dan Moen, January 2017
Recently, as part of the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, I was asked to accompany Isidro Quintana. Isidro (46) has been in this country for over 40 years lives in Aurora with his wife and three older children. Last October, he was returning with his family from a vacation/church mission trip Costa Rica when he was detained in Fort Lauderdale when Customs noted that he had criminal conviction over 20 years ago on his record. They released him to return to Denver and asked that he meet with Customs (at Denver International Airport) in early January 2017.
During the month of December, I met with Isidro to document his case. I also accompanied or “walk with him and his family”, met with attorneys, wrote letters, and helped his family prepare for the possible loss of their father, husband and sole provider. In January Customs would decide to either put him detention (without possibility of bond) immediately or let him stay in the community while his case proceeds.
On January 5th, a bitterly cold, snowy day, I went to DIA. There were about 20 of us who met Isidro and his family prior to his checking into Customs. Isidro was dressed nicely in a new suit. He was obviously nervous and concerned about the meeting like everyone else. We all gathered in a group to meet each other. Isidro took time to hug and thank us for coming. Bryant, his son (26) from a previous marriage brought his wife and two children. Isidro and Bryant hugged and sobbed quietly with one another. Erica, Isidro’s wife stayed close to her husband. She reminded him of how he should respond to Customs questions. Does he have his attorney’s phone number? Searching his wallet he found his attorney’s card. But he wasn’t sure he would be allowed to keep his wallet so he wrote the number on his hand.
Gathered around him, we all repeated encouragement and advice. “Say nothing about the criminal offense; refer them to your attorney,” I said — something he had already heard at least 20 times this morning from various people. I thought, what can you say that matters at this point? Hug him and his family, and pray? His youngest daughter and son said very little; they just watch their Dad. Finally, the time was close for him to meet the Customs Officer. I asked his pastor Joel (7th Day Adventist) to lead us all in prayer. We all gathered friends, family, news media arms in arms and asked that this man be allowed stay with his family. The time was here. Isidro turned with his wife and left to meet with the Customs Official. We watched them leave quietly.
About ten minutes later, Isidro and Erica return with half smiles. We gather around again and they tell us the Customs Official he was supposed to meet with was out today; maybe because of weather? They rescheduled his appointment for early February. Everyone was noticeably relieved… more hugs. There was speculation from a number of us as to what this might mean for his case. No one really knows. We have to return next month to find out. In the meantime Isidro will be with his family for at least another month. He and his family will have another month of waiting to find out his future.