The new year: fear and joy   


This morning I was part of a meeting that included Edith Espinal, her attorneys, and several key advocates.  This coming Monday is an important day for her.  She has a check in with ICE in which there will be one of three outcomes: 1) Her stay of removal will be accepted and she’ll be told the amount of time she can stay in the US, up to one year. 2) Her stay of removal will be rejected, she’ll be released, and given a date in the next three weeks when she’ll need to appear before ICE with a plane ticket back to Mexico that she has purchased.  3) Her stay of removal will be rejected and she’ll be detained on the spot, held in one of the cells in the ICE office on the third floor of the Leveque Tower downtown.  There are some slight variances within each of these options, and it’s difficult to know which is the most likely.

While we were meeting, the attorneys got a call from an ICE officer relaying that Edith’s case was being decided soon in the Detroit offices and that Edith was to bring an itinerary on Monday.  This made it seem like the chances of her being detained are lowered, but so too are the chances for a stay.  An itinerary isn’t a plane ticket, but a plan of when you’ll get one.  Edith is currently scheduled to meet with the third party contractor, the GEO Group Company, that often works on ICE’s behalf, meaning her attorneys would not be able to be in the room with her.

One of the main considerations Edith is dealing with right now is fear for her son Brandow and husband Manuel.  Neither of them have a secure status and are in danger of future deportation.  ICE officers have unfortunately been holding that over Edith and she is fearful that if she does not play by the rules, for example, re-enters sanctuary in our church, that ICE would target her son and husband for an expedited deportation process.  It’s another case of not knowing what the true risks are for decisions she’ll soon be making.

Her advocates are going to work for her today with a few strategies to lobby on her behalf.  We as a congregation continue to hold space for her.  Next Wednesday we’ll also be hosting in our fellowship hall an open conversation with clergy and lay leaders of other Central Ohio faith communities considering the next steps of sanctuary in their own congregations.

When I arrived back at the church I pulled in to a full parking lot.  The Little Minyan Kehila, a Jewish congregation that uses our building for their high holy days, is in our building all day for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.  I slipped in to the back of the sanctuary as a guest in our home, soaking in the words of song of their worship.  Their leader Jessica Shimberg was speaking about joy, and the Divine accompanying us through life.  She invited them to turn in their worship books to Psalm 150, a Psalm of praise.  Soon a guitar led them into a song full of Hallelujahs.

It did not in the least bit feel in tension with what I had just been a part of at the attorney’s office.  It was an entirely appropriate, indeed necessary, indeed imperative response to the sorrows and gifts of living.  It was an affirmation of Divine and human accompaniment, sung in a sanctuary where even I, a Gentile outsider, was welcomed with warmth.


This morning’s Dispatch included an article titled “More religious groups considering offering sanctuary from deportation.