Pastor asks federal court to sanction immigration officials

WASHINGTON (RNS) – The historic New York pastor is seeking a federal court to prosecute undocumented workers, saying they provided “false or misleading information” in response to the lawsuit. he pretends. act as it helps asylum seekers.

“They always lie or hide information,” Pastor Kaji Douša, minister of the United Church of Christ and pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan, told News Religion News in an interview.

Douša, a former immigration rights activist, previously served as New York-based New Testament leader. As part of his mission in January 2019, he embarked on a 40-day, “holy pilgrimage” pilgrimage to Tijuana, Mexico, near the U.S. border, where Central American asylum seekers gathered. When Douša crossed the border, Douša was locked up, and the flight attendants asked for more than an hour.

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A few months ago, NBC published a series of leaks alleging that the federal government had discarded the personal data of activists, journalists, lawyers and more than 50 companies used by various companies, including the commission. Customs and Border Protection of the United States, and the United States Anti-Corruption Agency.

Douša’s name and picture appear with a yellow “X” on his face in the database, above indicating that his SENTRI license has been revoked, which allows speed monitoring in the border area.

In July 2019, he filed a lawsuit against U.S. government officials alleging that he was placed on a business listing and scrutinized for violating his right to freedom and his first religious reform to carry out his duties, which he including immigrant weddings at the border.

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A new request from his legal team, filed on December 8, points to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, which describes how a U.S. customs officer and ma ‘ The Border Patrol sent an email to Mexican city officials in February 2018, asking them to suspend at least 14 US. citizens from entering the country, stating that they “need (ed) the necessary documents to stay in Mexico.”

Documents found in the legal system of his appeal to the government indicate that Douša is on the list.

However, when interviewed by a CBP employee for an internal report, the employee said “there is no knowledge whether they did or did not write.”

The letter described the email as “an unexpected and inaccurate communication by the foreign government to take action against the above-mentioned Americans, including Pastor Dousa, on false charges.”

“My government that allowed me to survive in Mexico has not been heard,” Douša said.

The letter also accused the government of lying or undermining its right to refuse or suspend the status of a “safe traveler”. Douša’s lawyers are now returning unsolicited emails through the implementation of a month ago, including one by a member of the U.S. Customs and Excise Department who works with the Travel Travel Trust announcing that “today I have stopped your world. ”

Customs and Border Protection officials declined to comment, citing an undisclosed policy of proximity.

More than 850 religious leaders have signed a letter announcing their support for the Douša case in 2019, along with directors from the World Council of Religions, Yale Divinity School, Muslim Community and the Jewish Center for Justice and Trade .

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Douša’s lawyers also opened documents, saying the staff was taking care of her because they suspected her marriage to immigrants was a fraudulent marriage.

Douša replied that “there is no representation of the legal effect that our religious ceremonies will have on any asylum seeker.” He also noticed a helpful book that instructed the priests to “let the people know that it was a religious ceremony and a certificate.”

Douša focuses on religious marriage, violating his religious freedom.

He says: “Marriage is a milestone in the history of the church.

Douša said the case had damaged her “public identity” and now feared that her service to immigrants at the US-Mexico border was not always a safe bet.

He said: “God has called me to this work, so I will continue. “But it is a great shame that I have done what my government has put my life in danger.”

(RNS) – In the working years to establish the priesthood, Revs. Brian Strassburger and Louie Hotop know the hard work. Hotop learned English in a boarding school in Siberia and served as a homeless man in San Francisco, while Strassburger was a youth in a Nicaragua village and served as a priest in Boston.

Now, after Strassburger and Hotop were selected in July, the two are working together, after being sent to the Brownsville Diocese in Texas to serve in the Rio Grande Valley near the US-Mexico border.

Without the Jesuit people there, they rented a house and got a job. They run mosques with immigrants on both sides of the border – at a charity center in McAllen, Texas, and a refugee camp at an outdoor airport in Reynosa, a city in the northern Mexican city of Tamaulipas – and help . they have no snack of pork and cheese and a service line of people looking for milk and diapers for their children.

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It was an eye-opener to witness the high number of immigrant women and children on the border, Strassburger said – contrary to what he was referring to as the idea of ​​young men “seeking to steal American jobs” – and seeing how immigrants are doing. find each other by working and providing security at the Reynosa camp. Strassburger and Hotop also fell short of establishing faith at the border.

Panoramic view of the Rev. Louie Hotop holds a meeting at the refugee camp in Reynosa, Mexico. Photo courtesy
Panoramic view of the Rev. Louie Hotop holds a meeting at the refugee camp in Reynosa, Mexico. Photo courtesy

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These events led Strassburger and Hotop to launch a podcast to record the stories of strangers, activists and groups they encountered on both sides of the southern border. It is called the “Podcast Border Jesuit” and is far from complete with two parts: The first interview with Bishop Daniel Flores, who heads the Diocese of Brownsville; part two Nancy Dimas with Project Honor Legal Team, minister of Catholic Charities RGV. The purpose of the podcast is to explore the potential through the lens of Catholic sociology. The first case went live in November. 16.

“The important thing, for us, is not to illuminate us or what we are doing or the great things the Jesuits are doing, but to enlighten the people who are here … working on the border as far as Immigrants themselves deserve the news, ”said Hotop, 31, who made the radio while studying science at St. Mary’s University.

Pastor Brian A. Strassburger poses for a photo at a park in McAllen, Texas. Photo courtesy
Rev. Brian Strassburger poses for a photo at a charity in McAllen, Texas. Photo courtesy

Strassburger, 37, said he hoped, through this project, immigrants could be told “there are Americans who care about their rights.”

Strassburger, who worked as editor-in-chief of The Jesuit Post said: “I do not want them to feel lost or abandoned or neglected.”

In their first sermon, “Life and Dignity,” the priests recounted what had happened at Reynosa’s camp. Unbeknownst to them, they arrived at the camp, unloaded their car with cleaning supplies and other supplies, and made their way into the crowd. They think, “The best way is to get it.”

Soon, Hotop and Strassburger, with the first aid of Doctor Without Borders volunteers, began to understand the camp’s plans. They learned that they were being monitored by immigrants, giving priority to immigrants. This is a source of encouragement to the priests.

“Those who live shoulder to shoulder in wrestling in the most difficult situations choose to stand up and help themselves,” Hotop said.

Meanwhile, Hotop and Strassburger spend half of their time visiting selected churches in and around Brownsville. They organize youth groups and celebrate Mass, weddings and baptisms. The other half have no intention of responding to the migration situation. Priests divide their time between a camp in McAllen – which is run by Catholic charities – and a refugee camp in Reynosa, on the border from McAllen, where it was decided that thousands would live.

Refugee camps have grown near the Mexican border due to policies that either force asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while waiting for a response from the US government or deny them access to shelter. associated with the disease.

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Rev. Louie Hotop provides resources at a refugee camp in Reynosa, Mexico. Photo courtesy
Rev. Louie Hotop provides resources at a refugee camp in Reynosa, Mexico. Photo courtesy

Strassburger and Hotop celebrated their morning Mass at a camp in Reynosa and presented gifts in what they called “four churches,” or four meals, for guests working in every corner of the field. They then crossed the border to visit immigrants passing by McAllen vacation center, celebrated Mass there and then returned to Brownsville.

Although this is what they are doing now, the priests realize that their ministry may be very different in the coming months.

“We were really sent here to look at the situation, to observe the situation and to respond. We are now empowered to adapt to the changing situation and change,” Hotop said.

Hotop knew that he had been given a special privilege by Strassburger, who said that it was “not something that most Catholic priests get, especially in the early years of the priesthood.” He noted that in some cases, young priests were sent to the congregations or to preach, but “it was very busy.”

The Power of the Podcast of the Jesuit Limits. Photo courtesy
“Jesuit Border Crossing” courtesy photo

“We were sent together to think of the best solution to address the issue,” Hotop said.

To Hotop, their founder, who sent them to follow isolated communities around the world, taught them how to comfort people in a volatile environment.

“We can not say, ‘Well, everything will be fine soon. The law will change here soon, because that is not true. We do not know that and it seems impossible. You have to be willing to sit down with people who are worried about uncertainty, ”Hotop said.