As people of faith, we believe all human beings are made in the image of God, and every person has sacred dignity and worth, regardless of their citizenship. We believe families belong together and children belong in communities; not in cages. In our sacred scriptures, God calls us to “love the foreigner and welcome the stranger” (Lev. 19), and Jesus even said, “whoever welcomes the stranger welcomes me.” (Matt. 25)
In the summer of 2018, our church embarked on a pilgrimage to learn more about the immigration crisis facing our country. We followed the path of immigrants detained by I.C.E., and our sojourn took us from Charlotte all the way to the infamous Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. It was a life-changing experience. At Stewart, we witnessed thousands of immigrants being forced to live in cramped spaces with no beds, limited bathrooms, unsanitary food and no health care. We learned that the private company that operates the prison, CoreCivic, receives $80 a day per inmate from the federal government. These inhumane conditions shocked our consciences, and we pledged to shine a light on human rights violations at I.C.E. detention centers and testify to the truth of what is happening in our country.
When we returned from our pilgrimage, we learned about the story of a woman named Glori, who is a survivor of domestic violence and the primary caretaker for her eight-year-old granddaughter, Sherlyn. Glori came to the U.S. with Sherlyn to seek asylum from abusers in Mexico. They planned to live with Glori’s son, Eric (a U.S. citizen) in Huntersville, N.C., while pursuing their asylum case. Instead, ICE immediately separated Glori from her granddaughter and locked Glori in a private detention facility in Bakersfield, Calif. for one year and two months.
On Monday, April 1, the clergy and members of Myers Park Baptist Church partnered with Faith in Public Life and Communidad Collectiva to raise awareness about Glori’s situation. We gathered in our sanctuary and held a vigil and a press conference in support of Glori’s release. We asked the judge for a stay of deportation and miraculously, the judge said YES! In May, Glori was granted bail, and her case was moved to North Carolina. This action allowed her to be reunited with her granddaughter Sherlyn and the rest of her family. When she arrived in North Carolina, Glori traveled all the way from Huntersville, with her family, simply to say, “thank you” and offer gifts of gratitude that she had made for our congregation’s work in calling for her release.
In America today, caring for our immigrant neighbors is both an unpopular form of love and an uphill battle. The reality is that most people who are detained by I.C.E. will eventually die in custody or be deported back to the dangerous situation from which they fled. Release is rare, but there is hope. Miracles can happen, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to make an impact in the life of one family. Glori’s faith and her story prove that even the smallest acts of love toward our immigrant neighbors can have a tremendous impact on the humanitarian crisis facing our nation.
Rev. W. Benjamin Boswell is senior minister at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.