The Rev. Noe Carias shuffles into the cramped room, his face immediately pleasant upon seeing strangers. He’s well practiced in his pastoral craft of comforting parishioners.
But the pastor isn’t in ministerial clothes. He sits down, wearing a blue prison uniform. Carias’ name is printed on a plastic band attached to his left wrist. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer tells Carias he has 20 minutes before he needs to return to detention.
“I thank first my lord, Jesus Christ,” says the pastor, “then my wife, my children, my church. I think God is going to make a miracle to release me, set me free from this place.”
Carias, 42, is being held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, in California’s high desert, for crossing the border illegally in the 1990s.
The Guatemalan native had been trying to correct his immigration status since 2014, and ICE had granted him yearly stays. That ended this year at his most recent ICE check-in, when Carias was informed he would be arrested and deported.
“I’ve never been arrested by police,” he says. “I’m a minister. I have my American citizen wife, being married for 14 years. I have two kids. I support the economy of this country and I paying my taxes. I never commit crime in this country.”
Carias is one of the undocumented immigrants the administration of former President Barack Obama considered less of a priority, as ICE officers focused on deporting felons. Under President Donald Trump, the policy has shifted.
ICE guidelines now direct officers to “take enforcement action against all removable aliens.” ICE has reported that in the first 100 days after President Trump signed executive orders on immigration enforcement, arrests of undocumented immigrants with no other criminal convictions were up more than 50% compared to last year.
Aside from Carias, other religious leaders who have been arrested on immigration violations include a Georgia deacon and his wife, a pastor in Northern Virginia and a minister in Oceanside, California.
SOURCE: Kyung Lah