Nicol is a 16-year-old girl from Denver who is trapped inside the United States' broken immigration system. With no means to afford legal representation, she will be one of 50 minors on April 10 to face an immigration judge, who will determine whether she will be deported back to her homeland and separated from her family. The Rev. Anne Dunlap, one of Nicol's supporters, will attend the hearing to help her family fight her deportation and stand in support of these unrepresented youth.
"We will be standing in solidarity with Nicol and 50 other youth and children at risk of being torn from their families, who have no legal representation in immigration court," said Dunlap, co-Pastor of Chadash Community UCC in Aurora, Colo. "We will stand with them to say 'Not One More' family torn apart, and to imagine a different world together."
Nicol's hearing comes in the midst of the National Week of Action to End Deportations, which began April 5 with more than 80 immigrant rights events throughout the U.S. calling for "Not One More Deportation." Dunlap and other advocates, including UCC pastors the Rev. Nancy Rosas, minister for spiritual formation at Wash Park UCC in Denver, and the Rev. Wayne Laws, minister of social justice and mission at Mountain View United Church UCC in Aurora, will meet in front of the U.S. Federal District Courthouse in Denver for a vigil prior to the proceedings. From there, a small group will join Nicol and her family inside the court.
Nicol has asked her supporters to join her in imagining how the world would be different if children didn't have to worry about being deported and if the U.S. immigration system respected families and children, Dunlap said, adding that attendees have been asked to come prepared to sing "Imagine" by John Lennon.
"It is unconscionable to me that our immigration system would put anyone through such a proceeding, much less a 16-year-old with no legal representation," said Dunlap. "It is important that people understand that, unlike criminal courts where the government is required to provide someone legal representation, this is not the case for immigration proceedings. A person in immigration proceedings only has representation if they can afford it.
"Deportations are a deep violation of human dignity and the right for a family to be together, and exemplify the profound injustice inherent in our immigration system," Dunlap added. "The impact on families being torn apart is a crisis that must be responded to both pastorally and prophetically, embodying Jesus' call to a different vision of the world in which people move freely and have access to all they need for a life of abundance."
Other UCC members and congregations also called for an end to deportations during the National Week of Action to End Deportations. On April 5, Wellington Avenue UCC in Chicago helped organize a concert to celebrate the immigrant movement, and passed out postcards addressed to President Obama urging him to stop deportations. Also on April 5, the Rev. Deborah Lee, a UCC minister and director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights in Oakland, Calif., participated in a vigil organized by the San Francisco Bay Coalition, followed by an act of civil disobedience during which 23 people were arrested.
"There are an estimated 24,000 people in Northern California who are facing deportation," Lee said. "We want to give faces to the 24,000 families going through this."
The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming the dignity of immigrants and working for comprehensive U.S. immigration policy. Since 1995, General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – has repeatedly called for a fair and humane approach to U.S. immigration policy that protects families and respects the humanity of our immigrant brothers and sisters.