Today I gave testimony at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee regarding their consideration of the proposed Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), a federal program which calls for collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE. You can read about this programhere: http://www.ilrc.org/files/documents/pep_fact_sheet_final_ilrc.pdf
Here’s what I said:
My name is Debra Avery. I’m the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland at 27th and Broadway. I’m here to urge you not to support PEP which is a reformulated collaborative program putting Alameda County law enforcement not just in communication with but in collaboration with ICE.
I have just returned from traveling with a delegation of faith leaders. We went to Honduras and Guatemala to learn about root causes of migration. While in Honduras, we met Pastor Max Villatoro who was deported in March when ICE agents determined that he was a priority for deportation due to his criminal record. Here is his record: He was convicted in 1998 of drunken driving and pled guilty in 1999 to record tampering, because he purchased a Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license so he could work.
On March 3, Pastor Max was picked up in a sweep of immigrants that ICE had determined to be a threat to public safety. Though his “criminal” cases were closed appropriately, it I didn’t matter. Though he has lived in Iowa for 20 years, though he went to college and seminary, though he became a licensed Mennonite pastor, though he got married and has four United States citizen children in Iowa, none of this mattered. With no explanation, no due process, he was deported and his four children are now left without a father – not only an important source of love and care but also the primary contributor to the family’s finances.
People like Pastor Max and his family are the ones who are affected by programs like PEP. It will be pastors, gardeners, child care providers – our neighbors – who will be targeted, apprehended, and put on the deportation path. As a pastor, I grieve with the family of Kate Steinle and understand that the isolated incident of her tragic and unjust death is forming the foundation for this renewed effort. But I ask you not to use her tragedy to introduce a program which will serve to perpetuate even more injustice on the whole community of immigrants who are our friends, family members, and neighbors.
-Rev. Debra Avery, First Presbyterian Church Oakland