All Souls, Berkeley, leads immigration vigil

On Saturday, December 6, more than 80 children, youth, and adults from All Souls, Berkeley — and 40 other members of East Bay faith communities — held an interfaith prayer vigil outside the West County Detention Facility in Richmond. The vigil, sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (ICIR-CLUE CA), has been held the first Saturday of every month for the past four years to pray and bear witness to the pain, suffering, and separation of the 150-300 immigrant detainees being held inside the facility and the tens of thousands of immigrants held at 250 detention centers across the country as they await action in U.S. immigrant courts.  

All Souls clergy and laity, along with the All Souls Angel Band, led participants in prayer and song and concluded with a moment of joyful noise loud enough for detainees within the facility to hear and take heart. Two recently released detainees, Alex and Aracely, shared moving testimonials of migrating to the U.S. in response to violence they experienced in their home countries (including personal threats and even torture). They described the traumatic experience of crossing the US border only to be shackled and then incarcerated in a U.S. detention center miles from family and friends without any guarantee of legal representation. After a six-year long legal appeal process, Aracely has been granted asylum. Alex is awaiting an asylum hearing. Both are recipients of pro bono legal assistance from All Souls member and immigration attorney Cara Jobson.

All Souls members Sharon Roberts and Elena Ramirez described their experience providing transportation as volunteers with the Post-Release Accompaniment Project (sponsored by ICIR) to a recently released detainee, Marianna, who spent more than three months in the West County Detention Facility separated from her husband and two-year old son. Immigrant detainees can be released any time of the day or night from the West County Detention Facility, with only the clothes on their back. Many have no family in the area and no way to reach them. Volunteers provide badly needed short-term emergency housing, transportation to local airports and bus terminals, food, clothing, and other supplies to recently released detainees who seek to be reunited with their families. 

Rice, beans, and wrapped toys were collected at the vigil and will be shared with recently released detainees and their families at a Posada organized by ICIR on December 18, 6 p.m., at Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana, 1941 High Street, Oakland.

*Christine Trost is a congregant at All Souls, Berkeley.

All photos courtesy All Souls congregants and the Rev. Anna Lange-Soto