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Faith leaders supporting immigrants facing deportation not allowed in ICE waiting room

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 17. 2018 9:06PM
Oscar Gutierrez, his wife, Mirna, and sons Oscar, 1, and Felipe, 5, were joined by religous leaders including Father Sam Fuller, right, outside of the federal building in Manchester on Tuesday. Gutierrez is facing possible deportation. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Four Manchester-area clergy were booted from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement waiting room at the Norris Cotton Federal Building in downtown Manchester on Tuesday, despite expectations they would be able to sit with immigrants who are facing possible deportation.

Their removal highlights the efforts of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, to ensure access of clergy and others into the interior of the federal building.

Anti-deportation vigils take place outside the building about twice a month.

The senior New Hampshire senator has written federal officials to complain about clergy being barred from the building.

Shaheen has also introduced a rider to an ICE appropriations bill that requires the agency to detail its policy of access to the ICE office and explain security reasons necessary to justify denial of access.

Clergy said federal security guards barred them from entering the building last year. On Tuesday, they were allowed in the first-floor lobby of the Cotton building. But when they accompanied Manchester’s Oscar Gutierrez, his wife and two small children to the second-floor ICE waiting room, an ICE officer identifying herself as officer Bruce told them to leave.

“We have a very small office, we try to keep it orderly,” she said. Two Catholic friars and two Episcopal ministers returned to the first floor.

An email to an ICE media official seeking comment was not returned.

“ICE’s unexplained and unjustified actions to remove members of the clergy from a federal public building, and their interference with efforts to provide pastoral support, are completely unacceptable,” Shaheen said in an email. She said she will keep demanding answers from ICE.

“We’re here for prayer and prayerful support, so the person’s not alone. We have not come to protest or oppose,” said the Rev. Jason Wells, an Episcopal minister and director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches.

Gutierrez was not taken into custody, but he wasn’t given the paperwork he needs to stay in the country. He was told to return Aug. 21.

“It prolongs the agony,” said Eva Castillo, executive director of the New Hampshire Alliance of Immigrants and Refugees.

Politics Religion Manchester Immigration

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