ICEman Cometh to Ramsey County

ICE has come to Ramsey County.

Being part of the resistance to nativism in the US takes many forms: writing letters to members of Congress, protesting, donating to causes.

But authoritarianism depends to a certain extent on isolating people from one another, so the actions above, by themselves, will not cut it. Community-building is what makes a real difference.

A guy named Dennis Skovsted is part of the Roseville Interfaith Community, a loose confederation of faith communities and individuals of moral conscience that got active in the wake of the Philando Castile shooting two summers ago.

Dennis is the kind of delightful rabble-rouser who has his hand on the pulse of marginal groups of people in the community, and brings people together to respond to needs that would be easy to overlook in the rush of all the other things pastors like me do. Especially right after Easter.

Easter is the point after which clergy take vacations and gird their loins for the remainder of the program year, longing for July to arrive so we can take a break.

But the spirit of Easter is that evil, suffering, and death, though ubiquitous in life, ultimately don’t win. And for Christians to call themselves “Easter people,” Christians need to be involved in life-giving enterprises.

Enter Oak Grove Mobile Home Community in New Brighton. And Pastor Ana Becerra, Dennis’ compadre in organizing Oak Grove’s people, who have experienced at least 15 ICE deportations, which have torn families apart and lent the thick haze of fear that hangs over the community’s Hispanic residents.

So Ana and Dennis, with the help of many others, organized a Mexican Breakfast fundraiser that happened April 7 at St. Michael’s Lutheran in Roseville, to which 120 people came and which raised almost $2800 for legal defense. Because immigrants who have legal representation at deportation court are SEVEN times more likely not to be deported because due process is followed.

I was so proud of the turnout, and the fact that at least six folks besides me from Falcon Heights Church came and volunteered to welcome and serve people at a breakfast cooked by Oak Grove Community residents.

It was a great party, with fantastic food, lots of laughter, poignant story-sharing by those whose lives have been riven by deportation and detention of relatives. It provides us with a broader, firmer base from which to take the next steps in direct action, and that includes signing people up to go down to the Whipple Federal Building in St. Paul on Thursdays to be witnesses at Deportation Court and hold the judge accountable.

People who’ve never been activists before are getting active. None of us is powerless in the face of what’s happening in our cities, states, and nation.

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