by Anton Flores-Maisonet
From Palm Sunday to Good Friday, about 1,300 people united in Georgia’s first Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants. The prayerful walk trekking fifty miles through North Georgia and metro Atlanta called for an end to law enforcement raids that separate families, the passage of humane immigration reform and the revision of trade policies that increase unauthorized immigration.
On Maundy Thursday more than 500 pilgrims had just completed an eight-mile journey through Cobb County, home of some of Georgia’s most vitriolic anti-immigrant residents, and it was time to engage in the subversive ritual of foot washing; an act of holy resistance to the dehumanizing dynamics of this world.
Six unauthorized immigrants sat on a stage while six U.S. citizens stooped down and washed their feet.
In the center of this holy huddle was Amabel, a Guatemalan immigrant. A single mother of two, she had recently been the victim of an automobile accident. However, Amabel was driving without a license so she soon found herself in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now Amabel is free on a conditional release awaiting her forthcoming deportation. Her foot was washed while bearing its cross − an electronic monitoring anklet − a sign that the Gospel is for those deported to the margins of this sinful system.
Roberto Martínez Medina, 39, died in March while held in ICE custody at the Stewart Detention Center in rural Lumpkin, Georgia. ICE waited days before announcing his death and has yet to explain what caused it. The center is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, a private company with quarterly profits of over $35 million.
In remembrance of Roberto, sixty of us stood vigil on Good Friday outside the ICE field office wearing black T-shirts and asked why he died in detention.
On Wednesday, we walked around the perimeter of the Plaza Fiesta in a modified Stations of the Cross procession. At the rear of this Mecca for Latino immigrant consumerism, which we were not allowed to enter, we prepared for the final station, “Resurrection.” We invited the mall’s security guards t o join us in our closing reflection and prayer but they refused. So, we stood facing an abandoned church with a dogwood tree in full bloom, reminded that, although a rejection of hurt lie just behind us, a resurrection of hope awaits unwelcome immigrants.