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Petition to Stop Deportation of NC Church Members

August 15, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - Members of a Raleigh church are asking for public support as they face deportation proceedings. Church vans from the Buen Pastor church were stopped by border patrol in Louisiana last year on their way back from a religious event.

Out of the 44 people in the vans, 22 were charged with being unlawfully present in the United States and face deportation. More than 500 people have signed a petition to halt that action.

Twenty-one year old Judith Tadeo is among those who may be deported. Married, with one child, she explains why leaving the U.S. would devastate her.

"I was 10 years old when I came to United States. I have my life here, and I was thinking about all my dreams - I wanted to go to college."

Supporters of the group say they were harassed by the Border Patrol agents, and despite their requests, they were not given a translator or legal counsel while they were detained through the night.

Elizabeth Simpson is an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She says Border Patrol agents stepped out of line as they processed the church members, who are part of a evangelical, Protestant church.

"The way the group was treated inside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office was really very nasty and abusive. They were made fun of for their religious practice. They were taunted, saying, 'Do you think God will save you from this?'"

Simpson and others also take issue with the fact that the vans were stopped to begin with.

"First of all, the stop was unjustified. There was some racial profiling going on. Also, the Border Patrol didn't have the authority to pull over these church vans in Louisiana, so far from the border."

At a hearing on Sept. 22, an immigration judge will decide whether the group's argument will be heard in court. If he denies their request, church members say they will appeal the decision.

The petition is available at http://bit.ly/nm5jiF.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC