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Raleigh Church Members Spared Deportation

Farm workers who were picked up by the border patrol in California for illegal entry in May, 1972 COURTESY: National Archives
Farm workers who were picked up by the border patrol in California for illegal entry in May, 1972 COURTESY: National Archives
September 24, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - In April of 2012, members of the Buen Pastor Church were detained in Louisiana while returning from Easter week observances in Houston. They say they were racially profiled, denied due process and verbally abused by Customs and Border Protection agents. Judith Tadeo was told her young child would be taken from her and put in foster care. They all faced deportation. Tadeo, who came to America as a child, was filled with dread.

The formal dropping of the cases against her and 21 others eases the fear... For now.

"I've been here for almost all my life. I'm, I'm not losing any hope."

The charges were dropped after their case was taken up by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and a campaign of vigils and rallies built public pressure. A policy adopted last year allowed Homeland Security officials to use their discretion to administratively close immigration cases where the individuals do not pose a public safety risk.

Rebecca Fontaine of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice says that, while the ruling is being celebrated, the 22 church members are not "out of the woods."

"They don't have any legal status in this country. They do not have work permits. They don't have access to education nor health care. So, there's still all those barriers. But it's also a huge cloud that's lifted over them in knowing, 'I'm not going to be deported.'"

Judith Tadeo, who declined to say which country she would have been deported to, says she's very relieved at the ruling in their favor.

"I came here when I was eight. So, I really don't remember much about my country, so going back is like going to a place that I didn't know."

Rebecca Fontaine notes that the presidential campaign was forced to address the issue of immigration rights last week, in Spanish-language forums hosted by Univision at the University of Miami.

"I think that the inability of the government on any side to really take action for immigrants is really going to hopefully be an issue that emerges for whoever is elected as our next leaders and representatives."

As for Judith Tadeo, she says she'll now be working for passage of a federal "DREAM" act that would allow her to pursue a college education as a pathway to citizenship.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NC