PASADENA, Texas — A Baptist pastor plans to launch a public weeklong hunger strike in front of Houston’s municipal headquarters to call for immigration reform.
Julio Barquero, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Esperanza in Pasadena, Texas, will eat no solid food and drink only water Sept. 7-13 to draw attention to the plight of undocumented workers.
Interfaith Worker Justice and other Houston-area groups have joined the call for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to workplace raids and deportations of undocumented laborers.
In particular, Barquero — a former chaplain for the League of United Latin American Citizens in Arkansas — is urging city officials not to add Houston to the list of municipalities that are using local police to enforce immigration statutes.
In July, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced plans to expand Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationalization Act, the program in which the federal government authorizes local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws in the place of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
Supporters of Section 287(g) say it has given the United States an important tool to help stem the tide of illegal immigration and restore the integrity of laws on the books. They note the program requires state and local law enforcement officers to receive proper training and operate under the direction of federal authorities after they voluntarily enter into assistance compacts.
Opponents say it sometimes has been accompanied by racial profiling and has led to family separation when undocumented parents are detained or deported and their American-born children are left unattended.
“The 287(g) program is very bad. It is racist discrimination against Latinos,” Barquero said. The immigration system in the United States needs major reforms, including a simplified system that allows Latin-American workers to obtain visas to enter and remain in the country legally, he insisted.
Church leaders should speak out against social injustice — including the unjust treatment of “strangers and sojourners” in the United States, he said.
“Pastors talk about abortion. They talk about homosexuality. But they say nothing about immigration,” Barquero said. “It is time for reform. It is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue — not an issue for one political party. It is about an immoral situation, and the church should not turn its back.”