Immigration: 21st Century

Blessings Abound in Visits to Immigrants Detained

By Kris Vorenkamp, SLW

January 4, 2019

Often when one begins a ministry one looks forward to how fulfilling it might be to share the gifts one is given. Ever since I began visiting the immigrant detainees at the McHenry County Detention Center, I could never have imagined receiving so much more than I would be giving.

I meet with the Spanish speaking immigrants, and there is an inherent living faith and confidence in God in the Latino culture. Under such circumstances it seems that could be greatly tested. However, I have been visiting there for about 6 years, and have yet to meet someone without that deep belief in the protection of God. Each one speaks of God’s ways, that they have to trust in God’s plan, that there is a reason for what is happening to them.

It doesn’t mean that they aren’t angry about how they might be treated, or deeply sad to be away from their families, or grieving and worried that they have left a wife to carry out the responsibilities. The faith I witness is what sustains them.

They greatly appreciate the daily reflection booklets that we bring in English, Spanish, and other languages, and the holy cards, and other faith-centered reading. One day one of the men asked me if we had a Bible Concordia, to which I had to reply negatively. Do you think that man read the scriptures before arriving here? Absolutely.

I have met people with professional degrees, or very long standing work histories in our country. Many times, the reason they have been picked up by ICE is because the police are now empowered to stop anyone looking “different” if they are driving, or someone else calls the police on them. Usually, they have no criminal records and have worked here for years, but because the system is stacked against them, they haven’t had a chance to become legal. And, a fact many aren’t aware of is that Homeland Security has a quota that has to be filled of detainees in each Center. So, there is a push to look for immigrants to round up.

I have been with men who sob before me because in their circumstances there is no way they can pay the bond set out for them (often $10,000). Or they have never been in a situation like jail. This kind of thing cries out to God’s sense of justice. The most difficult thing is to sit there and know I can’t do anything to help. But, they aren’t looking for my help; they are delighted that I and our pastoral group are there to care about them, to pray with them, to listen to their stories and encourage them not to lose heart. They are God’s beloved. More than anything I believe that’s what they need to hear.

The ICDI, Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, of which I am a part, is an amazing group of volunteers who are the Body of Christ on earth for these children of God. I praise God for their witness to me of how to live through difficult times.

How can you help? If you are so moved, please check out the following and thank you:

  1. Daily reflection booklets-Christian in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and other languages.
  2. Reading material in Arabic; Muslim prayers.
  3. The Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants are always looking for volunteers. Click here for more information.
  4. Donate to ICDI. Each week there is a small amount given to each detainee we see to make a phone call or buy for their personal needs.
  5. Pray for their intentions: for their families, and for perseverance and patience as they wait upon the judges deciding their cases. Some of the asylum cases can keep them in detention for months.