HISPANIC LATINO MINISTRIES
Report from Stephen Bartlett, Hispanic Latino Ministries Staff
I arrived to speak at Metro Council on behalf of the Mid Kentucky Presbytery Hispanic Latino Ministry just 3 hours after an announcement by a number of Metro Council persons that a draft ordinance would be read into the record at the end of the meeting, and that ordinance contained a large chunk of what we have been asking Metro Council to get into law here for the city! This was welcome news indeed. I adjusted my talk accordingly, as you will read below. We send a prayer of gratitude that the combination of strong presence and expressions of support for Sanctuary going on months now of Metro Council meetings, combined with the Kate Howard WFPL muck raking journalism that showed how much the Louisville police have been assisting ICE in contradiction to statements by Louisville Mayor Fischer and his chief of police Conrade, have awakened Councilpersons to the truth. And they were taking the actions we have been asking of them for months now! Gratitude and joy for that awakening!
Address to Metro Council, September 28, 2017
My name is Stephen Bartlett. I speak today on behalf of the Mid Kentucky Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church USA, where I serve as coordinator of Latino Ministries. Our church faithfully opposes the persecution and exploitation of immigrants.
We hear a lot about the love and compassion of the city of Louisville, including the oft-cited words of Thomas Merton who saw every person around him as a shining light with divine qualities. But honestly, we do not yet feel that love flowing from Metro Government.
Recently one of the house churches of our Presbytery Ministry was raided by ICE. The inhabitants of that apartment did not open the door but 5 of the 7 adult members of that household were subsequently apprehended when leaving their apartment on their way to work. The two women in that group stopped by ICE were then given the painful choice of being detained themselves or turning over their husbands who had stayed at home to mind their children. ICE agents then brutally arrested the fathers in front of their crying children and anguished spouses. How much longer will we complacently accept the fate of such immigrant families, including US citizen children?
Members of the Council, The trust of the immigrant community has been lost. LMPD has been shown to have routinely cooperated with ICE at a rate of at least twice a week in recent months, documented through 911 dispatches and police cam videos.
Without that trust, crimes go unreported, men, women and children are victimized by trafficking, domestic violence, theft, and exploitation by persons emboldened by immigrant criminalization, who bet that the police will not be called.
The immigration system is not only broken, but the actions of ICE demonstrate them as a tool of racist scape-goating, a means of creating an underclass of people in our society. We must oppose it, with true compassion and for the survival of our democracy.
Our Sanctuary Resolution proposes the following: The only time LMPD should assist ICE is when there is a federal warrant for a violent criminal to be apprehended. We are not talking about a non-violent immigrant whose only misstep was returning to his or her family in Jefferson County after being deported. We know this restriction alone would eliminate 99% of LMPD cooperation with ICE. We need a policy that prohibits LMPD officers from communicating with ICE officers on their cell phones. We need training for 911 dispatchers to refer any ICE requests to a senior LMPD officer, acting under effective oversight. We need secure rooms at the court house and other places where immigrants can be shielded from ICE agents prowling around trying to fulfill their detention quotas. We need protocols for Metro jailers not to turn persons over to ICE when being released. We need to decriminalize our policing practices that systematically fill the jails with people of color.
We need for Louisville to follow the example of cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Cincinnatti to oppose the Trump and Bevin assault on human and civil rights. We need to summon our courage and declare: If you want to come for our beloved neighbors, you will have to come through us. We applaud Councilpersons Coan, Blackwell, Green, Hollander and James for beginning the process of passing such an ordinance!
Who else among you will courageously come out on the right side of history and endorse our resolution? It is time!
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