Immigration detainee’s wife to attend UM prayer vigil in Norristown

EPA advocates and others increasingly concerned about the fate of U.S. undocumented immigrants, including many facing deportation, will gather for a prayer vigil Sunday, April 6, at 7 p.m. at Haws Avenue UMC in Norristown, Pa.

Among them will be Bishop Peggy Johnson, who will lead prayers for families that live in fear, distress and often painful separation due to actions of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that has deported nearly 2 million people during President Obama’s administration. Also joining them will be Pilar Molina, the young mother of two whose husband, Israel Resendiz Hernandez, is being detained in a York County facility after his arrest in January.

The Norristown couple and their two daughters, ages 9 and 11, have been the focus of much news coverage and public concern. Hernandez, an independent construction contractor, and Molina, who runs the small neighborhood store the two own, are anxiously waiting to see if he will be deported for the second time since he first arrived in the U.S. in 1997. His hearing was scheduled for the end of March.

Hernandez joined other detainees on a 19-day hunger strike in February to protest their status. He claims fear of persecution and threats of kidnapping if he returns to Mexico. He was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents when trying to return illegally after attending his father’s funeral in Mexico.

Molina was brought here as a child illegally by her parents and attended Norristown High School. Therefore, she does not face deportation due to President Obama’s two-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. But she fears the separation of her family, to the detriment of her daughters, if her husband is deported again, despite the local support of their community, extended family and many activists.

Molina met a group of United Methodists, including Los Angeles Area Bishop Minerva Carcano, in Washington on Presidents Day, Feb. 17, when the General Board of Church and Society and other groups led a prayerful protest in front of the White House. Many participants, including Carcano and Iowa Area Bishop Julius Trimble, were arrested. Chicago Area Bishop Sally Dyck and more United Methodists were arrested at a protest in that city on March 27.

Rev. Esdras Seda, EPA Conference Hispanic Ministries coordinator, invited Molina to come meet and speak to local church leaders at the March 15 Hispanic Ministries training for non-Latino churches, held at Haws Avenue UMC. After Molina briefly explained her family’s ordeal, those gathered surrounded her and prayed for her and her family. She promised to return and participate in the April 6 prayer vigil.

Bishop Johnson has appealed to EPA churches to come participate in the 7 p.m. vigil. She is also asking churches  to join in prayer during their Sunday worship services in support of the vigil and of families affected by U.S. immigration policies and by an immigration enforcement system that is almost universally considered broken and in need of reform.

by John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Directo

Featured photo: Participants at a March 15 EPA Hispanic Ministries training for non-Latino churches, at Haws Avenue UMC in Norristown, pray for Pilar Molina, whose husband, an undocumented immigrant, is being detained for possible deportation back to Mexico.  John Coleman photos