The 22 members of a Latino church in North Carolina who came to the attention of immigration authorities while returning from a religious gathering in Texas will not be deported, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice said Tuesday.
The group, which includes five minors, learned of the reprieve last week as they were preparing to leave the country, the SCSJ said.
Members of the El Buen Pastor church in Raleigh were on their way home from an Easter observance in Texas in April 2010 when they were stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The undocumented immigrants were threatened by CBP agents in front of their children, insulted for their religious beliefs and denied access to legal counsel.
The deportation proceedings were halted thanks to the June 2011 Immigration and Customs Enforcement memorandum calling for the use of discretion to prioritize the deportations of criminals and others who pose a threat to public safety or national security, according to SCSJ attorney Elizabeth Simpson.
"This case was a long shot; we had justice on our side but not the law," she said. "We did not consider giving up for a minute, and the lives of 22 individuals have been fundamentally changed because of that. They can imagine their futures now."
The attorney believes that the pressure applied by members of the congregation was fundamental in convincing immigration authorities not to proceed with the deportations.
The faithful and their allies organized vigils, rallies and petitions for support across the country. EFE