By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Nearly three dozen people attended a press conference Tuesday at the Adelante Alabama Worker Center to support two of their own who were detained by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
They sat behind media cameras as a panel of their leaders and representatives talked about Adelante board member and immigrant workers’ rights leader Marcos Baltazar and his son Juan.
But they weren’t content to stay behind the cameras, joining the panelists at the front of the room to make their support clearly visible.
“It shows how passionate they are about this,” said the Rev. Dave Barnhart of Faith in Action Alabama. “I think they recognize this is an act of intimidation. For them to show up means we’re not going to be intimidated.”
See the news conference here.
Panelists said that Baltazar and his 18-year-old son went to a routine ICE check-in last week in Homewood and were taken into custody. The two were taken to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden.
Baltazar came to the United States from Guatemala three years ago. He was not documented but was allowed to stay in this country with his son if he periodically checked in with ICE, Adelante leaders said.
Adelante officials said they consider detention of the two as cruel and unnecessary.
“We can see clear this is an attack to our community, not just our organization but our community,” said Cesar Mata, vice president of the Adelante board. “ICE spreads fear in our community. It’s time to say stop. Marcos is one of the hardest (working) people I know. He works hard. He’s a man of faith. He speaks up against abuses.”
Panelists said Baltazar initially came to Adelante when he had a dispute with an employer who didn’t pay him.
“He took abuse from his former employer,” Mata said. “He learned how to speak up and fight for his rights. This is an attack against someone who is speaking up against these abuses of power.”
Barnhart echoed that sentiment. He is pastor of Saint Junia United Methodist Church and author of “What’s in the Bible About Church?” and “God Shows No Partiality.”
“I think it’s pretty clear that this administration is using the lie that deportation has made us safer,” he said, “when in fact it’s being weaponized against activists and people who are trying to do good in their community.”
Adelante Alabama urges supporters to call the ICE office in New Orleans – (504) 599-7845 – to get the detainees released. A GoFundMe page has been established for their support: bit.ly/supportformarcos