A headline in yesterday The Progress-Index caught my eye: Members of NC Church Facing Deportation After Traffic Stop. The content of the story isn’t necessarily what I wanted to share, though it is important:
RALEIGH, N.C. — A Lumberton man said he and members of his church were detained for hours, belittled and coerced into signing documents by border patrol agents in Louisiana.
“We were intimidated. We are frightened,” Jeremias Villar said through an interpreter on Thursday.
Villar was among a group of 44 Latino members from the Iglesia Buen Pastor Church attending a religious event in Texas on the weekend of April 24.
The group, which included small children, was traveling in three church vans back to North Carolina, but they encountered a problem in Louisiana when they were stopped by border patrol and customs agents.
“We were told it was because we looked suspicious,” Villar said. “I did not know being Latino means you are suspicious.”
Villar said the group was denied a lawyer and an interpreter.
“We were told if we did not sign papers, our families would be separated,” Villar said.
The headline and subsequent story grabbed my attention because it made no mention of any violent criminal activity that is usually the backbone of stories about illegal immigrants. Instead it told of peaceful, law-abiding people – a church group nonetheless! It is no fault of the media – there is no reason to report about normal people just living their lives – that illegal immigrants have garnered a negative connotation in the news. Here in Virginia there was a particularly high profile incident last year in which an illegal immigrant killed a nun while driving drunk, and most people erroneously focused on his immigration status as though it was in any way relevant to his behavior.
It’s nice to see a story that reminds us that the majority of illegal immigrants are regular people.