Support grows for Guatemalan immigrant

Sept. 2017 Amanda
Amanda Morales-Guerra stands with Father Luis Barrios at Holyrood Church in New York. Photo by Marty Goodman / Socialist Action


“Go out of the shadows. Go out and fight.” — Amanda Morales-Guerra, Guatemalan immigrant 

Amanda Morales-Guerra, a Guatemalan immigrant living in New York City, faces deportation and separation from her three children, but she is not alone. Amanda has found sanctuary for herself and her three children within the Holyrood Church in the largely Hispanic Washington Heights community in upper Manhattan.

On Aug. 21, Amanda, a week after a request for a stay of deportation filed on her behalf was granted for 90 days, subject to review, she was told that the stay was denied—another blow. But Amanda, Holyrood church, and the New Sanctuary Movement vowed to keep on fighting.

In the first hundred days of the racist Trump administration, ICE has arrested over 41,000 immigrants, a 38% increase over last year. An Amnesty International study found that Trump’s measures aimed at “tackling immigration” violate international law.

Amanda Morales-Guerra, 33, fled Guatemala in 2004 after threats to her life in that violence-torn country. Amanda made her way to Long Island, N.Y., where she has worked and paid taxes for years. In 2012, she was a passenger in a car accident and ordered to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regularly, which Amanda did. She received deportation orders on Aug. 3 and told to report on Aug. 17, with a non-stop ticket to Guatemala. Instead, she went to Holyrood Church with her three children Dulce, 10, Daniela, 7, and David, 2, who have never been to Guatemala and are American citizens.

Father Luis Barrios of Holyrood Church and the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York said, “It’s not a religious issue, it’s a human rights issue; it’s about dignity.” He added, “We are putting together a legal campaign” for Amanda.

In an interview with Socialist Action, using a translator, Amanda said that in Guatemala there is, “a lot of crime, and I was afraid of being kidnapped. I was threatened by the gangs. I’m very grateful for the parish but I miss my liberty, getting the kids to school, the normal things mothers do. The kids were afraid because I was crying all the time. I do all this for my kids. If I go back with them to Guatemala there will not be a good future for them. ”

Amanda added, “Guatemalans feel threatened because they think Donald Trump doesn’t want people from Central America and Latin Americans in the U.S. They should not hide. They should not keep silent. Go to a church or any other solution. Go out of the shadows. Go out and fight!”

A first of many planned community prayer/rallies was held for Amanda and her family outside the church on Aug. 28, attended by over 100 activists, religious leaders, and politicians. As a backdrop, a large banner hung high above the church entrance with Amanda’s name on it.

Speaking with Socialist Action, Holyrood’s Father Barrios cautioned immigrant rights supporters: “Do not be confused. Obama was doing the same, but not openly. So was Bush and Clinton—but not openly. [Trump] is not bringing anything new. He’s going to implement what was approved by Obama and Bush. They’re all the same.”

Indeed, President Barack Obama deported over 2 million immigrants, more than any previous president, earning him the nickname “Deporter in Chief” among immigration rights advocates.

Barrios said Amanda’s children had seen a pediatrician and psychologist who determined the children suffered from post-traumatic stress. They were “not sleeping” and saying, “they’re going to take away our mother.” Barrios explained that ICE says that hospitals, churches, and schools are “sensitive areas” and have yet to come inside Holyrood. “But,” warns Barrios, “we’ve seen videos of ICE going into churches and schools.”

Concerning the setback for Amand, Barrios said, “We learned from activist training that delayed justice is not justice. We knew that from the beginning. We want the authorities to know that we’re not giving up. We specialize in persistence. We are so serious that we can keep her here until the next president is here. We have the infrastructure and the community support. We’re going to get what we want. “

U.S. domination of Guatemala

Guatemala has long been under the thumb of Washington and U.S. corporations. The CIA organized a military coup in 1954 against an elected mildly reform government that Washington labeled “communist” after it challenged the absolute dominance of the U.S.-based United Fruit Company. Subsequently, U.S.-backed governments, supplied with U.S. arms—including napalm—and U.S. military personnel, led to decades of mass slaughter of the Guatemalan poor, particularly the Native people.

Today, Guatemala is a haven for companies seeking sweatshop labor—in particular, giant U.S. agricultural and textile corporations. Guatemalan society is rife with corrupt politicians, a brutal army and police. Poverty, drugs, gang warfare, rape, and extortion are rampant.

According to Amnesty International, Guatemalan women are murdered with impunity. Between 2012 and 2010, less than 4 percent of nearly 1900 homicide cases resulted in convictions.

Father Barrios emphasized the social and political reasons for Guatemalan immigration as a “Combination of U.S. policy and the rich people who surrendered to the U.S. They throw people out as human surplus in a capitalist society.” Barrios called it, “structural violence,” due to an incredibly unequal distribution of resources.

Putting the U.S./ Guatemalan relationship into context, Father Barrios explains, “It was a CIA military coup in 1954 that overthrew the Guatemalan government because “our interests” were being affected by a progressive government. In the 1950s, the whole transformation of the social, political economy in Latin America started in Guatemala.” In Guatemala today, “The biggest organized crime is coming from the military, mostly trained at the [U.S.] School of the Americas.”

It is urgent that the immigrant rights movement grow extend its reach into the unions, as well as in religious and oppressed communities. The historic immigrant workers strike and protest of two million in 2006 showed us the way forward to beat back Trump.

Capitalism in crisis is to blame for attempting to divide working people with racist lies against immigrants. Neither capitalist party will truly defend immigrant rights. Socialists say, “Solidarity with Amanda Morales-Guerra! No to racist deportation! No one is illegal! No to the wall, open the borders!”

For updates on Amanda’s case see or Facebook: New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City.



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