On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Council of Churches thanked God for being able to launch a new chaplaincy on the inside of the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester. This is the building where ICE has its office, where immigrants must make their required check-ins and where we participate in the Interfaith Prayer Vigils. If you want to support this chaplaincy work, please donate to the NH Council of Churches today!
Please read on for details:
For the first time, we were able to bring clergy into the building lobby, seating area and cafe! There, we could meet with people making their check-ins before or after their appointments. We met a mother with a 10-month-old baby. We met several mothers with teenage children. We met parents with young children alongside.
In many cases only one family member makes the check-in. That person goes alone while the rest of the family waits, wondering what will happen next. We are there to be a presence of support and care. We are there to keep families from being alone. We are there to offer a promise of prayer and as must pastoral care as we can. We are there to bring humanity to a dehumanizing process.
Like many chaplaincies, we have no power to change the situation. Hospital chaplains cannot make people well. Prison chaplains cannot take away sentences. But, the ministry of chaplaincy is there when we offer spiritual guidance and the presence that says “God is with you.”
On Tuesday we did try to accompany one family into the Enforcement and Removal Operation (ERO) waiting room. For this, Officer Bruce asked us to leave and we did so promptly, returning to the sitting area in the lobby. This was reported on in two news outlets:
- Union Leader, Faith leaders supporting immigrants facing deportation not allowed in ICE waiting room
- WMUR, Clergy members again asked to leave ICE meeting
While news-grabbing, for me this wasn’t the important story of the day. The good news is that families making check-ins can now receive interdenominational, ecumenical Christian support during a time of personal or family crisis.