Immigration Advocates to “Cleanse” ICE Headquarters Following Inauguration

Karen Branch-Brioso, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, January 9, 2009

Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics said Thursday that they will press the day-old Obama administration to shake up immigration policy at a demonstration to ritually “cleanse” the national Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters following his inauguration.

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The Rev. G. Whit Hutchison of Wesley United Methodist Church in Washington took that call further. He held up a pen and urged Obama to use one on Jan. 20–Inauguration Day–to sign an executive order to end the raids and deportations at once.

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The day after the inauguration, the religious leaders will join a march and demonstration by immigrant rights groups who plan to press the new administration on immigration reform.

Eight representatives of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement have already lobbied Obama’s transition team on immigration policy. They met last month with Dr. Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Stanford law professor who is co-chair of Obama’s immigration policy working group. Cuéllar’s name has been widely circulated as a potential Obama appointee to run the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

David Thurston, anti-racism organizer for CASA de Maryland, the state’s largest Hispanic and immigrant rights group, said Thursday that sponsors expect about 500 demonstrators at the post-inaugural demonstration. The “cleansing” will be based on African and Native American rituals that include “pouring of libations,” he added.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director of Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., was quick to note that the immigration reform the clerics seek is far broader than that which will aid undocumented Hispanics.

“Immigration reform is quite often a euphemism for Hispanic workers,” said Abdul-Malik, who is the former Muslim chaplain at Howard University. He cited Eastern European, African, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants who would also benefit from a change in immigration policy.

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