Three members of the Yale community — Reverend Robert Beloin, Reverend Karl Davis and history professor Jennifer Klein — were arrested on Monday for blocking the entrance to a courthouse in Hartford during a demonstration against the planned deportation of Franklin and Gioconda Ramos, undocumented immigrants facing imminent removal from the country.
Beloin, Davis and Klein were three of 36 people arrested for blocking the entrance to the courthouse. Beloin is Yale’s Roman Catholic chaplain and the chaplain of St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center, while Davis is an assistant chaplain at STM. The arrests were first reported by the New Haven Register. Davis and Beloin are scheduled for an arraignment on October 11 in Hartford Community Court.
Multiple members of Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of immigrants and workers in the greater New Haven area were also taken into custody. Catherine Rodríguez DRA ’18, a member of both the ULA and the St. Thomas More communities, notified Beloin and Davis of the demonstration by email on Sept. 19, after which both priests — knowing full well that they would be arrested — made plans to attend the demonstration. Although it is unclear whether the STM clergy will continue to advocate in this manner on behalf of undocumented immigrants facing deportation, Beloin’s stance on the issue is unequivocal.
“I just find it morally appalling that we’re deporting hardworking people making a contribution to our society,” he told the News. “Pope Francis talks about going to the margins and accompanying people, and I can’t think of a way to go further to the margin and accompany people than to go to a protest and be arrested.”
Beloin noted that while he has experience participating in organized demonstrations, before Monday he had never taken part in a civil protest that led to his arrest. Both Davis and Beloin wore their collars to the demonstration, formally identifying themselves as members of the clergy.
During the demonstration, Davis said he locked eyes with Fanny Reyes, whose husband Marco Reyes is an undocumented Ecuadorian seeking asylum status in America and is currently taking sanctuary in the First and Summerfield Methodist Church.
“Tears came to my eyes too as I empathized with her and it became soulfully clear why I was sitting there,” Davis said. “What kind of society do we become if we lose our conscience or compassion for the vulnerable?”
If the Ramos’ are deported, they will not be able to apply for reentry to the United States for at least 10 years. They would be separated from their sons, Jason and Erick Ramos, who were both born in the US and are currently enrolled at Central Connecticut State University.
The demonstration was ultimately a success for those advocating on behalf of the Ramos family. After the arrests, a New York immigration judge notified the family that it will receive a temporary stay of deportation. John Lugo, a member of ULA who was arrested at the event, told the News that the organization has been involved with protests against deportation since 2002, but that “this [demonstration] had to be the largest,” with 200 total protesters estimated to have taken part.
Beloin, Klein and Davis’ involvement in the demonstration bears on a wider conversation about the Yale community’s role in local activism. Lugo noted that while he hopes to increase collaboration with members of the University, ULA’s relationship with the Yale community has long been “very complicated.”
“You have to come over here to see this great powerful body of people with connections and privilege, and sometimes for them not really to know what is going on New Haven, to not care about the people who cook the food for them, who cut the grass for this University or clean the streets has been very frustrating,” Lugo said.
While a sustained partnership with ULA is not out of the question, STM is already involved in many different social justice ventures, from sponsoring a Syrian refugee family to organizing midnight runs to feeding homeless individuals on the New Haven Green and coordinating various service projects with Habitat for Humanity and Ronald McDonald House.
“There are many issues of justice that ask for our attention, but I respect what [ULA] is doing,” Beloin said. “I am very open to further engagement. What that looks like, I do not know.”
Jesus Morales Sanchez, a member of ULA, told the News that he hopes this is the first of “many” interactions between the New Haven community and the STM clergy, as well as Yale students in general. In a joint interview, Rodríguez and Lugo added that they hope more members of the University try and “pop the Yale bubble” to do work with ULA and other members of the greater New Haven community.
Community played an especially important role for Rodríguez throughout the demonstration. She recalled exiting her police holding cell after 12 hours of incarceration to see community members waiting with offerings of food, water and support.
Some Yale students involved with STM said the news that Beloin and Davis had been arrested at the demonstration bolstered the respect they have for the two priests.
They are constant advocates of Catholic social teaching, which prioritizes care for the vulnerable and poor,” Michael Lally DIV ’18 said. “Therefore, while it was not surprising to see them protesting the rupturing of a New Haven family, my respect for them has grown all the more now, seeing their full willingness to embody their Catholic Christian faith.”
Yale’s Catholic ministry was founded in 1922.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org