New Haven activists and clergy members were among 36 people who were arrested last week for barricading the entrance to the Hartford Immigration Court in protest of the impending deportation of Franklin and Gioconda Ramos, who have lived in the U.S. without documentation for 24 years.

Around 200 community members joined the protest on Sept. 25. The Ramoses were slated to be deported Sept. 29 despite a number of public campaigns to let them stay in the U.S. New Haven activist group Unidad Latina en Acción, or ULA, turned to civil disobedience as a last resort. After the protest, a New York immigration judge granted the Ramoses a temporary stay while he considers reopening their case. The court’s change of heart marked a success for protesters and highlighted the role of religious and community organizations in defending immigrant rights.

“This is a country that has been built on immigrant forces,” ULA co-founder John Lugo said. “We feel strongly that we belong in this country because of the history and what we contribute to the country.”

Lugo compared the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration to ethnic cleansing and emphasized the importance of protesting when politicians are focused on “kicking people of color out of the country.”

While the New Haven Police Department limits its cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it does not take sufficient measures to protect residents from ICE, said Lugo, adding that he would like to see the Board of Alders approve such a policy. New Haven’s General Order 06-2 prohibits officers from inquiring about immigration status when investigating crimes or patrolling.

Pablo Uribe ’18 said sanctuary cannot be understood in a purely legal or policy sense. True sanctuary requires people to stand in solidarity with one another, he said, which requires increased involvement from Yale students.

Jason Ramos, the son of the Ramos couple, emphasized the importance of educating oneself on immigration policy and fostering daily discussion in communities, including through nonviolent civil disobedience.

“[Civil disobedience] brings people to a line where they are conflicted,” Ramos said. “Conflict is a part of progress and growth. Change is hard. Nobody really likes change, but sometimes our habits are very unproductive to society and ourselves.”

While his parents have tried to maintain morale, Ramos said they fear losing everything they have built for themselves over the past 24 years. Still, he added, his family is fortunate to have received all the support and resources provided so far.

Paul Fleck, pastor of Hamden Plains Methodist Church, called for greater civil rights engagement among the religious community, which he said must not allow its “fear to get the best of its faith.”

“Jesus said in Matthew 25 that ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” Fleck said. “This is a sign of biblical hospitality — to treat the immigrant in our midst as we would like to be treated, to treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated.”

The sanctuary movement is about much more than protest, said Fleck, who noted the network of people in Hamden Plains Methodist Church who accompany immigrants to customs check-ins, bail hearings and immigration court hearings.

ICE has removed 240,255 illegal immigrants in the fiscal year 2016, according to the agency’s website.

Kiddest Sinke | kiddest.sinke@yale.edu