By Stan Friedman
LA VILLA, TX (September 4, 2012) – Members of La Villa Covenant Church this week were helping area residents apply for the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that could enable them to avoid deportation and provide a temporary green card.
President Obama issued the executive order in June, calling for a halt to the deportation of many undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the country before they turned age 16, are currently 30 years of age or younger, have been living here at least five years and are in school, or have graduated or served in the military. They also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.
The church already set aside a day earlier this month to help non-English speakers complete the forms and make sure they have all the necessary documents. In addition to volunteers from the church, also helping were Nancy and Rodney Sawyer, who formerly served as field director for the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska.
“This is a compassion and social ministry born out of necessity,” said the church’s pastor, Allan Serrano. The cost for attorneys and application fees can reach as high as $1,000, which none of the people helped could afford, he noted.
“The families expressed their gratitude at our Wednesday night service,” Serrano said. “They were proud to see the pastor and leaders stepping out and helping with this new emerging ministry at the church.”
Serrano said he already has requests from churches in Houston to help provide the same ministry. One of the Houston leaders was expected to participate in the La Villa project to learn how his congregation might start a similar outreach.
The church is expanding several of its ministries to help students. Abraham Hernandez, a graduate of the University of Texas – Pan American and a youth leader in the church, along with another young teacher began an initiative to collect backpacks and school supplies for children. They were able to provide supplies to about 100 children.
The church also raised $600 to help another student from the church with moving expenses so he could attend college out of town. “This was very significant since not too many Hispanic kids are going to college, especially those among the first generation,” Serrano said.
The donations are a major sacrifice for the church’s members. “The great majority of the families in the church are low-income families, but have a great heart and gave generously for opportunities like this.”