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NOREEN: Lending a hand to undocumented immigrants

By: BARRY NOREEN
April 27, 2012
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photo - Sarah Jackson is opening Casa de Paz in Aurora so friends and relatives can remain close to detainees kept at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Aurora facility. Photo by Photo by Barry Noreen
Sarah Jackson is opening Casa de Paz in Aurora so friends and relatives can remain close to detainees kept at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Aurora facility. Photo by Photo by Barry Noreen 

Sarah Jackson soon will open a safehouse in Aurora near a detention facility operated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, so friends and relatives of detainees can maintain contact with their loved ones.

In February 2010, Jackson went to Mexico with other Christians to see what it’s like on the border. She’s hiked the north-south corridor used by undocumented immigrants. She visited El Refugio (The Refuge) in Georgia, which serves as a model for what she’s doing in Aurora, where she is opening a modest effort called Casa de Paz (House of Peace).

When ICE detains people, the detainees can have visitors, as long as those visitors are not here illegally. Jackson wants to provide a place where friends and relatives can stay, if only for a short time, so a basic level of human contact can be maintained and families can make arrangements to remain together.

What brought Jackson to this?

“It’s what I’m supposed to do,” she said simply. “When I was in the desert that first time, I didn’t hear a voice, but I had a sense that ‘Sarah, this is why you were born.’ ”

Jackson says her parents, who still live in Colorado Springs, are supportive but worry a bit about her safety. But she won’t be alone — a Mennonite church in Denver has signed on as a monetary sponsor and wants its young members to volunteer at the House of Peace.

Jackson, 27, said “it’s definitely not the plan for me to be there 24-7. I don’t want to get burned out. It’s going to be about cultivating a good base of people.”

Besides, she said, the more people who come into contact with detainees’ families, the more people will see immigration in human, not political, terms: “I don’t think people’s minds will be the same after they’ve experienced it.”

Conservative immigration hard-liners, meet your smiling-yet-formidable adversary.

Some are bound to grind their teeth over this. They should understand they actually have a friend in the White House, because President Barack Obama has stepped up efforts to deport undocumented workers.

At the same time, Obama is attempting a north-of-the-border two-step, trying to woo Latino voters. How he pulls that off is his business, but business will be booming at Casa de Paz.

You might be thinking, ‘who would rent a property for this purpose?’

At first, Jackson said, “I’m thinking ‘no leasing manager is going to go along with this.’ ”

As it turned out, the landlord once had a boyfriend who was an ICE detainee. Coincidence?

Jackson isn’t sure who will show up at Casa de Paz, but she remains sure of one thing: It’s what she’s supposed to do.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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