Audemio Orozco-Ramirez, father of seven U.S. citizens, was cruelly snatched from his family one month ago. We call on Immigration, Customs and Enforcement to release him.

Audemio Orozco-Ramirez has lived in the United States for 20 years, is considered a valued employee by his employer, and has raised a family. Six of his children are U.S. citizens and one is a legal resident under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. The last time he was in ICE custody, Audemio was raped. He applied for permanent status years ago and never heard from the Department of Homeland Security about his application.

The 10 Commandments begin with God’s reminder to the people that God delivered them as immigrants and refugees out of Egypt. Throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are reminded to treat the foreigner, the alien, the stranger with hospitality and care, for our faith ancestors were once aliens in the land of Egypt and, by doing so, we might just be welcoming angels unaware. We formed Billings Sanctuary Rising to bear witness to the treatment of immigrants and refugees in our community.

We are heartbroken by the actions of our local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. The local ICE agent promised to let us know if and when Audemio’s status changed. Instead of telling us, he sent an email to Audemio’s attorney at 6 a.m; ICE had detained Audemio through subterfuge by 9 a.m. The agent changed Audemio’s regular appointment time, asked if those “church people” were with him, and when Audemio told him “no”, the agent immediately detained Audemio. The agent also falsely stated that Audemio had committed crimes. The agent’s deceptive and cruel actions have ripped Audemio’s family apart.

During periods of his detention, Audemio was denied meals. When he asked about food, ICE employees threw saltine crackers and a bottle of water at him — hate and physical abuse piled upon lies and deception to treat a husband, a father, and a community member as if he were something less than human. Such shameful behavior from our government employees should not be tolerated.

Audemio Orozco-Ramirez is the main source of income for his family. If he cannot be the main source of income, his oldest son will be forced to forego his college education and return home to earn money to feed his family in his dad’s absence. Our country’s policies and practices are actively destroying the dreams of Audemio’s and other hardworking families and arbitrarily extracting important members of our communities.

We strongly reject the hateful language of our president, who would have all of us believe that every immigrant is a murderer or a rapist, a “bad hombre.” We know Audemio to be a devoted husband, loving father, and valued employee.

For years, our government's trade and foreign policy has decimated the lives of the poor in Mexico and Central America. This, in turn, created an immigration crisis as people naturally immigrated toward the center of trade power and influence, the United States, seeking out new lives for their families. After having made immigrants victims through our policies and practices, we have then made them victims twice-over with accusation and blame. And now, with the current administration’s policies, we are unwilling to take responsibility for anything but the profit we make off immigrants’ lives.

Audemio Orozco-Ramirez is in detention in Aurora, Colorado, far from his family, his job, and his community. As Billings Sanctuary Rising, we pray that our community and country return to values of hospitality, mercy, and kindness, and that our government returns Audemio to his home in Montana.

Pharaoh, in fear of the Israelite people, enacted and practiced spiteful and cruel policies. Jesus taught us to practice extravagant hospitality. May we return to our values and return Audemio to his family.

Emma Kerr-Carpenter, Amy Aguirre, and the Rev. Mike Mulberry are members of Billings Sanctuary Rising.

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