A group of 31 ministers, rabbis, and religious leaders blocked the garage doors of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Milwaukee on June 24, to resist the latest threats by President Trump to hold immigration raids that targeted refugee families.

The Administration’s continued policies of separating families at the border and imprisoning people seeking asylum has been routinely condemned as brutal, subjecting vulnerable children to inhumane conditions. At the Milwaukee protest, more than one thousand people rallied in the streets surrounding the ICE building, at times blocking traffic. Hundreds of delegates from the United Church of Christ (UCC) from all over the country, who were visiting Milwaukee for their General Synod, marched from the Wisconsin Center to the ICE building.

“As Christians, we follow the teachings of an Afro-Semitic Palestinian Rabbi whose parents were once forced to seek refuge, with him, in a foreign land,” said Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister of the United Church of Christ, who also joined the blockade of ICE doors. “As a profession of our faith, the United Church of Christ is compelled to speak out and stand up against inhumane deportation policies that refuse to welcome the stranger, whether refugee or immigrant, ignore the inherent worth of all human beings and violate the moral laws of every faith in this land.”

Other speakers included Paola Hincapie, the daughter of recently deported student pastor Betty Rendón of Emaus Lutheran Church in Racine, Rev. Linda Jaramillo, former UCC Justice and Witness Ministries Executive Minister; the Rev. Nikki Fisher, Vice President of Racine Interfaith Coalition; the Rev. Willie Brisco of WISDOM; the Rev. Joe Ellwanger of MICAH and, Rabbi David Cohen of Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee.

“The majority of people in this country really do not agree with the immigration policies of this administration that are being carried out so viciously and so carelessly,” said the Rev. Joseph Ellwanger. “We are here to demonstrate love, concern, acceptance, and hospitality. We are determined to turn the immigration policies around that are currently picking up people who are not criminals. These are people who are contributing to our economy and our society.”

The interfaith rally was organized by Voces de la Frontera, the UCC and Witness Ministries, Racine Interfaith Coalition, WISDOM, and MICAH. Concerned about the inhumane treatment of their immigrant neighbors and the President’s continued threats to increase deportations, the UCC General Synod passed a resolution of witness on June 22 to advocate for an immediate end to the practice of separating migrant children and families.

“Today we shut down ICE to send a message,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera. “As Trump escalates, so will our resistance. We are going to stand together to demand that ICE leave our communities. We are going to put our bodies on the line to stop the further separation of families. We will fight to have these families reunited in the future. We will also fight to win protections at the local and state level. This includes revising Milwaukee Police Department policies to ensure non-collaboration with ICE in the absence of a judicial warrant, and at the sate level restoring driver licenses for immigrants. Finally, we are organizing to build our voting power to bring about real immigration reform that treats immigrants with the humanity that they deserve.

Activists and participants interlocked arms to make a human barrier, attempting to physically and metaphorically block the pending deportation of people living in the Milwaukee illegally. The protest follows a week of threats, reversals, and more threats from the President.

“We will not be quiet in the face of injustice, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. As you begin your sanctions, we will build our sanctuaries. As you send your agents, we will send our disciples. As you load people up to carry them across, we will open our doors and take them in,” added Rev. Blackmon. “Our legislators are even trying to intimidate us with new questions on the census about citizenship. They say they want an accurate count of our population. I’m challenging you to give them something to count. Let them count us in the streets, at the White House, at ICE offices, and at detention centers. Let them count us next November at the polls.”

On June 21, it was reported that Trump was planning to instruct ICE agents to conduct a “family operation” set to start June 23. The targets were “millions” of parents and children who have sought asylum living throughout the United States. Then on June 22, Trump tweeted that he had temporarily halted the family raids in response to outcry from the public and elected officials. However, Trump said that the family raids would begin in two weeks if Congress did not pass new, unspecified legislation to stop families fleeing violence from receiving safety and asylum in America.

“I want my parents back,” said Paula Hincapie. Paula’s mother, student pastor Betty Rendón of Emaus Lutheran Church in Racine, was deported by ICE with her husband Carlos Hincapie last month. The family sought asylum in the US from the Civil War in Colombia. “I want to support other families who are being separated. I want to fight to stop the deportations. My mom was a pastor in this community and everybody knew her. My dad helped the community by working in construction. He built houses. He is a very hardworking man. My family is heartbroken because we are not together.”