Within the space of a few minutes Thursday, Raleigh ten-year-old Ezequiel Chicas became a bright light in immigration-rights circles in North Carolina.
Giving a speech near the General Assembly and seeking a safe haven from deportation for his father, he found what seemed to be a way out of his family's dilemma. The Reverend William J. Barber II, a civil rights leader with a growing national profile, found himself picking up where Ezequiel's story of his father's threatened deportation left off.
It all happened at a Faith Advocacy rally on Bicentennial Mall, designed to show opposition to what participants called anti-immigrant legislation, including a bill that would deny tax revenue to cities that accept nongovernment IDs. Ezequiel stood with his father, Jose Chicas, and mother, Sandra, behind him, and told a moving story in which one fact loomed: Jose Chicas is slated to be deported to Mexico June 28, the day before Ezequiel graduates from fifth grade.
"Without your mom and dad, you cannot know what is good and bad," he told a crowd of about three dozen people who had been lobbying legislators. "I hope you can help me with my father not leaving me."
Barber, the former head of the state NAACP, listened as Ezequiel spoke, then embarked on a talk rooted in the Book of Ezekiel.
"Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the leaders' arrogance and their refusal to take care of the poor and the immigrants," Barber said, rejecting the commonly held idea that the city was doomed because of its tolerance of homosexuality.(Ezekiel 16:49: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.")
To legislators, Barber said, "Your future is wrapped up in how you treat Ezequiel, his mother, his father, and others like him."
Finally, Barber offered Jose Chicas and his family refuge. "If it is feasible and practical, I happen to know the pastor of Greenleaf Church," he said, referring to the Goldsboro congregation he leads. "That church can be your sanctuary until it is worked out in the courts. Let them come into the house of God and try to seize a child of God!"
As the hour-plus meeting wrapped up, the Chicas family was considering Barber's offer.On Sunday, civil rights lawyer Al McSurely said an immigration attorney is working with the family to help fend off Jose's deportation.
The chief target of the demonstrators was Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Senator Norman W. Sanderson, an Arapahoe Republican. The bill would make it illegal for a "justice, judge, clerk, magistrate, law enforcement officer, or other government official" to accept an ID from a consulate or "any document issued by a consulate or embassy." In addition, SB 145 would prohibit the acceptance of an ID created by any person, group, county, or city, unless the General Assembly has approved the form of identification.
Under the bill, local governments and state universities that violated state immigration laws or were deemed sanctuary cities could stand to lose millions in tax revenues. SB 145 passed the Senate in April and was referred to the House rules committee, where it has sat ever since. A call to Sanderson's office was not returned by press time.
Rally speaker David Fraccaro, executive director of FaithAction International House in Greensboro, supplies the kind of IDs referenced in the bill. Fraccaro's organization has issued Faith IDs to more than nine thousand people. In some cases, that means supplying them to people living in the United States who have a hard time obtaining a government-issued ID.
"It should be something that the state is proud of," said Fraccaro, noting that other cities have modeled similar programs on the Faith ID.
Additional speakers represented Hispanic, Muslim, and African-American involvement in the movement to oppose anti-immigrant legislation.
"There's an attack on families—sometimes with weapons, sometimes with words, and, yes, sometimes with laws," said the Reverend Portia Rochelle, representing the Raleigh-Apex chapter of the NAACP.
This article appeared in print with the headline "The Actual Sin of Sodom."