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Vassar vigil packs church for Central American ‘refugee children’

By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser
VASSAR — This city has felt the heat from protesters against the proposed housing of 120 Central American immigrants at a Wolverine Human Services facility, but on Thursday night supporters of the plan warmed up Grace Lutheran Church with prayers, songs and promises.

“We are here to serve Vassar. We are here to make sure that these young people — if they’re here to stay — that we can try and find some way to comfort them,” said Bobby Deleon, president of the Mexican American Council in Saginaw, one of 16 speakers addressing about 190 people packed inside the church for the “Interfaith Vigil for Vassar and Refugee Children.”

Deleon said Michigan Latinos, including members of the Mexican American Council, American G.I. Forum and Saginaw Civica “will come to the aid of Vassar to help in any way we can to be positive, not negative.”

Tens of thousands of children and teenagers have crossed illegally into Texas in recent months from Central American countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The federal government reports the youths flee to the U.S. to join family members here, escape abuse or exploitation, or seek employment or educational opportunities.

Wolverine hopes to sign contracts to house up to 120 males ages 12 to 17. If that happens it would create about 115 jobs, according to Wolverine officials.

“We can find a way to care for them,” said the Rev. Robert Flickinger of St. Basil Catholic Church in South Haven in VanBuren County, following Thursday’s vigil.

Flickinger, who spoke at the event, said he has traveled to El Salvador at least 30 times on mission trips. Concluding his speech, Flickinger said each immigrant is “a human person, made in the image and likeness of God.”

Thursday’s vigil was sponsored by a group of organizations including Michigan United, an advocacy group backed by labor unions and various churches. While the crowd in the church heard readings from the Christian Bible, the Muslim Koran or the Buddhist Dhammapada, Michigan United member Diego Bonesatti of East Lansing stood outside the church holding a handmade sign that read “Baby Jesus Was A Refugee.”

During the program in the church, one woman waved a small American flag as the audience sang “This Land is Your Land” by the late American folk musician Woody Guthrie.

Following the event, Grace Lutheran Church volunteers served visitors coffee or iced tea, and homemade cookies.

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8 Responses to "Vassar vigil packs church for Central American ‘refugee children’"

  1. maarmstr says:

    Very nice community event! Very nice Article

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  2. Jazzman says:

    What part of “illegal” don’t these folks get? Our country is over $17 trillion in debt and spending more is okay with these people. No common sense !!!

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    • aelisemc says:

      You have no common sense, the CHILDREN being here will create jobs and boost the economy since those employees will use the local businesses. I am wondering if we don’t need to hold a prayer vigil for people like you that are so angry about this situation.

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    • maarmstr says:

      The common sense of this whole thing is that they are human beings.. If they are born, thye should have a right to live. Do you remember the Holocaust?The united States did not get involved early enough and millions of people were exterminated. We cannot turn a blind eye to a humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, they are not illegal. Check out the Bush Doctrine and the Human trafficking law. When an unaccompanied minor makes it to the Border and they are not from a country that borders the US, they allowed to come in..that is the law.. Then they must go through the court system and await their turn. Check out how many people are crossing the border in Lebonnon. This is happening everywhere. We are the greatest nation in the world. We as Americans are a bunch of greedy pigs who need to be more giving. These are children who are getting raped and murdered for Gods sakes. 75-80% of all girls have been raped in their home country once they get here.. There is plenty of love to go around to help these kids…

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  3. aelisemc says:

    Yes, these CHILDREN are here illegally, but until it is determined how what is going to happen they need to be housed somewhere and Vassar is a good choice Wolverine has the facilities and it will create more jobs which Vassar and the surrounding area need. I am glad to see that those supporting these CHILDREN held a vigil, instead of just seeing protests.

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  4. Michael Clinesmith says:

    I thought people coming from outside the area was a bad thing, at least according to the pro-illegal immigration crowd. So why is that same group of people bringing people from Saginaw, South Haven, Dearborn, Mexican and Latino, Muslim and Buddhist, social justice and illegal immigrant activist organizations?

    I hope people think seriously about this issue and not just react emotionally. This is a national issue, and these groups know that this community could be significantly affected by what happens with Wolverine.

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    • followthesun says:

      I guess you might say I’m from the “pro-illegal immigration crowd.” I understand what you are saying. Those members of MICE, such as Tamyra Murray, also have a vested interest in this concern as American citizens which is why they are present at protests.

      For that same reason, out-of-towners joined the “pro-illegal immigration crowd,” as we all hold the same vested interest in making societal and humanitarian decisions with the best interest of other human-beings at the forefront of our awareness, regardless of whether or not we are from Vassar.

      Speaking for myself, it’s not a topic that I take lightly. I recognize the severity of the issue.

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  5. maarmstr says:

    The difference is those people from other areas are not using scare tactics like walking the streets with AR15′s.. They are disrespecting our community and scaring our children. The hatriots need to beat feet and scram.. It is not a second amendment issue. yes, they can do it legally but it only a scare tactic. I am more afraid of the man that dropped his AR 15 then I am of the refugee children. Also the Bush Doctrine and the human trafficking act of 2008 make it legal for unaccompanied minors to enter the country..then they await their trail.. This is called due process..

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