Spanish Ministry Leader in California Deported

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About a year ago immigration issues struck home for Church of the Cross Christian Reformed Church in Delhi, Calif., when volunteer Maria Isabel Rodas Moreira walked out of her house and into the arms of Homeland Security.

Maria Moreira and her family remained separated after her deportation

She was promptly shackled, taken to a detention center, and subsequently deported to Honduras. Her situation highlights the complexity of the immigration issue, said Rev. Zeke Nelson, the church’s pastor.

Moreira was an active volunteer in the church’s Spanish-language ministry.

After a difficult childhood of abuse, Moreira made her way to the United States at the age of 19. “In the United States Isabel became a Christian, turned her life around, married, had children, and began serving her church and community,” said Nelson.

In 1996 and the years following, Moreira tried to straighten out her immigration documentation. Twice she was defrauded by lawyers who took her money and disappeared. One lawyer was later convicted of defrauding many, including Moreira, and was sentenced to prison.

“In addition to defrauding Isabel and her husband of their money, this lawyer also failed to tell them of an upcoming court date for Isabel. Being unaware of that court date, Isabel did not attend, which resulted in a deportation order,” said Nelson.

That order was carried out last year. Moreira was not able to say goodbye to her children or to contest the order, said Nelson.

Her absence is keenly felt, not just by her family but by the entire congregation. Moreira was instrumental in a women’s group and a monthly Spanish worship service. Nelson said, “That service started strong but diminished over time. I can’t help wondering how it would have gone if Isabel had still been with us.”

Nelson and many others have written letters, petitioned government agencies, supported Moreira in Honduras, and prayed. Moreira’s lawyer is filing a motion to reopen Isabel’s case, and they hope she might be able to return to the U.S. while the case is processed.

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