Meeting Jose Ruben
May 25, 2023
I had the privilege of meeting Jose Ruben last weekend. He was receiving a Community Impact Award from Pangea Legal, one of our partners in the work of immigration justice. You don’t know Jose Ruben, but as a church, we’ve been praying for him. He was one of the leaders of the Hunger Strike that 84 people in California detention centers participated in shortly before Easter. Many in the congregation engaged in a Multi-Faith Solidarity Fast and prayer during holy week, carrying forward their fast and calling attention to the unjust and inhumane treatment of those in detention.
Jose Ruben was one of the four people who, after nearly three weeks of abstaining from food, was violently removed from Mesa Verde and transferred to a detention center in El Paso, Texas. When he arrived, he was threatened with force-feeding if he didn’t eat. Forced to choose between the torture of force-feeding or the possibility of returning to California if he ate something, he agreed to end his fast. In response, he was given two cold cheeseburgers and french fries. He ended up in the hospital.
I was able to hear Jose Ruben’s testimony at a meeting with Senator Padilla’s office, in response to the Multi-Faith Solidarity Fast. Paige Bence and I also heard him speak at his recent bond hearing. We joined dozens of community members in a virtual courtroom, and his judge was so moved by the outpouring of community support that he ruled that Jose Ruben could return home on bond. At home, he has been able to slowly heal his body and soul.
When I met Jose Ruben last weekend, I was able to share with him that Lakeshore had been praying for him for several weeks. I was even able to show him a short video of Lakeshorians sharing why they were fasting in support of the Hunger Strikers and who were in detention. I let him know his courage had inspired us, and he was clearly touched by our actions of solidarity. We both felt the barriers that separate immigrant and ally crumble as we connected deeply in our brief exchange. We encouraged one another in our ongoing work of advocating for all who are in detention.
Jose Ruben expressed his deep appreciation for our witness and work to end to immigration detention. May we continue to move forward, however slowly, in the long, hard struggle of releasing the captives from detention.