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Pastor released from jail, ends fast

 
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1:00 P.M. EST December 9, 2010 | SAN ANTONIO (UMNS)

The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith is released from jail Dec. 7. She declared a hunger strike until the DREAM Act bill is passed. Helping her is the Rev. Francisco Campos. Web-only photos by Jerry Lara, Express-News.
The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith is released from jail Dec. 7. She declared a hunger strike until the DREAM Act bill is passed. Helping her is the Rev. Francisco Campos. Web-only photos by Jerry Lara, Express-News.

Feeling light-headed and thirsty, the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith departed from the San Antonio Bexar County Jail around 2 p.m. Dec. 7 with United Methodist colleagues and friends.

Smith, pastor of Westlawn United Methodist Church in San Antonio, had been incarcerated since Nov. 30. She joined a group of students from the University of Texas at San Antonio as they staged a sit-in at the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, protesting her lack of support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children to apply for conditional legal status after attending college or serving in the military for two years.

The next day, Dec. 8, the DREAM Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 216–198. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.

Smith and 15 others were arrested for criminal trespass after refusing to leave Hutchinson’s office. All except Smith were released the following day. She wanted to stay in custody until Congress voted.

She said she wasn’t scared when she was led into jail. While there, she declared a spiritual fast, refusing food or water.

“I think I was guided by the Spirit of God, who has led me continuously. What better place to do a spiritual fasting!”

Clergy members from her conference posted bail and accompanied Smith after her release. She was urged to visit a doctor for a physical exam.

The Rev. José Palos, pastor of El Divino Salvador United Methodist Church in San Antonio, said that Smith decided to end her fast. “Lorenza is going to be on a liquid diet for the next two or three days before she can begin to eat solid foods,” he said.

Smith said she had stayed in jail to be in prayer and in solidarity with students that began their hunger strike more than three weeks ago. She had developed a relationship with the group after being invited to one of their meetings.

“The students had classes to attend and finals to take, and I could stay in jail on their behalf and in solidarity with them,” she said.

“I have always been an advocate for justice issues, and for me, it’s a humanitarian issue.” She also wanted to show her faith because “we don’t have to carry the gospel in words only, but into practice.”

A human-rights issue

When asked how she passed time in jail, Smith said she prayed and read her Bible. She said she read the Epistle to the Philippians, which includes her favorite Bible text: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13).

“Prayer changes things, and it is God who is doing movement,” she said. “We need to listen to God.”

Every decision she made, she said, came through consulting God first. She also consulted her son, Derek, a 17-year-old student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Derek said that he was a major channel for communication between his mother, their family, the students on hunger strike and the church.

The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith leaves the Bexar County jail. She was one of 16 DREAM Act supporters arrested on trespassing charges for taking over the office of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson in San Antonio.
The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith leaves the Bexar County jail. She was one of 16 DREAM Act supporters arrested on trespassing charges for taking over the office of
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson in San Antonio.

“My mother always asked me if what she was doing or wanted to do was OK with me before she decided to do it, so I was very prepared,” he said. “I did my best to help her and the students from the outside while my mom was in jail. …This is not an immigration issue for her; it is a human-rights issue.”

He also joined with others in the movement in support of the legislation. His mother has taken this cause to heart because she is passionate about comprehensive immigration reform to begin with. He said that calling for its defeat would mean denying 2.1 million people their rights as human beings.

Palos said people around the nation have also joined in the fast in support of the DREAM Act.

“This is why she decided to end the fast,” he said. “People are joining in the fast and have pledged to fast one day at a time.”

Those committed to the continuation of the fast include Phoenix Area Bishop Minerva Carcaño and retired Bishop Joel N. Martinez.

Smith said she was able to establish good relationships with the women inmates in her unit, and some detention officers expressed their support for her efforts.

Palos asked for continued prayers for Smith and for the passage of the DREAM Act.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society and Carcaño are urging United Methodists to pray and call their senators and representatives to ask them to vote for the DREAM Act. MARCHA, The United Methodist Church’s Hispanic caucus, issued a statement in support of Smith in her act of civil disobedience.

Students on other college campuses have also been demonstrating for the legislation.

*Bachus is director of Spanish resources, United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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