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Marching for justice

Faith leaders including the Rev. Jill Zundel, Detroit: Central UMC, are on a nine-day march to Lansing.

MAY 14, 2018 | DETROIT (Michigan United) — Ded Rranxburgaj waved goodbye from Central United Methodist Church, where he has taken sanctuary from deportation as the Rev. Jill Zundel and other faith leaders began a nine-day march to Lansing on his behalf. The purpose of their march is to ask the director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, Rebecca Adducci, to grant Ded a Stay of Removal and to stop separating families.

Ded Rranxburgaj and the Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel have a moment together prior to the march on May 14. Ded remains in sanctuary inside the church as supporters make a hospital visit with his wife, Flora, before marching to Lansing. ~photo courtesy Paul Perez

Rranxburgaj’s wife, Flora, has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 11 years. Until fall 2017, he was allowed to stay in the U.S. to take care of her. The change in administrative policy that spurred efforts to deport him pushed Rranxburgaj to take sanctuary at the church in January 2018 with his wife and two sons. Click here for their story.

Flora had planned to start the pilgrimage along with the family’s advocates. But over Mother’s Day weekend, Flora became ill due to MS and was taken in an ambulance to Detroit Receiving Hospital. Ded had to stay at the church. The first stop of the pilgrimage was visiting Flora at the hospital, where she is recovering.

“It is so terrible that my wife is sick in the hospital, and I cannot be there with her. Every time she had to go to emergency over the past 11 years, I always went with her. But now, I cannot leave this church, and that is very hard,” said Rranxburgaj.

“Because ICE will deport him if he leaves the church, he cannot visit his wife with MS in the hospital. So we must visit her for him. And that is what this pilgrimage to keep families together is about. Ded can’t march to Lansing for himself, so we must march for him. They have taken away his freedom, and Flora’s dignity, so we must act for them,” said the Rev. Jill Zundel, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church where Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary.

As dozens of supporters left the church to begin the 90 mile march, they reminded each other that there is water and snacks in a support vehicle. They began walking up Woodward, holding signs in support of the Rranxburgaj family and ending deportations.

At the hospital, Flora Rranxburgaj was on bedrest, healing from an infection. “Her MS makes her liable to infections and ER trips. This is the second time we have called 911 since they took sanctuary in January,” said Rev. Zundel.

“I don’t know what I would do if my husband was deported. Who would take care of me? Who would take me to the hospital? I don’t know why ICE is doing this to me, to my family,” said Flora Rranxburgaj, who has been at Detroit Receiving Hospital since Friday night.

After a brief visit, the supporters continued walking, making their way over to Grand River Avenue, which they will take all the way to Lansing. They will make stops each day to tell the family’s story and show support for other immigrant families separated by deportation. Click here for the march schedule.

~Michigan United is a broad, statewide coalition working to reform our broken immigration system, advance housing justice, protect the rights of low-wage workers and develop leadership. More information can be found at the Michigan United’s website:


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