Central Plains Mennonite Conference

The Villatoro family with boxes of petitions asking for Pastor Max's release.

Iowa pastor deported

April 7, 2015

Mennonite pastor Max Villatoro was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on March 3 as part of a nationwide raid that picked up more than 2,000 immigrants. Villatoro came to the United States in 1995 and has a wife and four children in Iowa City. After an unprecedented campaign calling for his release, he was deported to Honduras on March 20.


MCC U.S. has released a report describing how, though ICE officials say they are deporting the “worst of the worst” criminals, they are in fact deporting many like Pastor Villatoro–in direct violation of ICE guidelines.


High school essay contest winner announced

We are delighted to announced the winner of our 2015 high school essay contest. Jared Knepper, a senior at Shalom Christian Academy in Chambersburg, Pa. was the overall winner with his piece on mass incarceration in the United States. Knepper analyzed the causes and ramifications of mass incarceration, and also explored solutions to this significant problem while incorporating Anabaptist values. Congratulations to Jared, and to the three honorable mentions: Brooklyn Ries of Freeman (S.D.) Academy; and Isaac Brenneman and Kyle Snyder, both of Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen, Ind. 

Policy updates

Criminal justice: On March 9, Senators Booker (D-N.J.) and Paul (R-Ky.) introduced the REDEEM Act, which aims to limit juvenile incarceration and allow juveniles with misdemeanors to avoid being caught up in the adult prison system. 

Food security: Senators Corker (R-Tenn.) and Coons (D-Del.) have reintroduced the Food for Peace Reform Act. If enacted into law, the bill would free up as much as $440 million per year through reforms to U.S. food assistance. This would allow food to reach an additional 12 million people, faster and more efficiently.

Iran: On April 2, negotiators announced that the outlines of an agreement had been reached regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This good news now begins the second stage of the process: to negotiate details of a final deal by June 30. Urge Congress to support the deal and not undermine it.

Upcoming events

  • April 17-20: Ecumenical Advocacy Days is approaching quickly!  The event, held in Washington D.C., will focus on the critical issue of mass incarceration and needed reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system. This ecumenical gathering will include a time to meet together with other Mennonites interested in the issue. There is still time to register!
  • May 17-18: Mark your calendars for this year's Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia:Tomorrow's Peace Starts Today. Sunday, May 17 we invite congregations to use worship resources to plan a service of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Colombia. Monday, May 18 is a day of action and advocacy. Resources to plan a worship service, a communal craft project, and advocate for peace in Colombia available on the MCC U.S. Washington Office blog. Recursos en español también!

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Staff updates

A warm welcome to Sara Ritchie, a senior at Eastern Mennonite University, who is joining us as a foreign policy intern this spring.

On March 12, six participants in an October 2014 Mennonite Church USA learning tour to Palestine and Israel visited Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional offices.

Tammy Alexander met with a group of senior nursing students from EMU and accompanied them on congressional visits.

Joshua Russell and Charissa Zehr met with graduate students from Goshen College on March 26 and discussed how Anabaptist faith intersects with politics.

As members of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group, our staff helped to coordinate "Haiti for Whom?"--a series of briefings on Capitol Hill focused on aid accountability and inequality in Haiti five years after the earthquake from the perspective of partners from Haiti.

Charles Kwuelum recently attended and presented a paper, The Wave and Matrix of Religious Fundamentalism and the interplay of Terrorism as a Threat to Nation-State Building: Pivoting Nigeria's Context at the Notre Dame Student Peace Conference. The Conference was sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.