AMERICAN THEATRE

Immersive Learning

ON A RAINY WINTER WEEKNIGHT, THE SANCTUARY of the First Congregational Church of Bellevue, Wash., is gradually filling with people. But this evening, “sanctuary” is probably the wrong word for the high-ceilinged, modern house of worship they are entering.

As they fold up their umbrellas and take their seats, those in attendance may not immediately notice a man and woman wearing black T-shirts with the initials ICE (for Immigration and Customs Enforcement) emblazoned in large white letters, or realize how closely this pair is scrutinizing the crowd of more than a hundred. But it soon sinks in: These keenly observant figures are not typical ushers. Periodically they approach individuals, quietly announcing that they are under arrest. Those “in custody” are then firmly led up the aisle to a corner of the raised altar, where they are seated in chairs and handed papers to read.

Eventually eight people are detained: people of different races, ethnicities, ranging in age from child to senior citizen. Then, as the command “all rise” is heard, a white, middle-aged female judge enters and a hearing begins. It’s not an actual legal proceeding, but it is based on the kind that occurs every day around the United States whenever undocumented immigrants come before a federal judge who will quickly decide their fates. As of September 2019, reportedly more than 55,000

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