Category Archives: Immigration

Due Process Denied: New Report from Kino Border Initiative and NETWORK

New Report from Kino Border Initiative and NETWORK

Trey Espinosa
August 25, 2021

Due Process Denied,” a new joint report from Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, documents patterns of abuse by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency in the Nogales sector.  The purpose of this report is to provide a snapshot of what occurs at the border and to press for external oversight to end CBP’s systemic culture of abuse of migrants.

The report details 35 cases of complaints against CBP agents. The abuses range from migrants being denied due process, such as not given an opportunity to seek asylum or destruction of documentation, to outright physical violence. The victims are men, women, and children and all from Latin America or the Caribbean. Almost all of the abuses documented here are in the Arizona sector but both Kino and NETWORK can say with confidence that this snapshot is the latest of numerous reports highlighting CBP’s systemic pattern of abuse which violates U.S. laws and regulations, as well as international law all along the border.

All of the immigrants who were interviewed in this report came to the United States hoping to escape persecution or violence in their home countries. Many of them directly told the CBP agents that they are desperate to evade abusive partners, organized gang activity, extortion, and/or political strife. However, none of them, were referred to an Asylum Officer of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as is required by law.

As members of Congress continue to push for increased funding for CBP and the Biden administration increasingly relies on CBP to do the work of asylum officers and trained Health and Human Services (HHS) employees, this report demonstrates that CBP is not the appropriate agency to afford migrants the due process guaranteed to them by law; rather, it is woefully inadequate in such a role. The Biden administration and Congress must exercise all their powers and initiate external oversight mechanisms over CBP that will end impunity and change the systemic culture of abuse within the CBP.


Trey Espinosa is a summer volunteer on NETWORK’s Government Relations Team. Trey is originally from Louisville, KY and is in grad school at University of Maryland studying public policy.

Recovering Together: Creating a Pathway to Citizenship

Recovering Together: Creating a Pathway to Citizenship

Achieving an Equitable and Inclusive Recovery through Budget Reconciliation
Ronnate Asirwatham
August 3, 2021

This week, Democratic Congressional leadership continues debating what will be included in the $3.5 trillion recovery package. The transformational recovery package will be passed through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires 50 Senate votes for a bill to pass and become law. This provides a unique opportunity to create a pathway to citizenship for millions of our undocumented community members that cannot be missed.

We are calling on all Senators to support including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farm workers, and essential workers in the recovery package.

With a simple majority vote, Democrats can finally deliver a pathway to millions of undocumented people who have lived and worked in the United States under the fear of deportation for too long.

It is a moral failure that today in the U.S. millions of immigrant workers are considered “essential” and “deportable” at the same time. Congress has a moral imperative to provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrant essential workers and their families through the reconciliation process.

A pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers has overwhelming bipartisan support. Now is the time to extend a pathway to citizenship to millions of our neighbors.

Take Action

Call your Senators at 888-738-3058. Tell them to support including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farm workers, and essential workers in the recovery package.

We Need A More Just and Humane Immigration System

We Need a More Just and Humane Immigration System

Mercy Adoga
August 26, 2021

At NETWORK, we are advocating for a more just and humane immigration system especially at our southwestern border for all immigrants including Haitian, Afro-Caribbean, and African immigrants. 

However, some of the Biden administration’s actions do not support such a system. On August 2nd, President Biden indefinitely extended Title 42 of the U.S. Code to prevent asylum seekers from coming to our borders . This is a flagrant violation of U.S. asylum lawstreaties, and the Constitution. The Biden administration’s misuse of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers puts all expelled immigrants especially black immigrants in grave danger of gang violence, kidnappings, and separates families. Since Biden took office in January of this year, NGOs have tracked at least 6,356 kidnappings, sexual assaults, and other violent attacks  against people blocked at ports of entry or expelled.

President Biden also unveiled a blueprint that has been created for a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system. the Department of Homeland Security has followed up with proposed administrative regulations to flesh out the blueprint. NETWORK welcomes some of the proposed regulations such as those that will expand the categories of asylum seekers eligible to have their cases decided before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These interviews allow asylum seekers to present their claims in a less traumatizing, non-adversarial setting and will contribute to reducing the immigration court backlog. 

However, both the blueprint and proposed regulations allow the government to expand its use of expedited removal, provide only an immigration court “review” rather than an actual hearing, and end the essential life-saving safeguard of asylum office reconsideration of negative credible fear determinations.

These are harmful policies that have been tried, tested, and failed. NETWORK and other organizations have written to the Attorney General the reasons why expedited removal should not be used. These policies frequently lead to the unlawful deportation of people seeking asylum, who are often denied the chance to request protection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

A new NETWORK and Kino Border Initiative joint report provides a snapshot of the CBP abuse at the border. All 35 cases recorded in this report say they asked for asylum but the CBP denied them their right to pursue their asylum cases and expelled them instead.  The Administration’s choice of a deterrence policy over a just and humane one will needlessly subject families to abusive treatment and inhumane conditions in CBP and ICE detention cells as the government seeks to deport them

NETWORK Recommendations

At NETWORK we recognize that the current immigration processes occurring at the southwestern border are detrimental to immigrants. We would like to spread awareness about the dangers while also proposing potential solutions to address some of the concerns surrounding the immigration system. 

Asylum seekers should enter into a welcoming, timely, and effective system rather than being subjected to rushed and inefficient screening and adjudication procedures. We ask for: 

  1. The right to seek asylum restored at all points of entry at our southern border 
  2. End the misuse of Title 42 at the U.S. Mexico border
  3. Improve the fairness of asylum office interviews and refer asylum seekers for full asylum interviews at their destination locations without the use of expedited removal — a fundamentally flawed process that endangers refugees   
  4. Ramp-up case support initiatives and funding for legal representation, use legal parole authority and do not send people seeking U.S. refugee protection to immigration jails while their asylum cases are adjudicated.
  5. Support faith and community-based welcome organizations to provide welcome and temporary care in border towns and in the interior of the U.S. 
  6. End immigration detention. 
  7. Ensure that all asylum seekers have the right to legal representation not only legal orientation programs.

We hope that taking these steps among others will lead to a more timely, just, and effective immigration system that positively affects all immigrants including those who are Haitian, Afro-Caribbean, and African. 

Welcome to NETWORK’s Summer Immigration Education

Welcome to NETWORK’s Summer Immigration Education!

Mercy Adoga
July 31, 2021

This summer NETWORK offers a series of educational videos providing information about the United States’ Immigration system. In this video series, NETWORK’s Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham will be discussing various topics surrounding the U.S Immigration system such as Title 42, MPP (Migration Protection Protocols), the difference between the asylum process and refugee process, and more. To learn more, please watch the videos below.

 

 

Mercy is a graduate student. She is one of the summer volunteers at NETWORK this year and has been working on the Summer Immigration Education and Advocacy Initiative.

Community Conversation: Sisters on the Border

Community Conversation: Sisters on the Border

Mercy Adoga
July 21, 2021

On June 29, 2021, NETWORK hosted a community conversation with the “Sisters on the Borders.” Sr. Doreen Doreen, CSJ, and Sr. Patrice Patrice, CSJ engaged in conversation and shared their experiences.

Sr. Doreen began by mentioning a question she received prior to this conversation. The question was, “How did I become involved in this work?” Sr. Doreen expressed her gratitude for this question as it helped her reflect on her many years of service. She later went on to speak about her experience after Vatican II and how that time pushed her toward direct service. She visited jails, volunteered in homeless shelters, and taught ESL in Spanish-speaking communities. Sr. Doreen said when speaking about her work, “My commitment to living the Gospel led me to this.”

Sr. Patrice spoke next and also shared Sr. Doreen’s experience of reflecting prior to this conversation. Sr. Patrice spoke about her work with refugees in Cambodia, the border of Sudan and Ethiopia as well as Haiti. Sr. Patrice explained that all refugees want to stay in their home countries but their home is no longer safe for them for a variety of reasons including environmental concerns, gang violence, or government mismanagement. Sr. Patrice also joined other Sisters and volunteers in El Paso, Texas to assist migrants. She explained that one, “had to be open to what the needs were.”

With her most recent work in San Diego, CA, Sr. Patrice expressed her gratitude for the different organizations that came together regardless of background to assist refugees. She was also aware of the fact that refugees’ arrival in the states is just the beginning of their journey and that they face many challenges in the immigration process in the United States.

The latter half of the evening was led by Ronnate Asirwatham, NETWORK’s Government Relations Director, who took to explain immigration policies that the Sisters discussed such as Title 42 and MPP(Migrant Protection Protocols) After Ronnate explained these policies, viewers were given reflections questions to discuss in the breakout rooms. These questions included, “What has been your experience with immigration in your community?” “How have certain policies or laws impacted the situation at the border?” “What narratives about immigration do you hear in general? How do those compare to your experience?”

If you would like to learn more or re-watch this conversation, find the recording on NETWORK’s YouTube channel.


Mercy is a graduate student. She is one of the summer volunteers at NETWORK this year and has been working on the Summer Immigration Education and Advocacy Initiative.

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Laura Peralta-Schulte
July 21, 2021

Right now, Congress is crafting their budget reconciliation proposal. Over the next weeks and months, our elected officials will decide what policy priorities to include and what to leave out.

Budget reconciliation gives us the opportunity to make bold, transformational investments in our families and our communities by:

  • Making the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit permanent
  • Increasing access to health care, eldercare, childcare, education, and broadband
  • Building affordable housing and increasing access to rental assistance
  • Providing a pathway to citizenship for those with DACA, TPS, farmworkers, and other essential workers
  • Establishing a national paid family and medical leave program, and more.

We cannot go back to the status quo of exclusion and inequality. We must build anew with racial and environmental justice at the center. The recovery package Congressional Democrats are working to pass through budget reconciliation will make bold investments in a more just future. We can afford this by reforming our tax code to ensure that the wealthiest people and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We urge Congress to unrig the tax code by:

  • Repealing the 2017 Republican corporate tax cuts
  • Strengthening IRS enforcement to prevent tax evasion
  • Eliminating tax breaks that encourage offshoring
  • Closing tax loopholes used by big corporations to avoid paying their fair share, and more.

Fixing our tax code is essential to closing the racial wealth gap and creating an economy that benefits all of us.

NETWORK Advocates Tell President Biden: End Title 42

NETWORK Advocates Tell President Biden: End Title 42

Audrey Carroll
July 16, 2021

Yesterday, Grassroots Mobilization Coordinator Sister Emily TeKolste, SP and Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham delivered a petition to the White House telling President Biden to End Title 42.

Title 42 has no true medical basis and is causing harm to our immigrant siblings at the southern border. The order also violates the internationally recognized right to seek asylum. Thank you to over 1,600 NETWORK members and supporters that signed the petition urging the Biden Administration to end Title 42 and protect the dignity of immigrants and asylum seekers.

Download the full petition here. 

Called to Serve our Neighbors at the Border

Called to Serve our Neighbors at the Border

Sr. Cecilia Cavanaugh, SSJ
July 15, 2021

In response to the Biden administration’s changes to federal policy at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, Catholic Sisters began traveling to the border to be of service to the influx of children and families entering the U.S. A few weeks ago, I traveled from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to McAllen, Texas with three other Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia, one of our Associates in Mission, and two friends.  

We, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have a special commitment to serving all people who we recognize as “dear neighbor” especially those who are most vulnerable. Eager to serve our dear neighbors migrating into the USA, this is my fourth experience accompanying migrants in their journeys. Being able to “connect some dots” between my past experiences and the present is helpful and inspiring. As I reflect on the first of my two weeks here in Texas, I’m increasingly grateful for encounters I’ve had in recent years. 

Last year, another SSJ Sister and I spent ten days in McAllen. Because of the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols,” the Center in Texas was almost empty. Instead, we often packed provisions and drove to Brownsville to cross the Río Grande into the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico. Walking through rows and rows of tents housing families in Matamoros, knowing that the policies of my country created these conditions, branded an indelible mark on my soul.  

This week, our group visited another bridge and some wanted to cross. I could not. I realized that my experience witnessing families trapped in Matamoros last year was traumatic and that I’m still processing.  

Now that policies are changing, hundreds and hundreds of people are being served daily. As overwhelming as my experience this year has been, there is a significant difference. There is movement. The families are on their way. Their hope energizes and lifts me up. I recognize my privilege and blessing in both scenarios. I want to be one with these dear neighbors and can bear witness to their experiences, but I will never share the extent of their pain, distress and trauma. 

Last week, I listened to a woman describe the home she was forced to leave in Guatemala and assaults she and her sons experienced on the journey to the U.S. She anguished over finding her way to her sponsor and shuddered when she looked at her monitoring ankle bracelet. As she spoke, I remembered the simple but beautiful homes and subsistence farms I visited during a 2013 trip to Guatemala; the material poverty was in contrast to a deep sense of history, home, and community.   

When I told her I could picture the homes in Guatemala, she burst out, “I miss my chickens. I miss my chickens.” I can’t stop repeating her words. Those animals represent so much about home, familiarity, and belonging. This person did not want to leave her home. I praised her resilience and bravery and promised her my prayer and that I would not forget her. Her story guarantees it. 

Finally, I remember a week spent last March in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz with our Sisters of Saint Joseph of Lyon. I was visiting a shelter near a border where folks cross into Mexico, having already traveled through parts of Central America. I listened to interactions, heard stories, and learned more about their experiences. Having traveled that week from Philadelphia to Mexico City and then by bus and car to Tierra Blanca, I had a privileged view of the length of their journey.  

We drove through train yards where dozens of men waited to jump on a passing train despite the danger from gangs threatening to extort them and the trains themselves, fast and unforgiving. Watching them leave the shelter in the morning and head out — to my country — I prayed that they would know a welcome after their long journeys. Now, I stand at the other end of that route here in the United States. I welcome my dear neighbors, offer clean clothing, necessities, encouragement, a smile. They set off again. I took a young woman and her toddler to the airport and tried to explain this new experience to her — security lines, what to do if her plane was late or canceled. I felt fearful imagining her layover. I watched her set out and prayed for her. Who will help her? 

In his September 2020 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis reminded us of our call to “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate” these valiant, vulnerable siblings of ours. He added six pairs of verbs: to know and understand, to be close to and serve, to be reconciled and listen, to grow and share, to be involved and promote, to cooperate, and to build. So much work of body, mind, and spirit! This cannot be completed or even undertaken over the course of a two-week volunteer stint. Rather, such effort must be undertaken by all of us in all the places where we live and minister. The journey does not end at our borders. 

Cecelia J. Cavanaugh SSJ is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia and a former Nun on the Bus.   

Supporting a Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers

Supporting a Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers

Audrey Carroll
May 17, 2021

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, around 5.2 million undocumented essential workers in every state across the U.S. continued working in critical industries, including as health care providers and agricultural workers. Despite being an integral part of our communities and contributing to our shared wellbeing, these mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, and neighbors do not have an assured, safe path to citizenship. Nearly one million essential workers are Dreamers with no pathway to permanent status in the U.S. currently. It is time for this to change.

On May 12, Senator Alex Padilla chaired a subcommittee hearing focused on legislation which would provide a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers.  The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act creates a pathway to citizenship for over 5 million undocumented essential workers in the U.S. The bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Alex Padilla and Elizabeth Warren and in the House by Representatives Joaquin Castro and Ted Lieu.

NETWORK Lobby submitted a statement for the record for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety’s hearing, highlighting the vital role of undocumented essential workers in our society. Immigrants have always been at the heart of our communities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized that without essential immigrant workers, we cannot survive. Undocumented workers have been working on the frontlines of the pandemic without vital benefits and protections. We can no longer treat essential immigrant workers as expendable.

NETWORK’s statement tells the story of Jose*, an undocumented student and worker who overcame the odds to receive approval for DACA. Despite Jose’s achievements, he lived in fear of what may happen to him and his family without the security of U.S. citizenship status. Undocumented workers are the backbone of our society and should not live in fear. No one should live in fear in the United States. Our immigration system has been broken for decades and we must build anew with a vision of inclusion and welcome for the future of our country.

All people in the United States, regardless of immigration status, make up one single community. Policies that prevent immigrant families from accessing citizenship, permanent legal residence, or needed resources for food, housing, and health care are unjust and hurt not only immigrant families but also our entire national community. It is time to respect and honor the human dignity of undocumented immigrants in the United States by providing an accessible pathway to citizenship.

*Name changed.

Immigration: Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Immigration: Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Audrey Carroll
April 8, 2021

On March 17, NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham presented a webinar to NETWORK members on the current status of immigration legislation in Congress, as well as highlighting current Administrative wins and ongoing issues at the Southern border.

Currently, NETWORK is tracking six immigration bills that have been introduced in the 117th Congress. The immigration bills are: the U.S. Citizenship Act, Citizenship for Essential Workers, the Dream and Promise Act, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the DREAM Act, and the SECURE Act. Each bill includes a path to citizenship for our currently undocumented community and family members, including DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and TPS (Temporary Protected Status), and DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) holders. This pathway to permanent residence and citizenship is critical for “security and dignity,” according to Ronnate. Here is the breakdown of with the legislative process for these bills:

-U.S. Citizenship Act: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 11 million individuals.
-Citizenship for Essential Workers: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 5.2 million individuals.
-Dreamers and TPS legislation: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 4 million individuals.
-Farm Workforce Modernization Act: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 1 million undocumented farmworkers.

Bill number Bill Name Creates a pathway to citizenship for: Legislative Goal Progress
H.R.6 Dream and Promise Act 4 million DACA recipients, TPS and DED holders Pass the House, conferenced with 2 Senate bills, the DREAM Act (S.264) and the SECURE Act (S.306) and signed into law Passed the House in a 228-197 vote on March 18
H.R.1603 Farm Workforce Modernization Act 1 million undocumented farmworkers Pass the House and the Senate and signed into law by the President Passed the House in a 247-174 vote on March 18
S.264 DREAM Act Current, former, and  future undocumented high school graduates Pass the Senate, conference with the Dream and Promise Act in the House and sign into law Introduced in the Senate on Feb. 4, 2021 by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham
S.306 SECURE Act Approximately 400,000 TPS holders Pass the Senate, conference with the Dream and Promise Act in the House and sign into law Introduced in the Senate on Feb. 8 by Senator Van Hollen
S.747 Citizenship for Essential Workers 5.2 million undocumented essential workers Needs to pass the House and the Senate – may end up being added to a larger piece of legislation Introduced in the Senate by Senators Padilla and Warren; Introduced in the House by Reps. Castro and Lieu
H.R. 1177/S.348 U.S. Citizenship Act 11 million currently undocumented individuals Needs to pass the House and the Senate Introduced in the House on Feb. 18 by Rep. Sanchez and in the Senate by Sen. Menendez

More hearings and votes for these critical pieces of immigration legislation are expected to take place in April and May. The Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act have already passed in the House of Representatives and await a vote in the Senate. Hearings for the DREAM Act in the Senate and the U.S. Citizenship Act in the House and Senate are expected in April/May.

Three months into the Biden-Harris administration, there have already been some wins for Americans in terms of immigration. Venezuelans are now able to secure TPS, the harmful Public Charge Rule remains blocked, information sharing between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Health and Human Services has been stopped, and people in MPP are now being processed. These actions reverse years of racist and xenophobic policies against immigrants and are an important step towards passing immigration legislation centered on human dignity.

Despite recent rhetoric describing the situation at the Southern border as a sudden “crisis,” Ronnate Asirwatham debunked this by describing border issues as a slow, ongoing issue. The most pressing concerns are unaccompanied children, lack of shelter, and family reunification. The Title 42 Order is also a large concern, as it blocks people from exercising their right to seek asylum, disproportionately affecting Black immigrants and migrants.

Going forward, NETWORK urges its members to ask their Members of Congress to support these immigration policies in Congress that center human dignity and provide a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented siblings.

Pressure also must be placed on the Biden administration to rescind the racist Title 42 order. Title 42 was instituted by the Trump administration and used the COVID-19 crisis to turn away all immigrants and asylum seekers at the border. Much of the current rhetoric against immigration legislation is xenophobic, and this impacts the passage of bills. Despite this, We the People know that immigrants are an important part of our communities, and the majority of voters support a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors.

In order to dismantle the racism and white supremacy in our immigration system and Build Anew, Congress must enact these policies to reunite families, provide real opportunities for undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship, welcome asylum seekers, and grow compassion in our communities.