Category Archives: Immigration

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.

Black Immigrants are People Too

Black Immigrants are People Too

Joan Neal
February 9, 2021

Black Lives Matter and that includes the lives of Black immigrants. In the United States, the narrative around immigration usually focuses on Latinx people coming across the southern border from Mexico and Central America, but Black immigrants from these countries, from the Caribbean, and from Africa comprise a significant and growing part of the story of our immigration story. Black History Month provides an important opportunity to learn about stories and struggles of Black immigrants.

There has long been a large population of Black immigrants in this country since the sixteenth-century slave trade began. This should not be surprising to Americans. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. Of the 10.7 million who survived the Middle Passage, 388,000 disembarked in North America. The rest ended up in the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Over time, many of the descendants of those enslaved persons migrated to the United States seeking asylum, family reunification, work, or higher education. Today, about 50% of all Black immigrants come from the Caribbean region, around 4% from South America, and nearly 45% from the African continent, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa.

Moreover, Black people are a growing segment of the immigrant population in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, in 1980 there were 816,000 Black immigrants. By 2000, the number of Black immigrants in the country had risen 71% to 2.4 million. Six years later in 2016, that number had increased to 4.2 million, meaning nearly 10% of all Black people living in the U.S. were foreign born . Such rapid growth in the Black immigrant population is expected to continue, especially in large metropolitan areas. According to the Census Bureau, by 2060 16.5% of all Black people in the U.S. will be immigrants.

But these statistics are not the whole story. With few exceptions, the lived experience of Black immigrants very much mirrors the experience of U.S.-born Black people. Black immigrants encounter anti-Black discrimination and racial prejudice because of the color of their skin. Similar to U.S.-born Black people, they are often subject to the same risks of poverty, lack of access to quality health care or affordable housing, over-policing, and increasing incarceration.

More than other immigrant groups, undocumented Black foreign-born people find themselves caught in the prison to deportation pipeline. In fact, Black immigrants account for a disproportionate number of criminal-based deportations. Guilt or innocence aside, 76% of Black immigrants are deported on criminal grounds compared to 45% of all immigrants. Like the prevailing experience of U.S.-born Black people, there is no other explanation for these statistics than that it is because they are Black. When they arrive in the U.S., Black immigrants are no longer Ghanaian, South African, Jamaican, Haitian, or Nicaraguan. They are simply Black, and in this society, their lives do not matter.

Anti-Black racism has been present in this country since its founding. Despite the fact that Black people were forcibly brought here, when it came time to answer the question ‘who belongs in this nation’, the country’s overwhelming answer was only white people. History and our founding documents show that anyone who was not considered white was not meant to be a citizen. This was quickly incorporated into the immigration system where it persists even today. Despite the words that are etched on the Statue of Liberty –“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, the United States continues to demonstrate it is unwelcoming to Black people, citizen or not.

Whatever it was about the murder of George Floyd last year that opened America’s eyes, indeed the eyes of the world, about the enduring persistence of systemic racism, the fact is that there is no going back from that realization. As a people, we must deal with it. The fundamental question before the United States, indeed before the world since anti-Black racism is global, is what is to be done about it?

This moment in our history invites us to finally address the issue of pervasive, instututionalized anti-Black racism. It calls us to transform our society, our laws, our systems, including the immigration system, to ensure that all lives matter equally. No exceptions. Time will tell if we are up to the challenge.

Sources:

Trans-Atlantic Database, https://archive.slavevoyages.org, David Eltis, David Richardson, ed.

U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, March 2016

US Immigrant Population Projected to Rise Even as Share Falls Among Hispanics and Asians, Anna Brown, Pew Research Center, 03/09/2015; “Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850-2000” and 2014 population projections, U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook and Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 2000

President Biden Continues Action on Immigration

President Biden Continues Action on Immigration

Ronnate Asirwatham
February 8, 2021

Last week, President Biden signed three new executive orders on immigration, actions critical to respecting the rights and dignity of immigrants in our nation, and respecting and honoring family unity.

  1. Task force to reunite families

The first executive order he signed creates a task force to reunite children in the U.S. with their parents who were deported under the Trump administration.

  1. Review MPP and the misuse of Title 42 public health authority

Another order directed newly sworn in DHS Secretary Mayorkas to “promptly review and determine whether to terminate or modify” the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for court proceedings. With a backlog of thousands of cases, this policy forced immigrants and asylum seekers from many countries to spend months or years in dangerous and inhumane conditions waiting for court decisions. The order also includes the review of the misuse of Title 42 public health authority, and the third-country transit ban. The Title 42 public health authority has enable ICE and CBP to expel asylum seekers and unaccompanied children without any due process. While we welcome this review we would ask that the use of Title 42 be suspended while the review is being conducted, just like the MPP.

  1. Review public charge

Finally, in his third executive order, President Biden instructed heads of agencies to review the public charge rule, which the Trump administration changed to effectively impose a racially-motivated wealth test on immigrants, punishing legal immigrants who use public benefits by hurting their chances to receive green cards.

These actions build on the executive orders signed two weeks ago, on the first day of the Biden-Harris administration. Previously, President Biden fortified DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), which was under constant threat during the Trump presidency, reinstated DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) for Liberians, halted funds to Trump’s border wall, and ended the travel ban on Muslim-majority and African countries.

Stopping Unjust Deportations

President Biden’s acting DHS Secretary issued a 100-day moratorium on deportations on January 20, 2021, however, a Texas federal judge barred enforcement of the moratorium until February 23. This stay on the moratorium only affects Texas.

However despite the acting Secretary’s stay order ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) continued carrying out deportation flights, including flights to Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Haiti.

Because of a lot of nationwide advocacy and activism.  a deportation flight  with immigrants from Cameroon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was cancelled. However other flights especially those to Haiti have continued and this is having a devastating effect on Black Haitian communities. We are working with several advocacy groups to ensure future deportation flights are  cancelled until all cases can be reviewed. A majority of immigrants who are being deported post inauguration are those who have been expelled under the Title 42 order and therefore they have not been given any due process rights.

Looking Ahead to Comprehensive Immigration Legislation

As President Biden signed the executive orders, he said, “I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy.” In the coming weeks and months, President Biden and members of Congress plan to pass a new law (or laws) to reform our immigration system. Some legislation is familiar – the Dream Act, the Dream and Promise Act, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act have been introduced in previous congresses – but President Biden also seeks to pass broader reform. This will be a critical opportunity to build our immigration system anew, and we will keep NETWORK members updated on how to support this legislation.

President Biden Rescinds Muslim Travel Ban on Day One

President Biden Rescinds Muslim Travel Ban on Day One

Colleen Ross
January 25, 2021

Last week, as one of 17-Day One executive actions, President Biden rescinded Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority and African countries. During the Trump presidency, this travel ban faced numerous legal challenges in its various forms. The Supreme Court ultimately approved this callous and discriminatory policy, which resulted in more than 41,000 people denied visas. Now, this harmful expression of Islamophobia and anti-blackness has been terminated.

The travel ban kept family members apart from one another, ended job opportunities, and upended students’ academic careers. While the battle over the travel ban in courts was about legality and intent, the travel ban raised moral questions about the United States identity as a nation that welcomes immigrants and values family unity.

Muslim advocates and people across the country opposed to this discriminatory policy pushed back every step of the way. President Biden’s quick action to rescind the ban is a good first step, but much more will have to be done to reunite families and restore the U.S.’s relationship with foreign countries. In Congress, passing the No Ban Act, which NETWORK supports, would prevent future discriminatory policies being passed.

Welcoming individuals of all backgrounds is a value we must continue living up to in our nation, and a basic tenet of Catholic Social Justice. Now that the travel ban is overturned, we continue working to instill justice and respect for immigrants into all of our policies.

NETWORK Urges Biden-Harris Administration to Address Suffering in our Nation

NETWORK Urges Biden-Harris Administration to Address the Suffering in our Nation

Work for Racial Justice, Respect Immigrant Rights, and Strengthen Democracy in the First 100 Days
Caraline Feairheller
December 19, 2020

As President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris prepare to take office, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the ways our nation fails to structure a society that cares for those most in need. As both a public health crisis and an economic one, those most disproportionately affected have been communities of color and the poor. Over the years, the willful dismantling of social safety nets combined with the lack of preparedness for the pandemic have resulted in job loss, evictions, and food insecurity for millions of people.

While the injustice inherit in our system cannot be solved in the first 100 days of a new administration, a conscious commitment to alleviating the suffering can result in policies that prioritize the common good and support people and families at the economic margins.

We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize and commit themselves to systemic change in all branches of government in order to alleviate the harm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of legislative action, such as:

  • Implementing a 6-month moratorium on forecloses and evictions.
  • Providing additional cash relief payments.
  • Creating a White House Racial Equity Office within the Executive Office of the President.
  • Require federal agencies serving populations underrepresented on voter rolls to provide voter registration services to their clients.
  • And more

In addition to these COVID-19 priorities, we call on the Biden-Harris administration to take immediate action to advance racial justice, protect immigrant rights, and strengthen democracy.

 

Download the full list of NETWORK priorities for the Biden-Harris transition.

Advent 2020: Waiting for Immigration Reform

Advent 2020: Waiting for Immigration Reform

Gina Kelley
December 20, 2020

During this season of reflection and hope as we approach the New Year, and with it a new Presidential Administration, I find myself thinking of everyone who has given and lost so much during this often tragic year. While I know that many of us this year have sometimes felt paralyzed at the loss of life, I have attempted to redirect this sadness towards hope for future change. Having worked with undocumented folks in college, I often imagine a day where the changes our broken immigration system requires are realized.

5.5 million undocumented immigrants are essential workers, including 425,000 who are healthcare workers. Immigrants have always been at the heart of our national community and identity, but this pandemic has demonstrated that without immigrants, this country does not survive. For example, 1.7 million undocumented workers are essential to our food supply. Undocumented individuals have always been essential and the pandemic has only amplified that truth. Undocumented immigrants can no longer be defined by their legal status. They are members of our communities. They have families of their own. They are equal.

The United States has often thanked essential workers throughout these painful 10 months. However, undocumented individuals are frequently excluded from that gratitude just as they were with the passage of stimulus checks. Our neighbors have worked through a pandemic without equal treatment or government support. COVID-19 relief is necessary for all of us, and ‘us’ includes our undocumented brothers and sisters.

During this time of incredible difficulty, we have also witnessed continued violence and negligence on our borders against those most in need. Since 2017, all while in U.S. custody, or immediately after being released, 39 adults have died with independent experts finding that subpar care contributed to these deaths. One Louisiana center had multiple reports of no access to soap for bathing or any cleaning supplies. This research was concluded prior to the pandemic; however, reports from immigrant advocates have not indicated any improvement. Erika Pinheiro, litigation director of Al Otro Lado, has reported a continued problem “with ICE hospitalizing people, releasing them, and then they die,” and the death goes unreported by ICE. A U.S. District Judge stated that ICE has demonstrated “deliberate indifference to the risk of an outbreak” and that the agency has “lost the right to be trusted.”

We have families separated on our border enduring inhumane treatment and within those borders undocumented people work without basic protections. Over the last four years, the Trump administration has taken an already broken system and broken it in new ways, without thought or care for the families and people whose lives are at stake. As I look with anticipation to a new year and new administration there are steps that should be taken on Day One to remedy these realities. For example, all COVID-19 relief must include mixed-status families, and basic health care and pandemic protections must be provided to those in detention centers. There are also long-term solutions like a clear pathway to citizenship for all undocumented essential workers and their families, abolishing ICE, and developing new agencies to assist those coming to our borders. I hope that many of you are with me in this battle for a just and humane immigration system that respects and values all people.

Another Pro-Life Value to Consider in the 2020 Election

Another Pro-Life Value to Consider in the 2020 Election

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 20, 2020

Pope Francis has urged Catholics like me to, “meddle in politics” and vote my conscience. The Catholic Church, in turn, is charged with helping me form a moral conscience, “in accordance with God’s truth”.[1] Under the auspice of pro-life teaching, however, many in the Church would make me believe that the only way I can vote in this Presidential election is for Donald Trump because of his stance on abortion, an, “intrinsic evil”.[2] As an immigration advocate, I have learned just how much intrinsic evil there is in the United States’ immigration policy, especially on our Southern border.

For decades, people have been crossing through the U.S. Southern border to seek a better life for themselves and their families. In 2019, U.S. apprehensions of migrants crossing at places other than legal points of entry reached a 13-year high. After the U.S. threatened sanctions, Mexico created stricter policies at its own Southern border and expanded the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) which allowed U.S. asylum seekers to be “returned” to Mexico to wait for their court date in the U.S.

As of November 2019, 56,000 asylum seekers, 16,000 of them children, have been sent back to Mexico. Since March, citing public health concerns from COVID-19, the U.S. has shut down the border with Mexico to everything except critical services, of which seeking asylum is apparently not, leaving people stranded often in makeshift camps. These precarious living situations leave migrants especially vulnerable to the spread of the virus. Children, who already lack adequate medical care and whose parents have reported issues from respiratory infections to communicable diseases, are particularly at-risk. Public health experts have also raised the alarm that these children could be at risk for long-term health effects from elevated, long-term stress.

Willfully sending people, including vulnerable groups like women and children into dangerous places without consistent access to safe spaces, sanitation, health, education, or food, is absolutely not in line with what it means to be pro-life.

Even though Catholics vote about a 50/50 split between Republican and Democratic candidates, there is growing pressure from church leaders, including numerous Bishops on Twitter and a nun who spoke at the Republican National Convention, that the only way to vote as a Catholic is for Donald Trump because he upholds pro-life values by not supporting abortion.[3] As a Catholic who works to advocate for federal policies in alignment with Catholic Social Justice, I know that there is no political party that perfectly encompasses pro-life values. However, those values should not be co-opted by people actively creating and enforcing policies that are against women’s and children’s health and safety.

Catholics should consider the intrinsic evil of the MPP as an urgent call of what it means to be pro-life in the upcoming election. Not only does Pope Francis call Catholics to view the poor and vulnerable among us as equally sacred to the unborn, but I believe we must honor the common good by valuing Black and brown lives, especially those of women and children, in our federal policies.[4]

There are many ways you can learn more about the Presidential candidates and their stance on the various pro-life issues. Take a look at NETWORK’s Equally Sacred Priorities for 2020 Voters. I, for one, have been talking with friends and family about what I’ve learned and the real impact we can make towards bettering people’s lives with our vote this November. I hope you’ll join me.


[1]  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. (2020). (p. 13). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf

[2] Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. (2020). (p. 19). https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf

[3] Smith, G. (2020, September 15). 8 facts about Catholics and politics in the U.S. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/15/8-facts-about-catholics-and-politics-in-the-u-s/; Strickland, J. [@Bishopoftyler]. (2020, September 5). Tweets [Bishop J. Strickland]. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://twitter.com/Bishopoftyler/status/1302293048659935232.; Full Text: Sister Dede Byrne’s Speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention. (2020, August 27). National Catholic Register. https://www.ncregister.com/news/full-text-sister-dede-byrne-s-speech-at-the-2020-republican-national-convention-r4y14k2p

[4] Bergoglio, J. (2018, March 19). Gaudete et exsultate: Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world. The Vatican. http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

Republican National Convention. (2020, August 27). National Catholic Register. https://www.ncregister.com/news/full-text-sister-dede-byrne-s-speech-at-the-2020-republican-national-convention-r4y14k2p

NETWORK Lobby Supports the No Ban Act and Access to Counsel Act

NETWORK Lobby Supports the No Ban Act and Access to Counsel Act

Giovana Oaxaca
July 24, 2020

The Trump Administration has made several attempts to curb immigration under the guise of public health through rules that are clearly discriminatory amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, NETWORK Lobby sent a letter to the House of Representatives in support of the No Ban Act and the Access to Counsel Act of 2020.

The letter read, “On behalf of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and our 100,000 members from across the country, we write to express our support for the No Ban Act and the Access to Counsel Act of 2020 (together, H.R. 2486). NETWORK Lobby recognizes that all displaced people deserve access to protection, regardless of the faith they practice our country of origin. Welcoming individuals of all backgrounds is not only an American value enshrined in the U.S Constitution, but also a basic tenet of Catholic Social Justice. Consistent with our values, we call on Congress to pass the No Ban Act and Access to Counsel Act of 2020 without amendments or changes.”

Please read NETWORK’s letter of support below:

NETWORK Lobby Supports the No Ban Act and Access to Counsel Act

Dear Representative,

On behalf of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and our 100,000 members from across the country, we write to express our support for the No Ban Act and the Access to Counsel Act of 2020 (together, H.R. 2486). NETWORK Lobby recognizes that all displaced people deserve access to protection, regardless of the faith they practice our country of origin. Welcoming individuals of all backgrounds is not only an American value enshrined in the U.S Constitution, but also a basic tenet of Catholic Social Justice. Consistent with our values, we call on Congress to pass the No Ban Act and Access to Counsel Act of 2020 without amendments or changes.

The NO BAN Act is an effective counter measure against numerous anti-immigrant executive orders and bans that have been issued under the guise of national security in recent months and years. These wide-scale and discriminatory bans have in use since the early days of this Administration, when President Trump issued the Muslim Ban. After a lengthy legal challenge in the courts, a version of the ban stayed in place despite the objection of humanitarian and civil rights advocates, NETWORK Lobby among them. It effectively precludes people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as other countries from entering the country. Like the refugee ban—which specifically targets refugees for extreme vetting—the ban targeting asylum-seekers arriving at the border, the expanded “African” ban on Nigerian, Sudanese, Tanzanian, and Eritrean nationals, and countless other orders promulgated in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis, the travel bans extend the Executive Branch’s authority to restrict or suspend immigrant entry, even when these bans exhibit discrimination on the basis of gender and race—clear violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) nondiscrimination clause.

We stand in solidarity with people of Muslim, African, Arab, Iranian, Middle Eastern, Central American, and South Asian communities impacted by this Administration’s travel bans. President Trump’s promulgations on travel restrictions for countries where a majority of peoples are people of color or religious minorities, defy our nation’s leadership in the cause for religious freedom and racial equality at home and abroad. Passing the No BAN Act is an important step in prohibiting arbitrary discrimination from happening in the future, by imposing stricter requirements before any future ban could be issued, as well as reporting requirements to Congress to create an oversight mechanism once any future ban is in place.

This critical legislation would repeal President Trump’s Muslim ban, asylum ban, and refugee ban, and make necessary reforms to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to prevent future discriminatory bans. During the markup, the bill was amended to rescind the President’s recently expanded Muslim ban, targeting more Africans, and require reporting related to this ban, which was issued on January 31, 2020 and is now in effect. The language in this bill went through numerous negotiations, including during the House Judiciary Committee markup, to ensure that it would continue to provide meaningfully protection for impacted communities.

The Access to Counsel Act of 2020 would allow U.S. citizens or those who otherwise have lawful immigration status in the United States access to legal representation. Since the first Muslim ban, we have seen individuals detained at airports, barred from boarding flights overseas and in some cases forced to relinquish their immigration status without any opportunity to gain legal support. Access to counsel is critical to protect individuals from discriminatory government action.

This landmark bill honors our commitment to religious freedom and protection against discrimination. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges Congress to vote YES to passing the NO BAN Act and Access to Counsel Act of 2020 and vote NO to any amendments.

DACA Decision Looms during the COVID-19 Pandemic

DACA Decision Looms during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Giovana Oaxaca
May 14, 2020

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision over whether the President acted unlawfully in 2017 in abruptly terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hangs over our nation against the backdrop of an unprecedented global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic introduces a host of new variables to consider, like the devastation of death to COVID-19, job losses, and ensuing economic, housing, and food insecurity being felt across the nation. Financial hardship is already more likely to strike those with limited access to paid sick leave, health care, and safety net programs like low-income people; immigrants; people of color; LGBTQ communities; and incarcerated and detained people. However, since the start of the outbreak, more than 40% of Latinx, and nearly a half of Black adults have said they won’t be able to pay some of their bills, compared to about a third of all Americans.

Yet, in the midst of a pandemic, the Supreme Court is still expected to issue a decision which could lead to a loss of work permits and protections from deportation for an estimated 650,000 DACA recipients living in the United States. The economic and social wellbeing of millions would fall precipitously as 650,000 DACA recipients reckon with the loss of their status and jobs during this time of uncertainty. About 254,000 U.S.-born children have at least one parent who holds DACA and in total, 1.5 million people live with a DACA recipient. Some DACA recipients, like Luz Chavez Gonzalez, have had to step up as sole providers for their families during widespread lay-offs — both of Luz’s parents, and her two siblings have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The pandemic spotlights Latinx families vulnerability to economic insecurity during emergencies.

Impact of COVID-19 on DACA Recipients and their Families

Nationwide, immigrant are overrepresented in nearly every industry supplying essential jobs and services. An estimated six million immigrant workers, including more than 200,000 DACA recipients, are working to keep U.S supermarkets stocked and residents healthy. Many states extended broad authority for many businesses considered essential to keep operating, but few have done enough to enforce state and federal workplace protections. As a result, thousands are getting sick on the job. Farmworkers, workers in the meat packing industry, and domestic workers who are immigrants have been some of the hardest hit. More and more evidence has emerged that Latinx COVID-19 health disparities stem from systemic inequities. Latinx people are more likely to have low-paying service jobs that require them to work through the pandemic; have limited access to health care; live in close quarters; and as a result, are less likely to call out of work or seek treatment when they fall ill.

This is, in no small part, the consequence of systematic and ongoing efforts to deny workplace protections and services to low-income and people of color based on immigration status. The implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge rule that went into effect on February 24, 2020 is a case in point. Researchers found that the rule would lead to a decline in the health and financial stability because of immigrant families’ fears over how their use of public benefits would affect their adjustment of status petitions. Now, the very worst possible outcomes of excluding immigrants from federal programs are playing out at the worst time.

Despite the pressing need for greater COVID-19 medical attention, immigrants were mostly left out of Congress’ COVID-19 relief packages. Immigrants were also left out of the CARES Act economic impact payments due to language prohibiting payments for households with ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) filers, a detail not gone unnoticed. An Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy analysis found that 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children were denied this benefit through the ITIN exclusion. Future payments should remedy this exclusion.

For all these destabilizing factors raised, a SCOTUS decision on DACA in favor of the Trump administration would be catastrophic not just for DACA recipients, but the families they provide for and the broader immigrant community in the U.S.

DACA Recipients Urge Sensitivity

On March 27, plaintiffs from one of the three DACA cases up for consideration, Wolf, et al., v. Batalla Vidal, et al, appealed to the Supreme Court that Justices consider the full breadth of consequences stemming from a decision during the pandemic. They also flagged Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Matthew Albence’s alarming threats of imminent deportation: “If they get ordered removed, and DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.” The Supreme Court accepted this filing by plaintiffs and it was entered into the official record in a small victory for DACA recipients.

In the lead up to a decision, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by immigrant’s rights activist also produced more evidence of a credible fear of DACA recipient’s information being used in immigration enforcement. Namely, the FOIA uncovered edited congressional testimony and a trail of emails showing that ICE had been dishonest about its unobstructed access to DACA information, like addresses and last known filing date. Thus, even as it appears that the country is entering in a protracted recession, DACA recipients now also have to navigate around this landmine decision with possible deportation attached.

Where applicable, DACA recipients are still encouraged to submit renewals. Catholic Legal Immigration Network  (CLINIC) has a stepped up to provide up to date information for DACA recipients needing to renew. Inquiries about whether to renew should always be made to legal practitioners. CLINIC’s legal resources are available here.

Act in Solidarity with Immigrant Communities

This administration has been very blunt about its prejudice against the poor, brown, and Black immigrants, therefore, it very unlikely it will do right by recognizing the contributions of immigrants during the pandemic. It falls our elected representatives to support COVID-19 relief for immigrants and protect DACA recipients through legislation.

The Supreme Court decision could come at any time between now and the end of June. Please sign our petition asking the Senate to pass legislation protecting Dreamers: #Faith4DACA petition. Help us show that justice-seekers support DACA recipients in this time of hardship for them and for the country that we share.