Category Archives: Immigration

NETWORK Reflects on the Do Not Be Afraid March and Vigil in El Paso

Tenemos Esperanza! Choosing Compassion in a Time of Scapegoating

Colin Martinez Longmore
April 4, 2024

A beacon of hope shone brightly in EL Paso, Texas, the evening of March 21, 2024 as hundreds gathered for the “Do Not Be Afraid” March and Vigil for Human Dignity, hosted by the Diocese of El Paso and Hope Border Institute. The march and vigil, a show of solidarity with asylum seekers and migrants, powerfully displayed unity in the face of adversity.

Ruben Garcia, Annunciation House, “Esta noche, todos somos Casa Anuncion (Tonight, we are all Annunciation House)”

Ruben Garcia speaks at the “Do not be afraid” march and vigil. Mary J. Novak is second from left holding the banner.

Over the past few months in the U.S., persistent hostility and scapegoating of migrants–and the direct service providers who aid them–has taken a sharper turn, particularly in Texas. Annunciation House, a network of shelters that receives and assists vulnerable asylum seekers, was targeted in unjust political probes.  Additionally, troubling state legislation like S.B. 4, which would allow local law enforcement to racially profile and arrest anyone suspected of being an undocumented migrant, was also signed into law (although it has not taken effect yet due to court challenges). Despite these actions, faith and borderland organizations showed they were unafraid. At the invitation of El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz, NETWORK Executive Director Mary J. Novak and I were proud to join them in offering support and prayer from the NETWORK community, and our help strategizing a way forward.

Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso said, “The work of God can never be made illegal”

Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso

The rally began in San Jacinto Plaza and drew a diverse crowd, including many Catholic Sisters, religious and clergy, students, leaders from different faith traditions, as well as local and national organizations serving migrants.

NETWORK Reflects on the Do Not Be Afraid vigil and march in El Paso, Texas

left to right, Elvira Ramirez (Executive Director, Maryknoll Lay Missioners), Mary Novak (Executive Director, NETWORK), and Sister Genie Natividad (Vice President Maryknoll Sisters)

Hope as a form of resistance against fearmongering was emphasized by the speakers who also held up the shameful criminalization of compassion; welcoming the stranger — a fundamental principle of faith — cannot be made illegal. We proclaimed in one voice, which rang out through the plaza: We have hope!Tenemos Esperanza! 

Marchers at the "Do Not Be Afraid" Vigil

Marchers at the “Do Not Be Afraid” Vigil

From the plaza, the crowd moved to Sacred Heart Church, where we filled every pew. The interfaith vigil, led by the Bishops of El Paso, testified to the city’s resilience and unity. Local leaders from across religious traditions, migrant organizations, and even asylum seekers spoke powerfully of solidarity and led the community in prayer.

The "Do Not Be Afraid" Vigil for Human Dignity at Sacred Heart Church

Attendees of the “Do Not Be Afraid” Vigil at Sacred Heart Church, El Paso, TX

The Holy Spirit’s presence was palpable throughout the evening, encouraging everyone to reject the fear and division often weaponized against communities like El Paso. As we enter this election season, we have clarity about the continued challenges that lie ahead for our migrant siblings and the communities that welcome them. However, our time in El Paso reminded us there is light and hope in the collective compassion and actions of communities standing together.


Move Past the Unserious

Move Past the Unserious

People Who Want Action on Immigration Should Look to These Proposals

Ronnate Asirwatham
April 2, 2024
NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham, a woman in a pink jacket, holds a microphone and speaks from behind a podium with a sign, "Invest in Welcoming Communities." Many other advocates with similar signs stand behind her.

NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham at the September 2023 Welcoming Communities press conference on Capitol Hill

Words have consequences. And almost nowhere is that truer than when dealing with immigration.

People like to think they are true to their word when they say they want action on immigration and care about finding practical solutions. After all, immigration is a serious issue that touches millions of lives and practically every community. We should adopt serious proposals. But what does it mean to be serious?

Many people, especially elected officials, betray their unseriousness by how they talk about immigration. Unfounded claims of a “migrant crime” wave are dangerous and inaccurate. These claims feed into racist tropes by fueling fear and hatred towards immigrants and people of color, making our communities less safe.

Fearmongering gives cover to politicians wishing to pass or enact terrible policies. The recent legal attack by the Attorney General of Texas on Annunciation House—a series of shelters that serve migrant people across the Southwest—is one small example of right-wing extremists attacking people seeking safety, as well as the people of faith who serve them.

We have also seen this type of attack in extreme bills against immigrants and people who welcome them in the state legislatures of Arizona, Idaho, and Georgia and the U.S. Congress. Instead of putting forward workable solutions, Congressional extremists keep pushing for unworkable, failed proposals that the American public has rejected. They think this is a good way to pass unpopular policies, but providing a veneer of legality for attacking immigrants makes everyone less safe.

This xenophobic rhetoric is like that which brought gunmen to the Pittsburgh synagogue and the El Paso Walmart. Unserious people can still create serious threats, and the policies of deterrence and the rhetoric of racism these politicians are proposing will make all who live in the borderlands and people of racial and religious minorities everywhere unsafe.

We must focus on what constitutes a serious immigration policy proposal; luckily, we have plenty of examples. At the end of January, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus released its immigration principles for the second session of the 118th Congress. These principles, comprised of 18 policy proposals within a framework of four pillars—immigration reform, jobs and the economy, border safety, and regional migration concerns—are what serious immigration policy looks like and what people of faith and goodwill should push Congress and the Administration to adopt.

  • Increase funding for asylum processing and legal representation programs for adults and guarantee access to counsel for asylum seekers in federal custody.
  • Create family reunification programs for additional countries to assist with backlogs.
  • Facilitate access to work authorization for newly arrived immigrants.
  • Fund community-based case management programs that decrease immigration detention.
  • Protect Dreamers and DACA recipients.
  • Provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals.
  • Update the registry cutoff date through H.R. 1511, the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929.
  • Advance immigration protections through H.R. 3194, the U.S. Citizenship Act.
  • Establish a humanitarian visa for pre-screen asylum seekers.
  • Expand protections for minors seeking to be reunited with parents holding legal status in the U.S.
  • Protect undocumented spouses or parents of military members by providing a path of legal residency and eliminating the threat of deportation.
  • Advance protections for agricultural workers through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2023.

These are serious proposals that can create real change by actually addressing the problems created by our broken immigration system. Any person, elected or otherwise, who claims to be serious about the border and immigration but isn’t embracing these proposals is not serious. In fact, they are very likely trying to use the plight of suffering people to get you to buy into a “solution” that will only cause more suffering and put more people in danger. And that’s serious.

This story was published in the Quarter 2 2024 issue of Connection.

The Need for Welcoming Communities

The Need for Welcoming Communities

Congress Can Invest in Welcoming Asylum Seekers Across the U.S.

Jenn Morson
December 5, 2023

Sr. Susan Wilcox, CSJ, of Brooklyn, N.Y. shares her account of coordinating and serving meals to people seeking asylum who had been bused to New York. She noted how her efforts would benefit from Congress funding the Shelter and Services Program (SSP), which would shift the U.S. response to asylum seekers from militarization at the border to investment in communities across the country who offer a welcoming response to asylum seekers.

“Immigrants and Asylum Seekers Welcome Here!” read the signs held by a handful of supporters stationed behind the podium as several speakers, including three supportive members of Congress, gathered to deliver a letter to Congress signed by over 7,000 Catholics. Gathered September 13 on the U.S. Capitol grounds, members of NETWORK Lobby and other organizations including the International Mayan League, Church World Service, and Women’s Refugee Commission joyfully and emphatically laid out their hopes for a shift in how the U.S. government approaches its response to asylum seekers.

In her opening remarks, Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Director of NETWORK, stated that the purpose of the gathering was to call on Congress to invest in welcoming communities. “Who are welcoming communities?” Asirwatham said, “To put it bluntly, welcoming communities are our community. People who welcome are all of us. It is very natural to welcome. We welcome each other, we welcome strangers, we welcome people seeking safety, and people passing through.”

“While it is most natural to welcome, it seems today that the voices against welcome, especially against welcoming people seeking asylum, [are] getting louder,” Asirwatham warned. “State and federal governments are moving to criminalize welcome. In Arizona, people are being arrested for leaving water out in the desert. In Florida, people are afraid to take their neighbors to the doctor because of pushback. And in Texas, people seeking safety are being pushed back, and Texans wanting to provide them water are not being allowed to.”

In spite of these obstacles, Asirwatham comforted those gathered, saying, “We are not going anywhere. Congress will hear us. Congress must act and enact laws and policies that support us, the American people, that allow us to thrive and reap the benefits that welcoming our fellow human beings allow. This is why our message is simple: we are asking Congress to invest in welcoming communities. We are simply asking Congress to invest in us.”

Gathered Together

Asirwatham introduced many compelling speakers who gave testimony of their own advocacy work as they also encouraged Congress to invest in welcoming communities. Speakers at the press conferences were optimistic despite the strongly worded letter calling for a renewed sense of justice.

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28) speaking at the gathering

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) addressed the crowd, thanking NETWORK for being a voice of compassion, conscience, dignity, and reason for human beings. Castro’s own mother previously served on the board of NETWORK. “Your voice and your activism is needed more today than ever,” Castro said. “We need to remind politicians who use migrants as political scarecrows — because that’s what they do, they use them as scarecrows to engender fear and resentment among the American people — we should remind our fellow Americans and mostly politicians that America became the strongest nation on earth not in spite of immigrants but because of immigrants.”

“Instead of embracing our rich immigrant heritage, too many politicians have used our immigrant communities as political pawns by fearmongering and peddling harmful, dangerous, political rhetoric. And the human cost is immense,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28) in her remarks.

Lifting up the leadership and vision of Pope Francis, Rep. Luis Correa (CA-46) said, “One human being suffering around the world is one human being too much.”

In her moving testimony that referenced her own plight as a refugee from Guatemala, Juanita Cabrera Lopez, Executive Director of International Mayan League, gave a message of hope: “I know firsthand what it looks like when a community invests in welcome and justice, and I know it is possible today because many communities are already doing this work.”

Regarding the immigration of Indigenous Peoples, Cabrera Lopez said, “Our ask remains the same. We need long-term investment to continue welcoming asylum seekers, particularly Indigenous asylum seekers.” Cabrera Lopez concluded her speech with a call for investing in shelter for newly arriving families and youth.

Sent Forth

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, holds up a copy of the letter signed by over 7,000 Catholics from all 50 U.S. states calling on Congress to invest in communities who welcome asylum seekers, while Sr. Karen Burke, CSJ, and Sr. Alicia Zapata, RSM, pray a blessing over the letter at the conclusion of NETWORK’s Sept. 13 action on Capitol Hill.

Sister Eilis McCulloh, HM, encouraged those gathered to extend their hands in prayer over the letter to Congress, as Sister Alicia Zapata, RSM, and Sister Karen Burke, CSJ, prayed in gratitude for the signers of the letter while also offering prayers for immigrants, organizations that support immigrants, and for the openness of members of Congress to the message of the letter.

“May this letter, which carries the stories of our immigrant siblings and our hope for immigration reform, be one way that we share in Jesus’ mission to ‘welcome the stranger’ and advocate for immigration policies that invest in communities,” they prayed.

The letter, which was co-sponsored by Hope Border Institute, Kino Border Initiative, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and St. Columban Mission for Justice, Peace, and Ecology, was addressed to key House and Senate members. It begins with Pope Francis’ 2015 remarks to Congress, in which he urged those gathered to welcome the stranger. The signatories are asking Congress to appropriate funds for supporting immigrants and communities while divesting from programs which militarize the border and criminalize immigrants.

In order to accomplish these goals, the letter urges Congress to fully fund the existing Shelter and Services Program at $800 million in 2024, and to distribute the funding equitably.

Additionally, the letter requests that any funding made available is done so via grant or contract rather than as a reimbursement. Additionally, the letter urges Congress to take back all funding for the border wall construction that has not yet been spent and cut funding for Customs and Border Protection and all other militarized border enforcement agents and technologies, as these agencies are overstaffed and overfunded.

NETWORK and its partners remind Congress that seeking asylum is a human right that should not be restricted, and invite them to embrace the Catholic belief of the inherent dignity of every person and make this a guiding principle to immigration policies, moving away from militarization and towards care.

In the words of Sister Susan Wilcox, CSJ, “We are doing the work. We have the solutions. We just need a little help.”

This story was published in the Quarter 4 2023 issue of Connection. 
Advent 2023, Week One Be Vigilant

This Advent Calls for Vigilance 

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

This Advent Calls for Vigilance

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 1, 2023

Advent 2023, Week One Reflection: A Call for Vigilance

Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, December 3

Is 63: 16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7
Ps 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Cor 1: 3-9
Mk 13:33-37

The readings on the First Sunday of Advent call for vigilance. In the Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to be alert and watchful, careful not to be found sleeping when the time is nigh.  

This year, the NETWORK community has had countless opportunities to stay awake and to practice the virtue of vigilance. At a moment’s notice, we have called on faith-filled justice-seekers to protect the rights of asylum seekers in the United States. From the racist and problematic U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s CBP1 App, to the threat to cut funding to programs that serve asylum seekers, some Members of Congress continually proposed drastic changes to the asylum process. And how did you respond? Nearly 10,000 of you signed on to our letter calling on Congress to invest in welcoming communities. You have also called your Members of Congress and visited them. 

To receive all of NETWORK’s Advent 2023 reflections in your email inbox, sign up here!

We cannot grow complacent; we must stay awake and vigilant. Just this week, some Members of Congress are trying to decimate the asylum system in order to pass a funding bill. We cannot ignore their attempt to re-institute an asylum ban.  

In this Sunday’s first reading, Isaiah tells us the story of the people who longed for God to come down from on high with a force that would shake the mountains, but, instead, we are reminded that “we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” To participate in the building up of Welcoming Communities, we, too, seek to do the work of God. With the Psalmist, we turn our face to God, eager to have God show us the way to the building up of the Kin-dom here on Earth.  

To do this, we must all participate in the work to bring more abundant life to all of God’s people, because the hope for abundant life does not end at our borders. It does not stop to decide if someone has the proper documents. Abundant life is God’s hope for all of us—and we will continue to be vigilant and respond to any threat to take away someone’s chance at abundant life. 

To receive all of NETWORK’s Advent 2023 reflections in your email inbox, sign up here!

Fortunately, we are not alone in this work. Fortunately, the NETWORK community lives out this mission together. Our Spirit-filled community of justice-seekers has significantly influenced elected officials this year to ensure the federal government makes room for the people most in need in our communities.   

We draw strength and encouragement from living this shared mission together, and we draw our hope from the God who, according to St. Paul, remains faithful and will keep us firm to the end. 

Advent 2023, Week One Be Vigilant

Call to Action:

Congress is now back in session, and their first order of business is passing a package to meet the President’s supplemental funding request for aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Unfortunately, some Members of Congress are pushing to decimate asylum in the U.S. as a condition of this deal.

Tell your Senators to protect asylum in the United States and not give into demands to change asylum law in order to get a funding deal passed. 

To receive all of NETWORK’s Advent 2023 reflections in your email inbox, sign up here!

The legislative priorities not passed before the end of the 117th Congress will continue to be priorities of NETWORK in 2024 and beyond!

Restore and Protect Asylum - -watch the NETWORK Lobby Webinar, Sign-on the the Letter to Congress, and more

Take Action to Restore and Protect Asylum

10,000 Signatures Needed from Catholic Advocates!

We are no longer accepting signatures for the letter.

Watch: Restoring Asylum & Dignity for Immigrants

The Restoring Asylum and Dignity for Immigrants webinar makes it clear — our country needs a well-funded, law-abiding asylum process that respects people seeking a new life in the U.S. All immigrants deserve dignity — no exceptions! Catholic justice-seekers*, we are collecting 10,000 signatures to let Congress know that NOW is time to invest in better, equitable immigration policy.

*NETWORK is offering another immigration justice action — in addition to the sign-on letter — for all justice-seekers. With one click, you will be taken to a letter that you can personalize, or just send, immediately. Click here to send an email to your Member of Congress. 

Help friends, family, & parishioners sign-on, too.

Action Everyone Can Take for Immigration Justice

Resources to support you when you take action to restore and protect asylum

Images from the Catholic Immigration Letter press conference in September 2023

Keep Up with NETWORK

Just Politics Catholic Podcast Season One

Build Anew Series – Immigration

Build Anew Series — Part 2

Virginia Schilder
September 28, 2023
Welcome back to our new Build Anew Series, with weekly posts covering the people, policies, and values at the heart of the issues we work on. Today, in our second installation of the series, we’re focusing on Immigration.
Our Present Realities
NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham, a woman in a pink jacket, holds a microphone and speaks from behind a podium with a sign, "Invest in Welcoming Communities." Many other advocates with similar signs stand behind her.

NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham at the September 2023 Welcoming Communities press conference on Capitol Hill

A lot has been happening in U.S. immigration policy, so NETWORK’s staff and faith-filled supporters have been hard at work. Over the summer, NETWORK opposed the Biden administration’s “asylum ban”  and condemned the horrific mistreatment of migrants at the southern border. On August 31, NETWORK and our partners released a report detailing the horrors of the implementation of the new CBP One app, which US Customs and Border Protection has made the almost sole avenue for the asylum process. Please read the full report here, which includes several first-hand stories from people impacted. Then, on September 13, Catholic Sisters from across the U.S. joined NETWORK, members of Congress, and partners from the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign on Capitol Hill at a press conference, where we called on Congress to invest in welcoming communities and divest from the militarization of the border. We presented Congress with a letter signed by over 7,000 Catholics(!), urging Congress to continue to fund the Shelter and Services Program (SSP).  

We do this work because our broken immigration system fails to meet the needs of our siblings and make our communities truly safe. Right now, asylum seekers are forced to wait at the southern border in inhumane conditions, subject to assault, torture, kidnapping, and rape — violence to which Black, disabled, and LGBTQ+ migrants are particularly vulnerable. Many immigrants are detained in uninhabitable detention facilities, often torn from their families. 

On top of that, racism in immigration policy persists, as Black and Haitian asylum seekers in our country are still being expelled and deported without a hearing. For those who have been granted paperwork to remain in the U.S., racist policies and practices make it more difficult for immigrants of color to access care, transportation, and other basic needs than white immigrants. As The Center for Health Progress explains,  

“Until we clearly root out the inherent racism that is the foundation of our immigration policies, we will unlikely create an immigration system that is fair, just, and that creates a viable pathway for more immigrants to call the US home—something a vast majority of us, regardless of our political views, say we want.” 

These conditions, and the policies that create them, continue because of fear — what Pope Francis calls “alarmist propaganda.” Politicians in power scapegoat immigrant families and create a fabricated competition for jobs and resources — even though our economy relies on immigrant workers, who comprise 17.4% of the U.S. workforce. This xenophobia creates a culture of fear and scarcity that hurts all of us.  

The reality is, immigrants are already our families and our communities. A quarter of children in the U.S. have at least one immigrant parent. Yet, some people in power do not want to recognize immigrants as belonging to our communities, because that would mean acknowledging a responsibility for their wellbeing.  The refusal to welcome immigrants is a refusal to share power; a refusal to extend to others the same rights, powers, and privileges we enjoy; a refusal to open our hearts to another and accepting the possibility of being changed. 

Our Call to Welcome  

 As members of the human family, we are called to extend compassion interpersonally and structurally to people in need. In the same way that God’s love is not limited to country, our central commandment to love one another cannot stop at national lines. We cannot use borders to justify exclusion, to decide who “belongs” and who is an “alien.” Our faith invites us past the illusions of disconnection created by structures of oppression, and to instead recognize that we are of one global community, all children of God.   

Scripture explicitly calls us to welcome and love migrants and refugees: When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev 19:33-34). Borders should never be used as an excuse to turn away and ignore the real cries and suffering of our siblings.   

The Catholic view of the human person validates the strivings of each person to seek a safe and good life for themselves and their families. The Catholic tradition is clear that all people have a right to migrate, and that all nations have an imperative to welcome and accept them. Pope Francis, himself the child of an immigrant, told a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress:  

“On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.” 

Catholic Social Teaching affirms that each person belongs to a single, interconnected human family, irrespective of country of origin or immigration status. We are all neighbors, and our health and wellbeing depend on each others’. The unequal and unjust treatment of our immigrant siblings is a critical area to build anew if we hope to shape a more just and inclusive democracy for everyone.  

Ongoing Advocacy  

Gratefully, we have the work of justice-seekers like NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham, who continues to work to ensure that both immigrants and the communities who welcome them will not be divided by racism and xenophobia. Currently in D.C., the bipartisan Senate is desperately trying to keep the government open. Meanwhile, some Republicans in the House are threatening to shut down the government unless H.R. 2 becomes law. H.R. 2 is a bill that separates families at the border and will hold unaccompanied children in jail-like conditions. No Democrat voted for H.R. 2 in the House, and it has not even made it to the Senate. Asirwatham explains,

“Many of our Representatives today are telling us that unless we throw our neighbors into the fire, they will shut down the government, and cut programs that help our children eat or go to school. We will not be divided. We will continue to tell our Members of Congress that we are for policies that lift us all up, and they should be, too.” 

Join us again next week for our next installation of the Build Anew Series on a just economy. And, stay tuned for our upcoming Build Anew Series videos on Instagram (@network_lobby) and Facebook.  

WATCH: Click here to watch a recording of NETWORK’s Congress, Keep Your Promise webinar about our current campaign to ensure Congress funds critical human needs programs and to learn how you can get involved.

DACA is Under Immediate Threat

DACA is Under Immediate Threat

JoAnn Goedert, Ignatian Volunteer Corp Member
October 12, 2023, Updated
Previous posts appeared on June 15, 2023, January 23, 2023 and October 27, 2022

In JoAnn Goedert’s latest DACA update, she shares that once again, the DACA program has received a disheartening blow from Judge Andrew Hanen in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas. The policy under which Dreamers have built homes, attended schools, and raised children remains on course to be struck down. And once again, U.S. policy fails to match the welcoming tradition of which our country aspires. 

As I’ve previously shared, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has faced threats and an uncertain future because of anti-immigrant politicians and judges for nearly a decade. On September 13, DACA endured yet another blow to its survival when Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA is unlawful. The judge’s decision in Texas v. U.S., et al, is the latest step in a long-standing court battle waged by a group of Republican state attorneys general against DACA. 

If you’ll recall from my January 23, 2023 update below, in 2021, Judge Hanen allied with anti-immigrant officials and ruled DACA unlawful. His order barred the approval of new DACA applications, but it included a stay allowing current participants to remain in the DACA program. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Hanen’s reasoning and returned the case to him for further proceedings.  

Judge Hanen’s latest order is not surprising. It means that thousands of Dreamers who should have become eligible for DACA since 2021 are still shut out, and those previously approved can remain in the program. But sadly, they are forced to live under a continuing cloud of uncertainty–building lives that could be dismantled if a future ruling guts DACA and finds they must return to their country of origin. NETWORK believes the Administration will  appeal this disappointing ruling, but it is unlikely that the Fifth Circuit will reverse its position. The case will then be appealed and moved to the Supreme Court.

Most experts believe that the Fifth Circuit will continue to grant DACA protections to current participants as the current case winds through the Supreme Court appeals process. Considering that this process always takes many months to reach resolution, it is possible that the Supreme Court may not rule on DACA’s legality until the end of 2024 and, perhaps, not until 2025.

Meanwhile, there is some hope that the Administration will attempt to provide partial safeguards for Dreamers. NETWORK hopes that the threats posed by the latest court action will move Congress to finally protect DACA with decisive legislation.

Be assured that NETWORK will continue its efforts to promote positive immigration reform that offers permanent protection for our young immigrant Dreamers. We will keep you up to date on future developments in the DACA litigation and any responses to it by the White House and Congress.

In  JoAnn Goedert’s most recent DACA update, we learn that  Judge Andrew Hanen’s final order on the policy under which Dreamers have built homes, attended schools, and raised children is imminent. 

June 15, 2023

There may soon be a decision in the court case brought against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). In previous updates (see below), NETWORK has shared why DACA is under threat and the progress of Texas v. U.S., et al., the continuing court battle waged by a group of Republican state attorneys general to have DACA declared unlawful. On June 1, Judge Andrew Hanen held another hearing. The judge’s final order could come any day—or it could take months. The timing is entirely up to his discretion.

In 2021, Judge Hanen issued his first ruling in this case and agreed with these anti-immigrant officials that DACA is unlawful. His order barred the approval of any new DACA applications but included a stay that allowed current participants to remain in the DACA. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Hanen’s reasoning, returned the case to him for further proceedings, and continued to stay the enforcement of the decision against current DACA participants.  The Fifth Circuit’s actions resulted in last week’s hearing and will end with a final order by Judge Hanen.

For now, the status of the DACA program is unchanged, with no new approvals permitted and current DACA participants able to continue to benefit from it. Unfortunately, most legal immigration experts and advocates expect that Judge Hanen will once again declare DACA unlawful when he issues his next decision. Assuming that disappointing outcome, DACA will surely remain closed to new applicants and the government will appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Since the Fifth Circuit has already taken the position that DACA is likely unlawful, it is sadly likely that the Administration’s appeal of a negative decision by Judge Hanen will be unsuccessful, and that the case will then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Judge Hanen is expected to continue to allow current DACA participants to continue in the program while the appeal process takes place. Otherwise, the Administration will rapidly seek a continuation of the current stay that protects their participation, and experts believe that the Fifth Circuit will allow it. If the Fifth Circuit were to change its position, the Administration would likely seek an immediate continuation of the stay in the Supreme Court. Few expect the courts to end DACA protections for current participants for at least as long as the current case is winding through the appeals process.

An appeal through both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court almost always takes many months to be resolved. Thus, it is possible that the Supreme Court would not rule on the legality of the DACA program until well into 2024 and, perhaps, until 2025. Meanwhile, there is some hope that the Administration will attempt to provide alternative, partial safeguards for Dreamers, and that there may be renewed interest in Congress to finally protect them with legislation.

Be assured that NETWORK will continue its efforts to promote positive immigration reform that offers permanent protection for our young immigrant Dreamers. And, we will alert justice-seekers and supports of developments in the DACA court case–  and any potential responses to it by the White House and Congress.

Updated on January 23, 2023 

Previously, JoAnn Goedert shared that DACA was under immediate threat. Sadly, the message in this update remains the same — the policy under which Dreamers have built homes, attended schools, and raised children remains on course to be struck down.

Whether Dreamers are teachers, landscape artists, or doctors, they are integral members of families, churches, and communities. Some people with political and judicial power fail to see their humanity, but we know they are our siblings in God’s beloved community and should not suffer as pawns in court proceedings. 

As JoAnn writes, “Once Judge Hanen issues his final decision, the case almost certainly will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.” As people of faith, we must be vigilant in our efforts to protect DACA. Working together, we can overcome the forces who want to remove our neighbors and family members from our country.

NETWORK will let you know when there is action you can take. For now, read on for JoAnn’s update and scroll further for her original blog. 

Texas v. U.S., et al.: In response to Texas v. U.S., a lawsuit challenging DACA’s legality by a group of Republican state attorneys general, Judge Andrew Hanen in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas ruled in 2021 that DACA is unlawful. He held that DHS failed to follow required regulatory process when it established DACA and that the agency did not have the power to create the program without Congressional legislation. The judge issued an order barring DHS from approving any new DACA applications but he allowed current participants to retain protection under DACA for now. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Hanen’s reasoning and returned the case to him for further proceedings.

In October 2022, Judge Hanen held a hearing where he stated that he would likely decide to end DACA in the near future. His ultimate decision has been delayed, however, to give the parties an opportunity to file additional briefs in the case. At this time, we don’t expect movement until mid-Spring. DACA is under immediate threat and daily life for DACA recipients remains in jeopardy.

What Happens Next: In the October hearing, Judge Hanen reiterated that current DACA participants can continue in the program and apply for renewals, but that DHS cannot accept any new DACA applications. This means that current DACA holders still have all of the program’s protections. Once Judge Hanen issues his final decision, the case almost certainly will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. This process will likely extend into 2024, and it is hoped that, at least, the courts will allow the program to continue for current DACA participants during this time. Meanwhile, we know the Biden Administration is exploring alternative protections for Dreamers in preparation for negative court actions.

Congress’ Failure: As in earlier Congresses, legislation was introduced in 2021 to give DACA recipients permanent U.S. residency status. There was some hope, too, that Congress would act to ensure the program’s future during the final weeks of 2022. But once again, legislative efforts failed. There is little optimism that the program will fare better in the 118th Congress. Given the worrying signs from both the courts and Congress, we must all heed the warning of DACA advocates at United We Dream: “DACA is dying.”

October 27, 2022

10 Years of DACA: After repeated efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system failed—for lack of adequate Republican support—President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. DACA has provided children brought to this country in violation of established federal immigration law protection from deportation, employment authorization, and access to Social Security and Medicare benefits.  It has been a lifeline to young immigrants, also known as Dreamers, who came to the U.S. as children with undocumented status. While 800,000 participants have been able to build a life in this country under the program, DACA is under immediate threat, its future is in jeopardy.

The Trump Administration’s Attack on DACA: In 2017, the Trump administration cruelly attempted to rescind DACA, but the Supreme Court ruled that the rescission did not comply with the federal Administrative Procedures Act and narrowly upheld the program’s continuation. DACA has endured with support from the Biden Administration which recently issued proposed regulations–scheduled to take effect on October 31–under the APA to continue DACA permanently.   

The Current Threat to DACA in the Courts: Nonetheless, a group of Republican state attorneys general filed yet another challenge to DACA in a federal district court in Texas. In July 2021, Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA is unlawful on the grounds that DHS did not follow proper APA procedures when it established the program, and that the agency lacked the authority to establish the program without Congressional authorization. The judge issued an injunction barring DHS from approving new DACA applications, but allowed current participants to continue in the program.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, known for its conservatism, upheld Judge Hanen’s decision. However, with the DHS’s new DACA regulations set to kick in on October 31, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to Judge Hanen for further consideration. 

What Happens Next:  In a hearing last week, Judge Hanen indicated that, despite the new regulations, he will very likely decide to end DACA in the near future. His final decision has not been issued yet, so current DACA participants can continue in the program and apply for renewals.  However, there is little reason for optimism.  As DACA advocates at United We Dream have warned, “DACA is dying.”

Judge Hanen’s signal makes it clear that DACA is under immediate threat. It is crucial that the Biden administration and Congress act to ensure the program’s future with immediate legislation. Congress will return shortly after the Midterm elections. Faith communities, and all people of good will, must advocate for DACA legislation this year to provide permanent protection for our nation’s Dreamers.

Manufactured Crises in Politics Hurt Vulnerable People.

The Smoke of Manufactured Crises

The Smoke of Manufactured Crises 

When Fearmongering Clouds Our View, We Risk Embracing Terrible Policy  

Ronnate Asirwatham
August 8, 2023
Ronnate speaks into a microphone at an outdoor event. She wears a coat and a red hat. Behind her is a board with heart-shaped sticky notes with writing on them.

Ronnate Asirwatham is NETWORK’s Director of Government Relations

When we see smoke where it shouldn’t be, for instance in a residence or other building, our survival mechanisms kick in, and we move as quickly as we can in the opposite direction. This is a natural, even understandable response. But in Washington, the old saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” could be replaced with a new formulation, which goes something like, “Where there’s smoke, there’s somebody trying to goad you into doing the wrong thing.”  

A fire is an emergency. But a fake fire, a manufactured crisis, is more like a virus that has infected our politics. This year has seen several of them playing out, all of them set intentionally, all of them engineered to try to get someone else to do the wrong thing, whether out of fear or other questionable motives. When someone buys into the toxic narrative of a manufactured crisis, they hasten the harm they sought to avoid. Anthony De Mello, a Jesuit priest, once noted that reality cannot hurt us, but our reaction to it can. That wisdom applies here. 

Most recently, we witnessed the debt ceiling debacle, in which House Republicans demanded a budget that slashed vital human needs programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and keeping the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. Never mind that the same Members of Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling without any conditions three times during the Trump administration. The threat of default was a purely manufactured crisis employed by these members to get President Biden and Democrats to do something that their constituents didn’t want them to do.  

While the deal struck between the President and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy could have been far, far worse, it will still impact millions of people who rely on SNAP for their basic food security. And placing the burden on people living in poverty is a morally abhorrent way to reduce deficits in the federal budget, especially when raising revenue through taxes on the ultra-wealthy and corporations would be far more effective.  

Sadly, making life more difficult for communities of people who need support is an element all of these fake crises have in common. At the state level, we have seen this year a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills (over 400 as of April!) introduced in legislatures across the country. These bills stoke a narrative of hysteria that presents drag queens and transgender people as the greatest threat to children. Not gun violence or Christian nationalism. It’s especially alarming because manufactured crises at the expense of marginalized groups of people is a well-documented tactic of authoritarian regimes in their efforts to grab and consolidate power against the will of the majority.  

Finally, we have the U.S.-Mexico border and the insistent bad faith chorus decrying the very conditions that they made possible by inconsistent and inhumane policies at the border. By not wishing to be portrayed as weak on the border, the Biden administration has perpetuated enforcement-only measures, such as the asylum ban, which exact a terrible human toll on people fleeing violence and other dangerous situations in their home countries. NETWORK and our immigration coalition partners opposed these rules by the Administration, as we also oppose bad bills in Congress, such as the Secure the Border Act (H.R.2) and a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at replacing Title 42.  

What then can we do? We must stay awake and vocally oppose the efforts of those trying to goad us into doing the wrong thing. The more we change our behavior out of fear of what bad actors might say or do, the more we ensnare ourselves in those webs. We owe the vulnerable people targeted by these manufactured narratives a response of true solidarity. That is the healthy defensive response that needs to be developed in our politics. Rather than the smoke of fake crises, we should be devoting our energy to kindling the fire of justice, renewing the face of the earth. 

Ronnate Asirwatham is NETWORK’s Director of Government Relations. In 2023, Washingtonian Magazine named her among the 500 most influential people in Washington for the second year in a row. 

This column was published in the Quarter 3 2023 issue of Connection. 
Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, speaks at a reparations vigil in Cleveland in June 2022.

The Welcoming Call

The Welcoming Call 

Solidarity with Migrant People is Intrinsic to the Vocation of Catholic Sisters

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
August 1, 2023
Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, pictured with Eilis, amember of the Congolese community in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, pictured with Eilis, a member of the Congolese community in Cleveland, Ohio.

For generations, Catholic Sisters in the U.S. have served alongside immigrant communities. Time and again, we have responded to the call to open our homes and hearts to meet the needs of families seeking asylum or newly arrived refugees. Our sisters and our communities have sponsored refugees, opened service agencies, taught English as a second language (ESL), served along the border, accompanied individuals and families, represented them in court, and advocated for just immigration policies. In so many ways, we have lived the call in Scripture to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor as ourselves.  

My own story of ministry is a part of this multi-generational call. In 2010, I began my own journey working with the Somali refugee community in St. Cloud, Minn. In subsequent years, I ministered alongside people from Bhutan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, and so many other countries. I learned about the asylum system in Immokalee, Fla. and witnessed the conditions that force a person to flee their homeland in Haiti or Guatemala. My own community, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, remains connected through the sponsorship of Mary’s House in Cleveland. This work connects me with generations of sisters who have felt this call.  

Ministering alongside asylum seekers, refugees, DACA recipients, and other immigrants has shifted the way many of us Sisters understand immigration policy. We can no longer distance ourselves from the dangerous anti-immigrant rhetoric that has energized lawmakers to pass legislation to shut down and militarize the border, expand Title 42, deport asylum seekers from Haiti, or create an app that only recognizes white faces. 

These horrible policies impact the people who are a part of my extended community. They affect our neighbors. They affect members of our own family. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for Congress to fix the broken immigration system; we must do our part to ensure that a just and equitable immigration system remains at the forefront of our representatives’ minds.  

It was this sense of urgency that drove over 100 sisters and associates and their sponsored ministries to Washington DC in December 2021 to march for, pray for, and call for the end of Title 42. At that event, Sisters shared stories of ministering at the border, in Florida with the Haitian community, and in cities across the country. We shared a common understanding that our lives are forever changed by time spent ministering in El Salvador, Honduras, and many other countries. 

We shared with each other our own experiences of accompanying a family seeking asylum, only to watch helplessly as they were turned away by Border Patrol, or telling an individual that, according to current policy, they do not have a valid asylum claim even though a return to their home country would most certainly result in death. We also shared about moments of community — of shared meals of pupusas or beans and rice that made the Body of Christ a tangible offering that widened our understanding of community. All of these moments further strengthened our deeply held belief that the country’s immigration system needs an overhaul. 

As women religious, our individual community’s charism informs how we respond to the call to minister alongside our country’s diverse immigrant communities and advocate for justice. While our ministerial actions might vary, we all believe that all people, no matter their country of origin, economic status, family composition, gender or sexual orientation, or reason for migrating, deserve the opportunity to apply for asylum.  

This is the foundation of our belief as Christians: that all people reflect the Imago Dei — the image of the loving God who created them. Therefore, we will continue to call on our elected officials to stop playing politics with the lives of our immigrant siblings and create an immigration system that works for all people. 

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM is NETWORK’s Education and Organizing Specialist and a co-host of the podcast Just Politics, produced in collaboration between NETWORK and U.S. Catholic magazine.  

This column was published in the Quarter 3 2023 issue of Connection. 
Biden's Aggressive Asylum Ban Causes Great harm

Care for the Border

Care for the Border 

True Investment Means a Move from Militarization to Community 

Briana Jansky
July 25, 2023

A child wearing a cap walks with a backpack and a stuffed animal at the US-Mexico borderWhen the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world in its path in 2020, the Trump administration used it as an excuse to prevent asylum seekers from coming through at the U.S.-Mexico border. These policies aggressively restricted access to ports of entry for those who were fleeing imminent danger. Now, three years later and with the state of emergency officially ended, migrants still face unjust policies and unethical barriers that prevent them from safely seeking asylum in the United States. 

Asylum is a necessity and a human right. In his message for the 2023 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis writes that “even as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of immigration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for a safe and regular migration. In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.” 

In contrast to a witness like this from the world’s most prominent religious leader, in the U.S., policymakers struggle to provide ethical and welcoming pathways and policies for migrant people. The U.S. government refuses to enforce the law, where asking for asylum is legal regardless of the manner of entry to the country, and continues to focus on more militarization. Increased militarization at the border continues to make life even more difficult for incredibly vulnerable people and harms the fabric of solidarity in communities. 

Policy Breakdown  

The Title 42 expulsion policy, a pandemic rule put in place by President Trump and continued under President Biden, allowed U.S. officials to swiftly turn away migrants seeking asylum at the border. While Title 42 ended on May 11, when President Biden ended the public health emergency, the Administration has expanded and enacted other policies to further attack the right to asylum, despite President Biden’s promise to put an end to such practices. The new laws are the most aggressive ban on asylum the U.S. has seen in almost 30 years, preventing access to protection for migrants at the border by over 50 percent.  

A May 11 statement from 16 Catholic organizations — including NETWORK, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Hope Border Institute, Kino Border Initiative, Franciscan Action Network, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, and Pax Christi USA — gave voice to Catholic outrage over the move: 

“Through continued restrictions on asylum and the militarization of the border, the U.S. government has shut the door to many of our siblings who are calling out for help. This failure to provide welcome sends a clear message to the rest of the world that the U.S. will not keep its previous asylum promises and instead continues to turn away from those most in need,” the statement said.  

The Biden administration’s new rule — the “Asylum Ban” — guts current asylum law. Currently, it is legal and right for people seeking asylum to come into the U.S. and ask for asylum at the border or after crossing it and encountering any government agent. The Biden administration has superimposed the Asylum Ban onto this law.  

“The current Asylum Ban policy is set for one goal and one goal only — to keep people out. Policies supporting asylum must uphold the national and international protection norms, and this rule does not do that,” says Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Director at the Network.

The current rule makes setting up an appointment via app the sole means of accessing asylum in the U.S. Use of the CBO One app disproportionately affects Black, Brown and Indigenous immigrants because their access to technology is harder, and they are discriminated against three times as much as lighter skinned immigrants.  

“The proposed rule seeks to make migrants passing through other countries first claim asylum in those countries, and in most cases, especially for Black, LGBTQ+, and Indigenous immigrants, that is impossible,” notes Asirwatham. “The ways in which these laws are applied target the only way that people can seek asylum and this truly affects the most vulnerable.”  

“These people who are migrating are still there, and still need our help,” points out Marisa Limon Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy center. “It’s troubling that so many people are unclear about their path forward. We’re still unclear about a lot of the logistics and what will come next.”  

“In our attempt to provide fundamental humanitarian aid to those most vulnerable, our community gets policed as though we are criminals for being good Samaritans.”
—Patrick Giuliani

Many migrants face dangerous conditions in their home countries, including extortion and torture, only to be met with resistance and restraint at the border. Turning them away from safety and security doesn’t make those problems go away, and deterring and detaining them only leads to a host of other issues.  

“People on the move face lots of dangers,” says Mayte Elizalde, communications specialist at the Hope Border Institute. “Migrants in different countries are targets for violent attacks. In Mexico, there are reports of people being extorted by authorities.”  

The Footprint of Militarization 

Instead of creating policies that result in an intricate system of oppression of human rights, the government could enforce the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which clearly states that seeking asylum is a legal right regardless of the way one enters the United States. The U.S. government could also fund and train more people to help evaluate asylum seekers’ applications and assist the organizations at the border and in the interior that welcome migrants with food, water, and adequate shelter, and promote agency and well-being. The U.S. government aids detention centers significantly more, funding them up to 200 times more than organizations that are focused on serving and caring for migrants.  

In Mexico, there is a lack of transparency around the conditions of the detention centers, and the human costs are catastrophic. The sordid conditions rose to U.S. national news back in April, when 40 migrants died in a fire that broke out at a detention center in Ciudad Juárez.  

“Based on reports of the detention center in Ciudad Juárez, it showed that the center was lacking clean water, food, or hygiene products,” notes Elizalde. “What happened in these detention centers was a reflection on what our immigration system does. Mexico has now become a host country and has not met the humanitarian needs of the people they have accepted to host. … The U.S. creates policies that force people to be in a country where they are not taken care of, but instead put in danger.” 

It is not only detention centers outside of the U.S. that are failing to meet the basic needs of immigrants, but ones within the U.S as well. There have been repeated warnings and reports of inhumane and illegal policies and practices that take place in CBP custody, and yet the U.S. government has not done anything. In May, Anadith Alvarez, an 8-year-old Panamanian girl, died at a U.S. detention center in Texas. She was the third child to die in U.S government custody in six months.  

“These people who are migrating are still there, and still need our help.”
—Marisa Limon Garza

As NETWORK lobbies Congress and the Administration to move the U.S. government away from militarization and toward building community, organizations such as the Hope Border Institute, Kino Border Initiative, and the Haitian Bridge Alliance see first-hand how current policy harms everyone.  

“We often welcome groups from all across the country to learn about the binational community at the border and what people migrating today are facing. Last year we had to complain to port officials because we noticed that students of color were being more frequently sent to secondary inspection or asked more questions, even though they were born in the U.S.,” says Sr. Tracey Horan, Associate Director of Education and Advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Ariz. “It is frustrating to see how my coworkers of color who cross the border regularly face more checks and interrogation both at the ports and at checkpoints in the interior.”  

Patrick Giuliani, policy analyst at the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas, concurs: “We see the U.S. surge resources that are used to further criminalize migrants and police not only the border but our community. In our attempt to provide fundamental humanitarian aid to those most vulnerable, our community gets policed as though we are criminals for being good Samaritans.”  

Briana Jansky is a freelance writer and author from Texas. 

This column was published in the Quarter 3 2023 issue of Connection.