Category Archives: Immigration

Advocating for Justice in El Paso

Advocating for Justice in El Paso

Xorje Olivares
October 29, 2019

During a Saturday session at the ‘Jornada Por La Justicia’ Teach-In earlier this month, the lecturer asked attendees to use a single word to describe their thoughts upon hearing the word ‘border.’ I heard someone say “division,” followed by a “wall” in the back. I believe there was a submission for “political” along with “crisis.” It was at that point that I shouted, “home,” the only positive connotation ascribed to our weekend venue during that particular exercise. Honestly, that fact stunned me, but it also warmed my heart to know it was true.

Because the border has always been home for me. I grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas, roughly an 8-hour drive from the conference in El Paso, but my body knew the area well. I like to say that all border natives speak the same language of biculturalism, so I very much felt in my element. This was the second time I’d been to El Paso, but the first since the arguably safest city in the nation witnessed one of the most devastating events in recent American memory. I was nourished by the presence of #ElPasoStrong at every corner and by the devout folks seeking to use the Teach-In as an opportunity to unite, heal, and evangelize both on a spiritual and political front to make sure that form of violence never happened again. Not to mention empowering the ongoing movement led by border residents, such as those in El Paso, to protect our undocumented brothers and sisters amid this fabricated “national emergency,” many of whom are putting their faith in Christ as they literally wait in a bullpen next door.

Knowing that we were going to address several topics over the course of the conference, I was incredibly honored to have been invited to specifically participate on a panel about harnessing our political power as Latinx Catholics through mobilizing our theological narratives. My narrative, which I talk about regularly on my weekly SiriusXM Satellite Radio show and various online columns, proudly incorporates my queer identity, and it dictates how I view a myriad of issues facing the various communities of which I identify with. I was grateful to the organizers for allowing an ‘out’ gay man to talk about his grievances with the Church and its hierarchy with regards to its anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and exclusionary tendencies. Having never attended a Catholic conference before, I was thoroughly moved with just how welcoming the space felt and with how my message was received by its roughly 400 participants. I eventually spoke with three student attendees who shared their own queer struggles, which made everything so worthwhile for me. Belonging never felt so special.

I also love that I engaged with so many progressive-minded folks who use their spirituality as a motivating factor for their advocacy work. Whether with regards to ending the prison industrial complex, assisting asylum seekers, or ensuring that Latinx people aren’t erased from the national discourse, this Teach-In proved that being bold isn’t necessarily a gift, but a shining characteristic that we, as a collective, hold. And I’d like to think we hold onto it pretty tightly.

Xorje Olivares is a radio host/producer and social commentator who specializes in LGBTQ, Latino, and millennial issues. His writing on politics and intersectional identity has appeared in VICE, Playboy, Rolling Stone, them., and Vox, among others. He is the content creator behind HeyXorje.com and has been profiled by ABC News, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, and FOX News.

Spirituality and Advocacy in El Paso

Spirituality and Advocacy in El Paso

A Reflection on Jornada por la Justicia
Melissa Cedillo
October 23, 2019

Right when I landed in El Paso I immediately felt a sense of home. It was refreshing to be back in a place where I could hear Spanish everywhere.

It had been a while since I was in a space that was majority Latinx. Because Jornada por la Justicia was in El Paso, the teach-in focused a lot on the massacre that took place in August. El Paso is also a border city so the themes of borderlands, immigration, and white supremacy were also present. There were various panels and workshops to attend. Everything from ‘Know Your Rights’ to Latinx spirituality were available. Most importantly, the panelists and the workshops were all lead by Latinx folks, which was empowering because the majority of Catholic conferences I have previously attended were not. I didn’t even have to tell someone the correct way to pronounce my last name.

Saturday night, we crossed into Juarez and prayed with a family getting ready to seek asylum. There were tents and families everywhere. The mother I spoke with held a beautiful nine-month-old baby in her arms. They had traveled three weeks to arrive in Juarez. Another two year old climbed across her tired father smothering him with kisses. Seeing the many families was another reminder that militarizing the border against innocent families is in stark contrast of our Catholic identity.

On Sunday, Bishop Mark Seitz introduced his new pastoral letter ‘Night Will Be No More.’ The letter is about these very topics. He signed it into action after Mass. After the massacre on August 3rd, my heart yearned for a homily that would approach the violence that had happen and extend a message of hope to our familia in El Paso. It was never brought up. But on October 13th, Bishop Seitz’s letter provided my heart with consolation. Bishop Seitz called out White Supremacy for what it is. He used his power and privilege to uplift the same people Jesus did. As the Catholic Latinx population continues to grow in the U.S., I hope Catholic communities across the country look towards Hope Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition as leaders.


Melissa Cedillo is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. She participated in Jornada por la Justicia, a three-day gathering of a powerful network of Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists in El Paso, Texas. The Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia was co-presented by the HOPE Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition. Learn more: https://www.hopeborder.org/jornadaporlajusticia.

Denouncing The Tech Industry’s Support For Detention, Deportation, & Family Separation

Denouncing The Tech Industry’s Support For Detention, Deportation, & Family Separation

Alex Burnett
October 22, 2019

In the past month, thousands of demonstrators staged dozens of internationally acclaimed protests across the United States. These protesters demanded major tech companies, such as Amazon and Palantir Technologies, cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because of their role enforcing the Trump administration’s white supremacist and xenophobic immigration policies.

On Thursday, September 5, approximately 1,000 protestors organized by the Jewish activist group Never Again Action marched from the New England Holocaust Memorial to Amazon’s Cambridge Headquarters. Outside of Amazon’s headquarters,  they unfurled banners and gave speeches denouncing Amazon’s widely documented relationship with ICE, which protestors compared to IBM’s role in assisting Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Less than one week later, a coalition of Latinx and Jewish organizations, including Mijente and Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, rallied outside Palantir’s New York and San Francisco offices. Together they called for the multi-billion dollar tech giant to end its $49 million contact with ICE.

As anti-ICE demonstrations intensify and the Trump administration’s immigration policies become even deadlier, Catholics should heed the Gospel’s to “love thy neighbor” and demand that tech giants stop profiting from federal agencies that terrorize, torture, and attack immigrants.

Many immigrant justice organizers including Movimiento Cosecha, ICE Out of L.A., and other organization have repeatedly denounced the tech industry’s support for ICE’s deadly raids and CBP’s “filthy” concentration camps. Outrage swelled after the Immigrant Defense Project, Mijente, Empower LLC, and The National Immigration Project published their October 2018 report, “Who’s Behind ICE?” In this 74-page document, the authors outline how “a handful of huge corporations,” including Forensic Logic Inc. and Salesforce, annually receive billions of federal dollars in exchange for database services, case management software, fingerprinting technology, facial recognition software, and “social media analytics.” These tech services allow ICE agents to “surveil, track, and…deport immigrants” with ease.

Using the information from this report, Mijente, alongside thousands of university students, and workers at Salesforce and Amazon have disrupted dozens of recruitment events and press conferences to prevent companies that contract with ICE from conducting “business as usual.” As investigative journalist David Dayen explained in a 2018 article, “ICE relies on private contractors to carry out its detention operations, so one way to abolish ICE might be to make its association so toxic that it loses its collaborators.”

Pope Francis repeatedly calls for world leaders to build a “Hundreds of Catholic Sisters, Priests, Brothers, and lay people, including NETWORK’s own Sister Quincy Howard and Laura Peralta-Schulte, already answered this call by putting their bodies on the line to protest DHS’s illegal family separation policy. By shaming multi-billion dollar corporations that do business with ICE and CBP, Catholics can advance Pope Francis’s vision of a “moral economy” rooted in peace and love for our neighbors.

Gathering to Work for Justice in El Paso

Gathering to Work for Justice in El Paso

Andres R. Lopez
October 22, 2019

This past weekend, I participated in the Teach-In: Jornada por la Justicia, it was a great meeting and learning experience. First, to see great mentors and friends, second, to meet people from different parts of the United States, and finally, the amazing knowledge acquired by the different workshops and plenaries presented. This without forgetting the public witness activity that we had at the international port of entry.

The Teach-in was attended by around 400 people; people from New York, Chicago, California, the Washington D.C. area, and other parts of the United States, as well as from residents of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The Teach-In started off with a beautiful prayer and song interpreted by Ilka Vega from Hope Border Institute, the prayer reminded us that where there is love and kindness, God is present, Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Then, Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas from St. Mark’s Catholic Church in El Paso, and Dr. Dulcinea Lara from New Mexico State University, addressed the issue of white supremacy, and how Latinx and Hispanic communities have been under attack for many years now. Monsignor Arturo reminded us that to undermine racism and white supremacy, we must do so with solidarity. He also said that “solidarity must become more than mere acompañamiento.”

The first day of the Teach-in ended with a dinner full of joy and networking, as the Folklórico de San Marcos danced on the stage, and the Mariachis sang at the lobby of building.

During the Teach-In, I met with some great friends like Wayne Romo from the Center for Life at St. Mary’s University of San Antonio, and Dr. Neomi de Anda an associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton, and current president of the Academy of Hispanic Theologians of the United States.

I also ran into friends and partners that have been part of El Otro Lado – El Paso for the past years, like Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas, Dylan Corbett director of Hope Border Institute, Dr. Nicholas Natividad from NMSU and graduate of Cathedral High School, Alonzo Mendoza organizer for the Texas State Teacher Association and also a graduate of Cathedral High School, Lorena Andrade, Director of La Mujer Obrera in El Paso, Jaclyn Ross, a previous Lasallian Volunteer and El Otro Lado assistant at San Miguel High School in Tucson, and the Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso.

Saturday was an intense day of workshops and presentations. For the breakout sessions, I attended Overcoming Racism: Resources for Faith Communities, and a second talk titled Borderland Theology and Spirituality for Activism Today. The first talk was a reminder of how we all have implicit biases, and how “racism denies salvation.” During this talk, we learned to speak up against certain comments or racist ideologies. During the second talk, we used Visio Divina, sacred seeing, to meditate on the word of God through images.

In the afternoon, the group of 400 people met at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Downtown El Paso, here we divided into two groups. One group stayed in El Paso, and the other group crossed the international bridge in to Ciudad Juarez.

In this group, we all crossed the bridge peacefully and rather quickly, and as soon as we crossed, we were able to see families that are now living along the margins of the international bridge, due to the MPP or the Remain in Mexico Policy. As our presenter at the Juarez side exclaimed, we were able to see asylum under attack. After a quick moment of prayer, we all proceeded to form a line at the bridge, and to make our way back to El Paso. The only difference was that we did it in a slower manner because each one of us used Holy Water to sprinkle and bless the international bridge by saying: “I bless this bridge for those who cannot cross it.” We all also attempted to bring with us a group of three families for a total of 15 people seeking asylum. Ten CBP officers waiting in the middle of the bridge, barbed wire, and only one line of cars opened, but we were successful, and they let them through to continue their process in the U.S.

Blessing the bridge with Holy Water was a very simple action, but with a very powerful meaning.

The Jornada ended on Sunday, with a bilingual celebration of the Eucharist. After the mass, Bishop Mark Seitz formally made the announcement of his new pastoral letter: “Night will be no more” where he addresses the issue of racism and “the false god of white supremacy.” The pastoral letter was written in memory of those who lost their lives in the August 3, 2019 massacre in El Paso.

You can read the pastoral letter here: https://www.hopeborder.org/nightwillbenomore


Andres R. Lopez is the director of El Otro Lado Border Immersion Program at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas. El Otro Lado is a 5-day border immersion experience in which schools from around the country, come to El Paso to learn about immigration, and life at the border. During this week-long experience, we visit border patrol, the border fence, we hike, we go to the shelters that receive refugees, we visit the unaccompanied minors, we go to Ciudad Juarez, we receive Catholic Social Teaching presentations, and many other activities. Hope Border Institute is a community partner of El Otro Lado.

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

Giovana Oaxaca
October 16, 2019

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few short weeks, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court is considering to review this fall term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesses, higher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP
September 26, 2019

As climate leader Greta Thunberg scolded international leaders at the United Nations and protesters shut down the streets in D.C., NETWORK and our partners hosted a rally and press conference on Capitol Hill. Following the rally, we delivered a letter to several key Senators challenging them to address the injustice in our current immigration system through the ongoing appropriations process. It’s not quite as exciting as shutting down streets or risking arrest (as Catholics and others have previously done in both D.C. and Newark), but distinct policy proposals – actionable requests of our elected officials – are also important.

For my first experience advocating on Capitol Hill, I joined Charlotte Hakikson, a Grassroots Mobilization Associate, and Kathleen and Dan from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to deliver letters to Senators Collins (ME) and Manchin (WV). We called on the Senators to use the appropriations process to shift funding away from detention, deportation, and border militarization to refugees, asylum, and alternatives to detention, and to exert robust oversight over the use of appropriated funds. Shifting the public conversation around immigration lays the groundwork for change, but specific legislative asks will shift the reality of our policies. We do this work of justice-seeking together as we demand more of our nation and our leaders.

As climate change drives refugees and asylum seekers from their homes, we must continue to stand and say, in the words of Greta Thunberg, “We will not let you get away with this!”

Listen: Interfaith Partners Oppose the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

Listen: Interfaith Partners Oppose the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

Lee Morrow
August 15, 2019

This week the Trump administration announced that their proposed changes to our nation’s public charge rule are scheduled go into effect in October. NETWORK and our fellow faith-based advocacy partners were compelled to respond. Representatives from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Church World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Faith in Public Life joined Sister Simone Campbell to denounce this harmful change to our nation’s immigration policy.

“The Trump Administration is making history in all the wrong ways,” said Liza Lieberman, Director of Public Policy for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “For the first time, U.S. immigration officials will be instructed to consider non-cash basic needs benefits (including vital food assistance from the SNAP) in considering immigrants’ qualifications for admission or adjustment of status. This is completely unacceptable—nobody should be forced to choose between accepting government assistance and living in safety in the country they call home. This policy is an affront to our Jewish values of compassion and nondiscrimination, as well as our deeply-held belief that everyone deserves access to the resources they need to feed themselves and their families.”

Faith William, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at the National Council of Jewish Women added, “Jews are an immigrant and refugee people – it’s part of our cultural DNA. We recognize that the rule, reportedly Stephen Miller’s “singular obsession,” is part of a larger effort by this administration to criminalize and marginalize people of color, including immigrants of color. The National Council of Jewish Women will not cease in its fight against this and other harmful anti-immigrant, anti-asylee, and anti-refugee policies.”

Sister Simone Campbell stated “This public charge rule is a full scale assault on hard working low wage workers…  These essential programs that they are legally entitled to are really the keys to being able to support their families and thrive here in the United States. President Trump is literally taking food off the tables of our neighbors.”

Share on Social Media:

National faith-based organizations condemn Trump Administration’s draconian #publiccharge rule. This is not who we are. Listen here: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/ @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @global_cws @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

.@DHSgov issued a final rule to radically expand the criteria for who could be considered a #publiccharge under U.S. immigration law. This will separate families & impact millions of people including U.S. citizens. @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @CWS_global @NCJW @FaithPublicLife Our interfaith response: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/

Trump’s #publiccharge rule change is sinful. Learn more about how faith-based organizations are fighting back: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/. @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @CWS_global @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

We’re proud to stand with our interfaith partners in opposition to Trump’s vindictive #publiccharge policy. This is the latest in a string of attacks on immigrant families, and it goes against our most basic values. #ProtectImmigrantFamilies https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/ @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @global_cws @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

Taking Action: Three Women, Three Stories

Taking Action against Child Detention: Three Women, Three Stories

Laura Peralta-Schulte
July 22, 2019

Last week, Catholics came together to call for an end of the inhumanity happening at the U.S. border and in detention camps around the country. Our day of action was an attempt to draw attention to the corrupt and deadly practices funded by our government. As a participant in civil disobedience, I was deeply inspired by the Catholic Sisters, Priests, and lay leaders participating, many of whom have spent their entire lives in the service of justice and peace. They are models of goodness, wisdom, and courage in the service of God.

There were, however, three women participating who engaged in civil disobedience for the first time.  They are not Catholic clergy, not part of a Catholic organization or a religious order. I spoke with each of them while we were processed for violating the law. I would like to share their stories, because they offer a new model of religious activism for us.

The first woman was the mother of two teenage girls. She is one of the few people in her close circle of friends who is documented. Each of her friends desperately wanted to join in civil disobedience but were rightly concerned about the threat of deportation. She reported the pain is very deep in her community over the treatment of migrants at the border and the raids in the U.S. Her daughters discouraged her to engage in civil disobedience out of fear for their mother. Her husband too was fearful. She insisted, however, she had to join because she could. Her witness and action was a bold example of courage led by the Spirit.

The second woman, also a mother, works for a big company and is not typically engaged in activism.  She decided to join in the action as she sat in church two weekends ago listening to the story of the Good Samaritan. Her priest posed the question, “Who is your neighbor?” and something just clicked.  While she confessed she normally is slow and methodical when making decisions, she instantly decided to participate. It was a moment of moral clarity. She followed the Spirit and took a leap of faith.

The third woman works for a local elected official. This work puts her in direct relationship with immigrant communities. She shared how her county is proactively engaging in know your rights training and trying to foster a safe community for immigrant families. She joined the action because she sees the pain and trauma in her community. She came because she wanted people to know she stands on the side of children and families in detention. She engaged in a prophetic act of witness.

As people of faith, we are all called to act for justice. The sacred call is not limited to our faith leaders, but extends to each of us. No matter who you are, you can participate in the creative process of the Spirit and work for change. Whatever road you take – through prayer, writing a letter to your Member of Congress, joining a vigil or civil disobedience – just do it. We must show courage, act out of faith, and bear witness to the pain of our world, if we are to use our collective energy to end the inhumanity of child detention in our nation.

President Trump Calls for Mass Raids This Weekend: What is Your Faithful Response?

President Trump Calls for Mass Raids This Weekend: What is Your Faithful Response?

Laura Peralta-Schulte
June 21, 2019

President Trump began his 2020 campaign this week with the same anti-immigrant platform he ran on in 2016. In his opening speech, he promised to begin a set of raids intended to “remove millions of illegal aliens beginning this weekend.”  Thus begins the likely ramping up increased domestic terror against our immigrant sisters and brothers.  Following the announcement, there have been leaks from ICE, the agency in charge of conducting raids, confirming they may begin actions as early as this weekend. While raids are not new – the Administration has already conducted massive raids in places like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Tennessee – this racketing up is intended to remind President Trump’s supporters that this is still his number one campaign objective.

Our best understanding is that individuals and family units with final orders of removal are anticipated to be targeted. Such targeting would likely result in collateral arrests, meaning: persons who are undocumented but do not have a final order of deportation will likely be detained also.

What does this mean for us, as people of faith?

For some of us, this means our families will sit in fear between now and the election waiting for a knock on the door. We will fill out the appropriate legal documents full of personal information so that if the worse happens, we know our kids will be safe in the custody of a family member or a friend. We will review what we learned at Know Your Rights trainings so that if and when the knock comes, we know what to do. We will live in a continued state of fear.

We learn more and more everyday about the impact of toxic stress on the bodies and health of people under duress. It takes a tremendous toll on a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. We are reminded by our partners at the Center for Law and Social Policy about what happens when children witness the arrest of a parent – particularly in their own home. The children are now ‘at greater risk of suffering mental health and behavioral problems with have long-term implications for their overall development and future success.’

What does it mean for those of us who are not directly impacted?  This is the key faithful question of our time. As people grounded in sacred texts that call for welcome and love, how do we respond? Do we look away because it all seems overwhelming? Do we chose to sit in our comfortable homes, go to our pools, enjoy a barbeque with family and friends completely detached from this terror? Or, do we engage in acts of resistance and love?

NETWORK is continuously engaging in discernment to discover how we as an organization can live a more authentic life, one grounded in the work of racial justice. This year, our Lenten reflections aimed to strengthen our commitment to be and work in solidarity with communities of color, so we can live out our call to justice for all people in the public square.

We must shake off the choice of inaction. To fail to speak out against injustice is to be complicit.  We can and we must live into our call to be a people of love and justice.

Congress Holds Hearing on Situation at the Border

Congress Holds Hearing on Situation at the Border

Laura Peralta-Schulte
June 11, 2019

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing to examine the refugee crisis at U.S. – Mexico border. The key witness will be Acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan. During the hearing, McAleenan is expected to call for: increasing border militarization; stripping away the rights of children from Central America to seek asylum; making it more difficult for families to assert a claim to asylum; and dramatically expanding family detention.

This Administration has already taken unpresented steps to dismantle our asylum system, going as far as separating children from their parents with full knowledge of the harm this inflicts on children and families. Tragically, at least six children have died in federal custody in the past year due to lack of access to healthcare. It was recently revealed that 37 children were locked in vans for up to 39 hours in a parking lot of a detention center outside Port Isabel, Texas.  Further, the private prisons this Administration desperately seeks to expand to house immigrant families have come under continued criticism for their dangerous conditions. Just last week the Inspector General Department of Homeland Security found “egregious” health and safety violations at four major ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facilities.

None of this is surprising given immigration was President Trump’s signature issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. His racist attack on immigrants, symbolized by the call to “build the wall”, set the stage for the policies his Administration is currently pursuing.  The scapegoating of immigrants and asylum seekers will only increase as we head into the 2020 campaign.

Sacred scripture instructs people of faith about how we should treat migrants.  We are called to “release those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke.” (Isaiah 58) We must “Bring good news to the poor…release to the captives…sight to the blind…let the oppressed go free.” (Luke 4:16-21) This is not a political issue for the faith community, it is a matter of justice.

Acting Secretary McAleenan, let us be clear:  NETWORK and our interfaith partners reject your false choice between chaos and compassion. It is wrong to use a humanitarian crisis to shred laws protecting vulnerable families seeking asylum. It is wrong to cage children and families in indefinite detention. It is wrong to strip protections for children that keep them safe and healthy.

These actions are cruel and unjust. We will continue to call for justice for our immigrant family.