Category Archives: Immigration

Encountering the Reality of the Southern Border

Encountering the Reality of the Southern Border

Mary Cunningham
July 20, 2018

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas are just miles apart and yet they are worlds away. As you explore both, you notice the cities blend into one another: people living on one side, working on the other, Spanish and English spoken in both, and a shared industrial vibe. And yet, the cities remain two distinct realities – divided by a large border wall, 18 feet high in some places. People on one side are trapped by low wages, poor working conditions, violence, and persecution, and on the other trapped by their own minds and biases. But there is a deep inequality between the two countries, and, in the United States, an explicit denial of the experiences of people living south of the border – people most of us have never even met. It baffles me how a barrier can create not only physical separation, but a separation that is strongly emotional and visceral.

In early July I went to the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time. Working at a federal advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., I am constantly reading news about what’s happening at the border: people fleeing violence in countries such as El Salvador and Honduras, debates on funding for the border wall, family separation, the list goes on. Despite this, I always felt a desire to go the border – to meet people and hear their stories. D.C. is geared towards engaging with immigration on a policy level, but it often feels disconnected from what’s happening on the ground. This trip was a chance to immerse myself in the reality of the border—learning about the working conditions for people on both sides, the process for seeking asylum, the experience of migrants, the conditions in detention centers, Customs and Border Protection, and more. It was a chance to learn, but also a chance to feel the impact of the border and the precise division it creates.

At the beginning of the week we helped serve dinner at Nazareth Hall, a shelter for migrants recently released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detention centers. Although there was a language barrier, the stories of the people we served food to were written all over their faces. We noticed the timidity of the group as they entered the dining hall and the slight relaxation that took over as they realized they were finally in a safe place. One woman came up to us after dinner with tears in her eyes, holding each of our hands for a few brief moments, as she repeated, “thank you.” We also got a tour of Annunciation House, a shelter for undocumented immigrants started by Ruben Garcia. (This is one of the only shelters available for migrants who are undocumented.) Interacting with migrants who had just been released from detention was a grounding experience. I spoke with one man from Cameroon who had been detained for 18 months. When I asked how that was, he just shook his head despairingly, claiming, “horrible.” It was evident that the conditions in detention centers are deplorable. Many local advocates we met with told us “make no mistake: these are prisons.”

In addition to helping at local shelters, we met immigration advocates and attorneys such as Anna Hey, Deputy Director of the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (DMRS). Anna gave us an overview of the particular barriers facing migrants coming to the United States, explaining the snares they often get caught up in the legal process. Among all the things Anna shared with us, what stood out to me the most were the discrepancies between the number of people granted asylum from state to state, depending on where their case is heard. (In New York, New York the grant rate is 85%, while in El Paso the grant rate is a mere 6%.) Additionally, Anna noted how the whole “wait in line” argument is complete bologna. Some people applying for immigrant visas or Legal Permanent Residency (LPR) may have to wait over 20 years! Hearing about this and the lived experience of the clients Anna works with exposed the undeniable reality of our dysfunctional immigration system.

Towards the end of the week we crossed the border into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. While there, we visited the Bibloteca Infantil, “El Buen Pastor,” a children’s library started by Cristina Estrada. Cristina explained how the limited economic opportunity in Juárez dissuades many people from finishing their education. Maquiladoras (foreign-owned and run factories) are common in Juárez and many Mexicans – often multiple members of the same family– end up working in them. We talked to a representative from Foxconn (an electronics manufacturing company), who told us that the starting wage is around $60 a week. Broken down, that means that at least three members of a family would have to work to make ends meet. Recognizing that many Mexican young people see factories like this as their only path, Cristina’s mission at the children’s library is to provide a space for young people to learn, study, and grow. She provides books for students and helps tutor them so they are able to recognize the value of education and where it can lead them. When one of our group members asked Cristina what she hoped to accomplish, she replied with tears in her eyes, saying her dreams had already been fulfilled. Seeing so many kids achieve their educational goals over the years is her greatest accomplishment.

This immersion trip brought me many things, but perhaps among the most important was that nothing is more powerful than the power of experience. Some elected officials choose to paint the immigrant population with broad strokes, calling them criminals, drug traffickers, or burdens to our country. But how fair is that, when these are people just like us, who each carry their own pain, struggles, and joys? There are so many stories that simply don’t get heard, because we don’t have enough time or space to tell them. While I know this immersion trip and these stories won’t change immigration policy overnight, they certainly changed me. I find hope at the individual level, where the stories of each individual person we meet transform our hearts and minds and push us in subtle ways to see anew. As the Columban motto goes, “A life unlike your own can be your teacher.”

A Play Date to Oppose Family Separation

A Play Date to Oppose Family Separation

Daisy Pitkin
June 27, 2018

On June 13th, I and about 15 other parents and our children went to Representative McSally’s District Office in Tucson, Arizona to raise our deep concern over the separation of families at the border. Congress is in session, so Rep. McSally was not in her office. While waiting to see if we could speak with her by phone, we sang songs, read books, and ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We called our visit a “play-date,” and while we were there, some of the children filled out office-supplied opinion forms. Carter, who is ten, wrote: “Please make this stop it is realy [sic] wrong.”

We went to McSally’s office knowing that she would not be there, but after hearing about the suicide death of Marco Antonio Munñoz after CBP agents forcibly tore his three-year-old son from his arms, and after learning that hundreds of separated children are being held at shelters right here in Tucson, we felt it urgent to reach out to her in person. We are her constituents. She represents us in Congress. Isn’t this the way representative democracy is meant to work?

McSally issued a statement in response to our visit. It began, “It is most unfortunate that this group, organized by radical activists, broke into our office today to disrupt the workplace and prevent us from serving constituents…” She went on to claim that visits like ours “distract from the many issues our country faces.” Again, we are her constituents. We were there to speak with her about an urgent issue facing our country, happening to children and families in our community.

On the night after our play-date, my three-year-old son had a nightmare. I rushed to hold him and to quiet him so he wouldn’t wake his 9-month-old sister. He’d dreamed about a tiger scratching at his window, he said. “Tiger” has become a kind of stand-in for all sorts of unknowns, particularly sounds he doesn’t recognize. I asked if he could hear the branch scraping the window in the breeze. He nodded. I asked if that could that be the “tiger.” He nodded again, and after a few minutes, he fell back to sleep holding my hand. As I lay next to him, I wondered what a stranger might have said to him if he had awoken somewhere away from me. What would have happened if he had awoken to no one?

For me, and I imagine for many others who are outraged by the barbarity of separating families, this is the root of the issue: It is inhuman to make a child alone in the world, or to place her with strangers who aren’t supposed to touch or hold her, who don’t know how to comfort her.

More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or guardians due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Hundreds of these children are being held at a shelter three miles from my home. It is possible that some of them will not see their families again. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order to detain immigrant children in camps indefinitely, this time along with their parents.

These policies are monstrously cruel. They are an attack on things I hold very dear: family, the well-being of children, empathy, community, love. So I and my friends who are parents and our children will continue to raise this grave moral issue to Rep. McSally as well as to our senators, city councilpersons, mayor, governor, and anyone else in a position to create safe, compassionate, humane immigration policies. Play-date anyone?


Daisy Pitkin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona Honors College, where she teaches critical thinking and creative writing courses. She is the proud mama of two sweet children, ages 3 years and 9 months.

Two Bills Aimed at Ending Family Separation

Two Bills Aimed at Ending Family Separation

Sana Rizvi
June 11, 2018

As Congress struggles to find consensus on a solution to provide protections for Dreamers, the Administration’s new family separation policy has started a political fire storm creating moral outrage across the country and in Congress. There are two bills that would end the practice of family separation and provide relief to impacted families: The Keep Families Together Act (S. 3036) and the Humane Enforcement Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act of 2018 (S. 2937/H.R.5950). NETWORK strongly supports these bills.

The Keep Families Together Act (S. 3036)

The Keep Families Together Act prohibits the separation of families at the border. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced this bill on June 7, 2018 and it currently has 31 Democratic cosponsors and no Republican cosponsors. The bill was created in consultation with groups who provide services to families at the border including Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Women’s Refugee Commission. It mandates a prohibition on removing a child from a parent or guardian in an attempt to deter migration into the United States. It also provides a mechanism to reunite families who have been separated.

The HELP Separated Children Act of 2018 (S. 2937/H.R.5950)

Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) introduced this bicameral bill on May 23, 2018. Although this act does not end the practice of family separation, it is a necessary step in protecting children until Congress can find a permanent legislative solution to unite detained families and prohibit the separation of families. The HELP Separated Children Act of 2018 would provide relief to families by:

  • Allowing parents to participate in proceedings affecting their children.
  • Allowing parents to make calls to arrange for the care of their children and ensuring that children can call and visit their parents while they are detained.
  • Protecting children from being forced to be translators for law enforcement when speaking to their parents.
  • Ensuring that parents can coordinate their departures with their children.
  • Requiring ICE to consider the best interests of children when making decisions on the detention, release, or transfer of their parents.

The bill currently has 24 Democrats sponsors in the Senate and 16 Democrats sponsors in the House.

With Democrats working to elevate this moral crisis to the public’s attention, all eyes are on Republicans for a legislative response. Protections for children have historically been a nonpartisan issue and thus these two bills should be supported by all Members of Congress.

We must work to secure Republican cosponsors on these bills so that Congress can pass legislation to end family separation. The practice of separation is so morally corrupt, that even immigration hardliner Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) leader of the House’s far right faction called the “Freedom Caucus” has called the policy a “horrible law.”  We call on Republicans to join their Democratic colleagues in ending the policy of family separation.

NETWORK will continue to monitor legislation closely and provide updates on this issue.

#WhereAreTheChildren and Family Separation at the U.S. – Mexico Border

#WhereAreTheChildren and Family Separation at the U.S. – Mexico Border

Sana Rizvi 
June 1, 2018

This past weekend, the internet became flooded with tweets asking #WherearetheChildren after a New York Times article reported that the Trump Administration had lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children.

Let’s be clear: this is a very real question. As people of faith, the well-being of children, particularly of migrant children fleeing danger in their home countries to seek refuge in the United States, is paramount.

But — it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Immigration advocates are asking people to look beyond #WherearetheChildren. As Vox reporter Sarah Kliff explains:

“Immigration advocates… aren’t spending a lot of time worried about #WhereAreTheChildren. Instead, they say the real crisis is the Trump administration’s new policy of separating undocumented families apprehended at the US border — a policy that may have gotten conflated with the “missing” children story that went viral this weekend.”

What’s the difference? The “1,500 missing children” refers to unaccompanied minors, who arrived in the United States mostly during the Obama Administration, and through the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services, were placed in the care of family and foster care agencies.

#WherearetheChildren is a movement to find the 1,500 minors who mostly came across the border alone and were placed into the guardianship of foster homes or their own families (even if the family members are undocumented). HHS keeps track of these minors by calling the homes they were placed in and following up with them for their deportation court hearings. Immigration advocates are not asking #Wherearethechildren because these are not 1,500 minors who have been separated from their families. These are 1,500 families that did not pick up the phone when the government called asking for the whereabouts of undocumented children.

Now, the Trump Administration, has a new policy that an administration official referred to as a “zero tolerance policy,” which separates families seeking asylum when they reach the U.S. border.

Vox’s Dara Lind writes:

“The Trump administration’s solution [to logistical challenges related to detaining families as unit], now codified in policy, is to stop treating them as families: to detain the parents as adults and place the children in the custody of Health and Human Services as ‘unaccompanied minors.’”

This insidious policy separates families coming across the border together to seek asylum. Parents are turned over to ICE for criminal prosecution and their children are re-designated  as “unaccompanied minors,” even though they were forcibly separated from their parent/guardian.

As a result, the separated children can be sent anywhere in the U.S. regardless of the status or location of their parents, even if the parent or parents have been deported. In some cases, this makes family reunification nearly impossible. We must also ask #WhereAreTheChildren, for these young people being forcibly separated from their parents by U.S. agents.

There is no doubt that there are threats to unaccompanied minors, and  the Department of Health and Human Services must be very careful about where it is placing minors. #WherearetheChildren needs to be about the 1,500 children, and it must be a call to action to stop separating children from their parents . We need to fight against policies created to separate children from their families and recognize that the safest place for immigrant children is with their families and their communities.

Below are some resources on separated families:

“This is what’s really happening to kids at the border” (The Washington Post)

“The real immigration crisis isn’t “missing” children. It’s family separations” (Vox)

“Family Separation at the Border” (KIND and Women’s Refugee Commission’s two page backgrounder on what happens to separated children.)

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

Tralonne Shorter
May 30, 2018

On Thursday, May 17, 2018 the House Appropriations Committee approved $4.8 billion in overall funding for the Census Bureau, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill.   The appropriation is a $1.985 billion increase above the FY 2018 enacted level; almost $1 billion above the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  The funds would primarily support 2020 Census activities such as technology improvements, address canvassing, End-to-End tests, and the opening of 248 Census field offices.

Regrettably, the bill contains several unacceptable provisions.  One major upset for advocates was a decision by the Committee to reject an amendment to remove the citizenship question.  NETWORK submitted written testimony and organized faith leader sign on letters in opposition to the citizenship question. We were also disappointed that the Committee included a big increase for illegal immigration enforcement.   In particular, the Committee approved a $126 million increase above FY 2018 for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a division within the Department of Justice that adjudicates immigration removal proceedings.  This increase would annualize 100 new immigration judge teams the Committee approved in the FY 2018 Omnibus and would provide funds for 100 additional immigration judge teams in FY 2019. This total increase of 200 new immigration judge teams over a two-year period would drastically reduce the immigration case backlog while resulting in more families being torn apart.

A floor vote on final passage in the House has not been scheduled, but we anticipate it will occur before the August recess.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider its own FY 2019 CJS spending bill sometime in June.  NETWORK will continue to push for full funding and oppose the addition of a citizenship question.

New Energy for DACA Solution in the House

New Energy for DACA Solution in the House

Sana Rizvi
May 11, 2018

After the Senate’s failure to pass DACA legislation, a small group of moderate Republican House members facing tough reelections are pushing to bring an immigration vote to the House floor. One such member is California Representative Jeff Denham (CA- 10), who has invoked an obscure House rule called the “Queen of the Hill” to vote on DACA legislation. Representative Denham has a total of 247 cosponsors on this resolution, which includes 195 Democrats and 52 Republicans (Find the complete list of cosponsors here.) Since the rule has greater support than the 218 needed, it was up to Speaker Paul Ryan to move the rule forward.

Due to Speaker Ryan’s failure to act, however, moderate Republicans have begun a discharge petition, which is a way to get the rule to the floor without the Speaker’s approval. The discharge petition will need 218 votes to be filed, requiring signatures from the entire House Democratic caucus and at least 25 Republicans. The current petition has 18 Republicans signed on and the Democratic caucus plans sign on when the Republican votes are secured, to ensure 218 votes.

This “Queen of the Hill” rule would trigger votes on four DACA bills. The bill with the most votes after the 218 majority will pass the House and continue to the Senate for consideration. Representative Denham’s office has reported that bills for consideration are the Dream Act (H.R. 3440), the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA Act, H.R. 4796), and Rep. Goodlatte’s Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760). While both the Dream Act and USA Act offer DACA recipients protection from deportation and a pathway to citizenship, Rep. Goodlatte’s bill aims to cut legal immigration and provides no pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. Although ordering of the votes for the Queen of the Hill proposal is up to Representative Denham, he left a fourth slot for any bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s choosing. By offering Speaker Ryan the fourth slot, Rep. Denham has provided the Speaker with an opportunity to weigh in on the vote.

While all eyes are on the House for action around “Queen of the Hill,” the courts have also had significant movement around DACA these past few months. On May 1, 2018, a federal judge’s order prevented the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from arbitrarily cancelling a young man’s DACA status after the government failed to prove that he had committed a crime. Another blow to the administration’s attempt to end of DACA came when a federal judge ordered the government to continue the DACA program and begin accepting new applications for the first time in several months. This has not gone into effect yet, however, as the judge gave the Trump administration 90 days to provide a compelling reason for shutting down the DACA program.

To complicate matters further, most recently, seven states led by Texas have brought a class action suit against the federal government for failing to end the DACA program completely. As these cases become more entangled and national injunctions begin to contradict one another, pressure for resolution will increase as well as the likelihood of the Supreme Court’s involvement.

Ultimately the DACA issue must be resolved with a legislative fix from Congress which could include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, bringing resolution to this issue. NETWORK will continue to monitor this process and call on members of Congress to move towards a permanent legislative solution.

“Public Charge” Then and Now

“Public Charge” Then and Now

President Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policy Remains True to its Origins 
Timothy Meagher
May 10, 2018

In 1837, Massachusetts began the first mass immigrant deportation program in the history of the United States. As Hidetaka Hirota’s new history of the Massachusetts deportations, Expelling the Poor, reveals, the program would last for more than a half a century and would deport over 50,000 immigrants. The deportees were not undocumented (there were few restrictions on immigrants coming into the country then).

Massachusetts law, however, permitted state officials to board ships and send some immigrants home because they seemed likely to seek public assistance or welfare, becoming a “Public Charge.” Later amendments to the law sent state officials on regular inspections of poorhouses or asylums searching for immigrants already living in the United States who had become public charges and could then be deported to “home” countries that some had not seen in decades. The state even deported immigrants like Hugh Carroll, who had become American citizens. Many of the deportees were mothers, abandoned or widowed, often with young children, who could not find work that allowed them to earn a living and raise their kids at the same time. They had no alternative but the poorhouse. All of these immigrants, as a contemporary newspaper pointed out, were evicted from Massachusetts “for the crime of being poor.”

Advocates of the law insisted that the deportations were necessary; foreign paupers were flooding the state, they argued, becoming “leeches upon our taxpayers.” Of course, there were other, powerful motives behind the law beyond a concern for the public purse.

Over the law’s course of fifty years the vast majority of the deportees were Irish Catholics; that was no coincidence. The deportation program began in the 1830s, when Irish immigrant numbers in Massachusetts were rising and native residents of Massachusetts responded with frenzied assaults on Irish Catholic neighborhoods and institutions like the Ursuline Convent in nearby Charlestown. The deportations reached their high point in the mid-1850s when the virulently anti- Catholic and anti- immigrant Know Nothings attacked Catholic Churches and took control of the state government, strengthening the deportation law, and fiddling with immigrant voting rights. To supporters and administrators of the law, Irish Catholic and pauper was a distinction without a difference: Irish Catholics were by their nature paupers or inevitably on their way to becoming ones. “Celtic pauperism is our stone of stumbling,” a prominent nativist leader stated, the Irish Catholic “ will not work when he can exist by begging.”

Now, the Trump administration has proposed expanding the federal criteria for determining whether a documented immigrant living in the United States is a “public charge.” The old criteria included receiving cash welfare payments, but the new rule would include participation of an immigrant or their dependent children– including U.S. citizens–  in “almost any form of welfare or public benefit,” including: the Earned Income Tax Credit, state Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), or federal health insurance subsidies. If defined as a public charge under this new rule, legal immigrants could be denied green cards or extension of their work visas and thus be forced to leave the country.

The Trump administration, of course, claims that it is only trying to “protect the American taxpayer,” just as Massachusetts’ old Know Nothings did a century and a half ago. Yet, as the Washington Post reported, changes in the definition of a public charge are frankly designed to “reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States,” which, of course, is also what the Know Nothings in Nineteenth century Massachusetts were trying to do.  Only the names, the homelands and often the races of the deportees are different. The same anti-immigrant sentiment has no place in our federal policies today.

During the Civil War, Peter Welsh, color sergeant in the 28th Massachusetts, a part of the Irish Brigade, died of wounds inflicted in the battle of Spotsylvania.  Earlier in the war, he had written home to his wife explaining why he was fighting for the Union: what, he asked, would have been the fate today of “hundreds of thousands of the sons and daughters of poor old oppressed Erin if they had not a free land like this to emigrate to, famine and hunger staring them in the face.”

How Will We Answer the Summons?

How Will We Answer the Summons?

Rebecca Eastwood
May 9, 2018

Although I have lived in Washington, DC for the past four years and have grown and learned so much in our nation’s capital, I will always be a proud Iowan.

Often confused with places like Ohio or Idaho, Iowa is known for things like corn and caucuses. The events of May 12, 2008, however, permanently marked Iowa on the map for a different reason.

Headlines in the weeks that followed read:

Immigration Raid Jars Small Town

Immigration Raid at Meat Processing Plant in Iowa Largest Ever in US

I was 16 at the time and attended high school in Decorah, IA. When the news reached our classrooms that day of helicopters and federal agents surrounding the meatpacking plant in Postville, the town next door, I was confronted with the reality of our broken immigration system that, because of my privileged background, I never before had to consider.

We would soon learn in the hours and days following that what transpired was the largest worksite immigration raid (at that time) in U.S. history. As I reflect on the events that day ten years ago I recognize it as the moment that truly summoned me to social justice work.

For a town of approximately 2,400, Postville was one of the most diverse communities in Northeast Iowa. In addition to a number of other distinct communities, Postville was home to a large Latino/a population. Drawn by the promise of opportunity, education, and safety, families set down roots in Postville.

The raid tore these roots apart. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested almost 400 people working at the kosher meatpacking plant, AgriProcessors, in the span of a few hours. Agents descended on the plant, chased, shackled, and carted away mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers.

Children came home from school to empty houses. Community members took refuge at St. Bridget’s, the local Catholic church, terrified they would be next or that they would never see their family members again. The raid upended the schools, economy, and families of this small community.

In the chaotic weeks following, the local community stepped up to attempt to repair what our federal government had ripped apart. Centered in St. Bridget’s, volunteers helped people find their family members, the majority of whom were detained in the Cattle Congress buildings, prosecuted en masse, and eventually deported.

Through this response effort, I spent some time volunteering, mostly using my high school Spanish to entertain children while their family members did all they could to pull their lives back together.

This experience would never leave me. I could not forget the child asking when they would see their dad again or the mother trying to keep her family fed while wearing an ankle monitor. I was shaken out of my complacency and forced to answer the question: who am I summoned to be in the face of this injustice? Answering that question led me to Washington, DC to advocate for policies that would keep families together and uphold the dignity of migrants- attempting to prevent other communities from experiencing the same trauma as Postville.

The raid seared into our collective memory the devastating impact of inhumane immigration policies. We no longer need to look back a decade, however, to remember the suffering caused by immigration raids.

Only one month ago, ICE conducted the largest worksite raid of the Trump administration. The circumstances were all too familiar: agents surrounded a meatpacking plant in Tennessee. They arrested nearly 100 people. Terrified families gathered at the local Catholic church for support.

In the past year, the federal government has targeted thousands for detention and deportation, including those who have lived here for decades. They have systematically rescinded legal status for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). They are separating families seeking safety at our southern border.

Who are we as a nation summoned to be in the face of these injustices? Will we challenge harsh, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy? Will we demand a system that recognizes migrants as whole persons worthy of dignity? As people around the country observe the ten-year anniversary of the raid we pray that in answering this summons we will never mark another anniversary like this.

Postville is everywhere. How will we respond?

Becca is the Advocacy Coordinator for the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, DC. The Columban Center is the national advocacy office for the Columban fathers, a Catholic order of priests and lay missionaries living and serving in 15 countries. Her advocacy work focuses on immigration, environmental, and economic policy.

The Trump Administration’s Attacks on Immigrant Families

The Trump Administration’s Attacks on Immigrant Families

Sana Rizvi
May 2, 2018

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Trump administration has anti-immigrant policies, considering our current president won an entire campaign on an explicitly anti-immigrant platform. Yet, I am still outraged by the horrific nature of these policies and how they have attacked the very foundation of our society: families.

How can we not be outraged? When did our political leaders forget the value and sacredness of family?

I have heard my entire life that our nation is a nation of immigrants. If that is (at least partially) true, why do we treat immigrants in this country today as second-class citizens? Why do we allow our government to tear immigrant families—people who came to this country for safety and security—apart?

Over the past few months, as advocates fought to keep DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in the news cycle, the Administration took action to uproot our immigrant communities by ramping up detentions and intentionally separating children from their parents.

Here are just a few examples:

On October 24, 2017, Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy, was arrested by border agents while being taken into surgery. National outrage came swiftly, and it was a rare moment of national spotlight, which led Rosa Maria to be released on November 3, 2017.

A few weeks later, 1-year-old Mateo was separated from his father, who was applying for asylum as a family unit at the same time as several other families. Onlookers who resisted the separation of father and son were forcibly told by the arresting officer that doing so would hurt their own claims for asylum. The four children taken during that encounter were then processed as unaccompanied minors and sent to foster care in separate states.[i]

In March, a Congolese woman was finally reunited with her 7-year-old daughter after being separated from her for several months by almost 2,000 miles, a situation DHS Secretary Nielsen herself could not rationalize.[ii]

These are just a few recent examples, but the everyday reality is that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is systematically seeking to separate parents from their children. [iii]

In Islam, heaven is under your mother’s feet and looking at your parents with love is considered a form of worship. Woe to those who tear children away from heaven.

As a person of faith, I am deeply troubled by the leniency our collective conscience has allowed to those who tear families apart in the name of national security. Family separation has gone from a once-abhorred policy to being a common state-sanctioned practice.

Two recent ICE directives have made this possible: The first instructed agents on how to separate children from their parents, removing key elements of earlier policies that allowed prosecutorial discretion to provide assistance to parents who need help retaining their parental rights in immigration courts. The second changed an ICE policy to begin long-term detainment of pregnant women, despite multiple lawsuits and reports of miscarriages occurring from the conditions of detention.[iv]

One of the most memorable verses in the Quran asks “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (Quran 4:97) Every time I read it, I am reminded that we erected strict borders, even though God asked us to never turn away people who come to your door in need.

What excuses will we make in front of God when asked why we treated our neighbors as criminals and increased their suffering when they came to us for help? What will we say when we are shown the children who fled to a country they did not know and were torn from their mothers?

[i] “Five Outrageous ways ICE Separates Families” Amnesty International USA. Dec. 18, 2017. https://medium.com/@amnestyusa/five-outrageous-ways-ice-separates-families-fe0452653272

[ii] “Durbin says Homeland Security admits separating Congolese mother and child ‘a mistake’” Chicago Tribune. March 7, 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/huppke/ct-met-congo-family-separated-immigration-huppke-20180307-story.html

[iii] Our friends at Hope Border Institute recently published a report of asylum seekers at the El Paso Sector of the border being deterred from entry through cases of family separation and the horrific conditions of detention, find that report and more resources here: https://www.hopeborder.org/sealing-the-border

[iv]  “Detained  Women Suffering Miscarriages Due to ICE Negligence, Activists Say” NETA February 12, 2018 https://netargv.com/2018/02/12/detained-women-suffering-miscarriages-due-ice-negligence-activists-say/

Arrest a Nun, Not a Dreamer

“Arrest a Nun, Not a Dreamer”

Mary Cunningham
April 25, 2018

Catholic sisters held these signs as they gathered with around 200 other advocates during the National Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers on February 27, 2018. Members of the Catholic community met on Capitol Hill to demand a legislative solution from Congress for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients who face uncertainty about their legal status in the United States. PICO National Network organized the day of events along with Catholic organizations including: Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., Franciscan Action Network, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Pax Christi USA, and NETWORK.

The event highlighted Dreamers’ precarious position and called on advocates and people of faith to move towards action. Sister Quincy Howard, OP, a Government Relations Fellow at NETWORK, attended and reflected on the way we are treating Dreamers in this country: “I hope that people’s eyes and hearts can be opened to the suffering of these young people who have done nothing wrong. Dreamers are our teachers, our students, and our neighbors, and our government is currently threatening them with exile from the only home they know.”

The day began with a press conference outside the Capitol building with speeches from Sister JoAnn Persch, RSM, Father Tom Reese, SJ, and others. After the speeches, the attendees recited the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary together. The crowd then moved into the Russell Senate Office Building and those who chose to participate in the civil disobedience formed a circle, singing and praying together in the center of the rotunda. After issuing several warnings, Capitol police arrested around 40 Catholic leaders, many of them women religious.

Sisters participated in the act of civil disobedience because they felt it was a moral imperative and a small sacrifice compared to the lived experience of the Dreamers. Sister Diane Roche, RSCJ, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation at the Stuart Center in Washington, D.C. said “If there is an issue worth getting arrested for, this is it. This is my first time ever, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do to stand in solidarity. It is a small enough thing compared to what they are going through.”

The action was a stark reminder that although Dreamers and supporters are organizing and advocating tirelessly, Congress has still failed to pass a legislative solution that will protect them from deportation. Each day that goes by, Dreamers face more uncertainty about their future.

As Sister Ann Scholz, SSND,  LCWR Associate Director for Social Mission and NETWORK Board member, said: “Our mission as Christians is to welcome those who are in need as we would welcome Jesus. So really, we can do no other than be here today to stand with Dreamers and ask our elected officials to provide the welcome that is theirs because they are created in the image of God just as we are.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

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