Photo source: cleveland.com
What are we seeing in our communities and across the country that calls us to walk?
Families and Communities Torn Apart: Family is a cornerstone of our communities, but hundreds of thousands of families are separated by our broken immigration system. Backlogs at USCIS of up to 22 years and the insufficient number of family-based visas force family members to choose between being separated for extended periods of time or entering the country without documentation. (Bread for the World)
Talent Wasted: All people should have a right and duty to participate in society for the common good, and that we must provide avenues for participation in the U.S. Many immigrants hope to pursue higher education, join the military, or enter the workforce, but their lack of legal status jeopardizes those dreams and exposes them to deportation. Administrative relief through expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and implementation of a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) is currently being halted by a federal court in Texas.
Value of Work Denied and Workers Exploited: Much of our U.S. economy is dependent on migrant labor. These men and women are an integral part of the U.S. economy and there is a general failure to recognize their value. Because migrants live in the shadows of society with no pathway to obtaining citizenship, they are often subject to exploitation that is inconsistent with the Catholic Social Teaching principle of the dignity of work.
Immigrants Unjustly Detained: Almost half a million immigrants are placed into immigration detention annually in a network of over 250 county and state jails, for-profit prisons, and federally administered facilities. Congress has mandated an immigration detention bed quota requiring ICE to lock-up an average of 34,000 immigrants in detention on any given day. People placed in these jail-like facilities have no right to free court-appointed attorneys, and people seeking asylum, immigrants who might have a right to stay in the U.S. through family connections, and others who are in need of legal help often are forced to face our complicated and broken immigration system without a lawyer. (Detention Watch Network)
Crossing the border was once a matter for civil immigration courts but is now handled in federal criminal courts along the border. Under this program, known as Operation Streamline, people caught crossing the border are criminally charged with either unauthorized entry (a misdemeanor) or unauthorized re-entry (a felony). This practice has swelled the ranks of our federal prisons so that in border districts, half of those incarcerated are now there for immigration-related offenses alone.
The use of so-called “family detention” where mothers, toddlers, babies, and children are locked up in jail-like facilities has surged since 2014. Seeking to deter Central American refugees and migrants from journeying to the United States, the Obama Administration has placed thousands of Central American women, infants, toddlers, and children in prison camps even though the vast majority of these women and children are seeking asylum. A federal judge has ordered the release of these children, but the Obama Administration has filed an appeal in the case. There are humane and cost-effective alternatives to detention, such as the community-based case management systems that allow immigrants to live in supportive and safe environments while service providers guide them through the immigration court process, ensuring they make their court dates.
Suffering Ignored and Legal Rights Denied: We must treat all people with dignity and respect, and our asylum and refugee system is under threat. Rather than offering protection and compassion for those who have been forced to flee from their countries of origin, our system treats them as potential terrorists, and subjects them to lengthy delays in having their cases decided and blocks entrance into the U.S. through punitive enforcement measures.