Category Archives: Immigration

IMMIGRATION: Immigration – whose responsibility?

by Tom Webb, Pax Christi Northern California

Justice and dignity for all immigrantsAs the debates among contenders for the Republican and Democratic nominations for president rage on, it’s clear that the immigration will be one of the more closely watched issues in next year’s political campaigns.  Positions range from Donald Trump’s “deport them all” to those who argue that expanding border security by making the entire country of Mexico a buffer zone to stem the flow of immigrants are laid out as options.

But in August a group of seventeen interfaith clergy and lay religious leaders from across the United States made a ten day pilgrimage to Honduras and Guatemala organized by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. Our purpose was to learn from clerical and lay leaders of Catholic and Protestant denominations and academics who provided direct services or researched immigration issues.about the deeper, unreported causes of the violence and poverty.  What we learned  paints a far darker and complex picture than aspirants for political office and those in positions of political power may offer,

Faith leaders in northern Honduras near the city of San Pedro Sula posed these problems to us.  How does one respond when a consortium of U.S.-based hydroelectric interests  who are part of the Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPC) forcibly drive people from their small, rural communities into crime-ridden and desperate urban neighborhoods in a wild plan to subvert water from four rivers for a dam which in seventy or eighty years may provide electricity to the United States?  And when leaders of these faith communities begin organizing community members against these interests and discover their lives are threatened on multiple levels, who is to blame?

And what may one say when Chinese and U.S. mining interests in Honduras eager to explore for gold, silver and lead destroy the ecological systems which have sustained rural communities for generations?  And when such interests are granted impunity to mine without cost create environmental collateral damage who should bear the burden of the cost?

Or one may consider the plight of the Garifuna people who are simple fishing people or rural farmers who’ve lived in Honduras and Guatemala since the mid-18th century.  In Honduras they are now being driven from the villages on the Caribbean coast by armed, government forces and accused of “environmental terrorism”.  Meanwhile,  a newly-built five star is spewing waste into nearby water systems.  Over half of the villagers had left many of whom had either immigrated to tried to immigrate to the U.S. to seek a new opportunities.

How may one respond when land reform in both countries has been routinely undermined to benefit big agriculture interests ranging from the now defunct United Fruit Company and its heir Chiquita not to mention African palm growers whose palm oil find their way into products ranging from Doritos, dietary supplements and Mazzola products?  And what country has been covertly involved in supporting such interests?

Or consider textile firms in Honduras some of whom are given unimaginable liberties reign in so-called “free trade zones” to open up the 21st century equivalent of sweatshops.  They pay abhorrent wages by any reasonable standard and employ and discard young women as they see fit to compete in the global market?   

In Honduras and Guatemala rampant corruption on multiple levels in the national government has been endemic for generation.  We were told  “…they’ve stolen everything from us even our fear”.  And that desperate fearlessness contributed in early September to the resignation of their former Guatemalan president Otto Perez-Molina and  his entire entire cabinet..  He has since been incarcerated  on scandalous charges of skimming money from customs which amounted to 30% of the national budget.  Over sixty thousand people had demonstrated weekly since April to protest the arrogance and now proven culpability of national leaders for their crimes.

In Honduras each Friday and Saturday thousands of citizens poor and middle class alike pack the streets of eighty cities, towns and villages across the country participating in the “Anatorches” marches. They gather to protest the corruption of the president Juan Hernandez who came into office following the coup tacitly supported by U.S. interests which forcibly removed democratically-elected President Zelaya from office in 2009. They march to protest the blatant abuse of public trust where evidence points to kick-back scandals where national leaders have literally stolen millions of dollars from the nation’s healthcare system.  

And when a country is driven to such depths by such outrageous practices which collectively crush it’s poorest citizens what are they to do?  According to the Catholic Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Huehuetenango, 98% of Guatemalans are unemployed depending on the informal economy or part-time work to sustains themselves.  Should it surprise anyone that $5.2 billion a year in remittances is sent from the United States from Guatemalans living here to their families?  Aren’t they “acting on behalf of their own best interests” by immigrating according to the paradigm espoused by our contemporary economic scions?

In the over twenty meetings we had during our visit every single group with whom we met fervently urged us to oppose the Obama Administration’s proposed Alliance for Prosperity.  Modeled after one promoted in the early 1960’s by President Kennedy it would in fact promote radical insecurity. Of its proposed $1.2 billion in aid to the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, 60% would be given for “security” purposes.  While companies like Lockheed-Martin, Bell Helicopters,  AM Sales and Colt will certainly benefit, the promised security will inevitably crack down on civilian dissent while the drug traffickers closely aligned with national political interests will continue unimpeded.  Another 30% will be doled out to transnational corporations to contribute to their looting of human and natural resources.

We beseech and urge our fellow citizens to educate themselves about the real root causes of immigration from Central America.  And in doing so that accusatory finger pointed at undocumented people may slowly need to be re-directed to those who are truly accountable for the immigration crisis.

Tom Webb is a member of Pax Christi Northern California’s regional council, a staff member of the Oakland Catholic Worker and a participant in a ten day pilgrimage last August to Honduras and Guatemala organized by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. He is also a journalist writing for the Oakland Voices project of the Oakland Tribune.

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto solidarity letter in support of pro-immigrant policies

Pax Christi USA has signed onto this letter being circulated by the Immigrant Justice Network.

Justice and dignity for all immigrantsOur organizations stand behind the hundreds of state and local policies protecting localities from intrusive collusion, monitoring, and policing by federal immigration authorities.

These policies emerged after years of reasonable discussion and debate amongst community groups, local officials, and police and sheriff departments, as hundreds of cities, towns and states grappled with the harm of deportation programs, like the failed Secure Communities (S-Comm) now renamed the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Our communities rightly concluded that local pro-immigrant policies not only protect public safety and constitutional rights—they are integral to fostering diverse and thriving communities.

The scapegoating of immigrant communities and attacks on local pro-immigrant policies and the officials who enacted them reflects a hardening racism and xenophobia in American politics that we must eliminate, not foster. These attacks may score some political points in the short-term but strike against good governance and inclusive democracy…

Click here to read the entire letter.

REFLECTION: Pope Francis – “It’s violence to build walls to keep out people seeking peace”

from Zenit

Pope Francis at the apartheid wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories

Pope Francis at the apartheid wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Pope Francis says that it is “violence” to build walls to keep out those seeking peace, and to widen the gulf between those who have so much they waste what’s extra and those who lack what they need.

The Pope said this in a message dated Aug. 29 and directed to the International Meeting for Peace, organized each year by the Sant’Egidio Community.

The meetings, as Pope Francis’ message recalled, follow in the wake “traced by Saint John Paul II with the first historic Meeting of Assisi in October of 1986. Since then a pilgrimage of men and women of different religions has developed.”

This year’s meeting was held in Tirana, Albania, and the Pope’s message recalled his own visit there.

“In no other country of the world was the decision so strong to exclude God from the life of a people: just one religious sign was enough to be punished with prison if not death. This very sad primacy marked the Albanian people profoundly, until the moment of their rediscovered freedom, when the members of the different religious communities, tried by the common suffering endured, met again to live together in peace,” he said.

Living together in peace is the spirit of Assisi, the Pope said, adding that “prayer is always at the root of peace!”…

Click here to read the entire article.

REFLECTION: Millions of refugees have no place to call home

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heartbreaking photo of the little Syrian refugee boy washed up dead on the shore of Bodrum, Turkey (see picture: strikingly illustrates the tragic plight of desperate refugees – mostly Syrian – fleeing for their lives from the Islamic State and other violent groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The 3-year-old boy, named Aylan, along with his 5-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehan, drowned after the raft carrying them capsized near the Turkish coast.

Millions of refugees are scrambling to escape from the life-threatening civil wars plaguing several countries from Nigeria to Pakistan.


According to the British newspaper The Independent, half of Syria’s population – approximately 11 million people – have been forced to flee; with four million living as refugees in foreign nations. And approximately 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced, both due to civil wars and the barbarism of the Islamic State.

Matt Wilch, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) refugee policy advisor for Migration and Refugee Service, told me that of the four million Syrian refugees, 1.8 million are being hosted by Turkey, Jordan has 1 million, Egypt has 200,000, tiny Lebanon is hosting over 1 million, and ironically even war-torn Iraq has opened its doors to 200,000 Syrians.

But according to U.S. State Department figures, since March of 2011 – when the Syrian conflict started – only 1,554 Syrians have been admitted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. This is shameful.

Wealthy Europe and the U.S. have a moral obligation to offer far more help.

Germany is providing an excellent example here. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that any Syrian arriving in Germany would be granted asylum.

With 800,000 refugees expected to arrive in Germany before year’s end, Merkel has been urging Germans to rise to the challenge. She said, “There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people.”

Wilch said if the U.S. and other wealthy nations would provide much more aid to Syria’s neighboring nations, not only would refugees be able to benefit from improved services, but most would not feel compelled to take the long dangerous journey to Europe.

Wilch said only 37 percent of the needs of refugees are being funded in these neighboring host countries.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 2,500 people have perished en route to Europe since the beginning of this year alone.

The USCCB is urging Congress to increase the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. to 200,000 annually – 100,000 from Syria and 100,000 from other nations. Please contact your congressional delegation urging them to honor the bishops’ plea. And urge them to greatly increase aid to the Middle East nations hosting millions of refugees. The resources of these generous nations are stretched to the limit.

Also, to be of further help please go to this link,, at the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA to easily submit (click submit twice) a letter to your senators and congressperson on behalf of our suffering refugee brothers and sisters.

And to go the extra mile, kindly consider making a donation to Catholic Relief Services by going to this link,, and clicking “European Migrant Crisis Grows.” Then click “Donate Now.”

Pope Francis has strong words for those who would turn away refugees: It is “violence to erect walls and barriers to block those seeking a place of peace. It is violence to push back those fleeing from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at

PETITION: Stop Congress from targeting sanctuary cities

from Church World Service

Children at our border

Children at our border

Faith leaders across the country are standing together in solidarity with immigrants and demanding that Congress oppose any legislation that would force local police to serve as immigration enforcement officers or repeal local community-based policing ordinances.

Join us in telling Congress to respect the efforts of local law enforcement to build trust and protect all members of our communities.

We cannot allow the tragedy in San Francisco to undo the intentional efforts of law enforcement to create trust and safety in all communities, regardless of immigration status.

Add your name and congregation so that we can demonstrate strong faith community support for our immigrant sisters and brothers.

Deadline to sign: 1PM EST Wednesday, July 22, 2015