Category Archives: Immigration

BORDER CRISIS: Pax Christi USA signs onto interfaith letter regarding unaccompanied minors at the border

The following letter was coordinated by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The letter is being sent to the President and Members of Congress today, July 18. Pax Christi USA is a signatory to the letter.

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

Our faith traditions challenge us to welcome the immigrant through scriptures such as Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.” Many of our organizations are living out this command by working tirelessly in bus stations and shelters to assist vulnerable children and families coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and in ministries dedicated to human rights and sustainable development in the Northern Triangle.

While we appreciate the U.S. government’s attention to the humanitarian crisis faced by migrants from Central America, we strongly object to proposals to detain families with children and to any move to roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) in order to effect expeditious deportations. Forcibly and hurriedly returning people in need of international protection back to the dangerous situations they fled without adequate due process would undermine our obligations under international law and our position as a global humanitarian leader and would be a moral disgrace.

BORDER3As we read through the Administration’s supplemental appropriations request, we are pleased to see an increase in funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), as increased funding is needed so that ORR can adequately serve both unaccompanied children and refugees. However, we urge Congress to provide more funds in the supplemental to increase legal services for unaccompanied children in the United States and enhance programs to reduce violence in sending countries so that individuals, particularly children and families, are not forced to undertake dangerous journeys in the first place. We are also deeply concerned about language in the supplemental request that would discourage persecuted individuals in Central America from seeking asylum and protection, and that would expand the detention of children and families without addressing the unacceptable conditions of these facilities. Additionally, we oppose any proposals that would restrict these children’s access to life-saving protection or return them to unsafe situations in which they could be further exploited.

This is a regional humanitarian crisis, not a U.S. immigration enforcement problem. Since 2009 asylum requests by Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans seeking refuge in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize have increased sharply. In fact, compared to 2008, UNHCR registered a 712% increase in the number of asylum applications in the region in 2013. Many of the Central Americans arriving in the United States today are people primarily fleeing violence. The current crisis thus demands both a humanitarian response in the short-term and, in the long-term, policies to address complex root causes…

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

REFLECTION: Unaccompanied minor children need our help

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined.

According to Human Rights Watch the U.S. government predicts that 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children will cross the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2014, more than 10 times the number who crossed in 2011. And thousands of other children have crossed with a parent, also an increase from previous years.

Reportedly, more than 90 percent of these children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where pervasive drug/gang violence and poverty have made their lives dangerous and miserable.

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It is said that drugs go north and guns and money go south. Therefore, it is essential in the U.S. that adequate treatment for addiction replace jail time for non-violent drug users, that all loopholes in gun export laws be closed, that serious gun-control laws – such as a total ban on all assault weapons – be passed, and that greatly increased U.S. aid to these Central American nations for schools, job creation through clean industry and agricultural development, infrastructure and fair trade practices become realities.

Injustices resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) are contributing factors towards the flow of unaccompanied migrant children.

According to Barbara Briggs, associate director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (http://www.globallabourrights.org/), these “free trade” agreements in many cases greatly boost American corporate profits, while undercutting poor workers, domestic industries, and agriculture south of the U.S. border.

Under NAFTA and CAFTA U.S. companies are often building factories where they are permitted to pay the cheapest wages and lowest benefits to poor workers. These U.S. corporate injustices are in many cases contributing factors driving Latin Americans – adults and children – to seek fairer working and living conditions in the U.S., said Briggs.

The “Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act” would greatly correct many American corporate injustices abroad. Please ask you congressional delegation to reintroduce this legislation.

While addressing the root-causes of unaccompanied migrant children is essential, we need to also kindly address the immediate needs of these young brothers and sisters.

Instead of viewing these children as criminals who are illegally entering the U.S., a totally humanitarian Christ-like response is needed.

A coalition of immigration and faith-based organizations – including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities – sponsored by Human Rights First recently sent President Barack Obama a letter opposing plans to expedite deportation of migrant children.

They wrote, “The administration’s recent statements have placed far greater emphasis on deterrence of migration than on the importance of protection of children seeking safety.”

Please urge President Obama and your congressional delegation to insure that these children get all the help they need.

And sign up to receive legislative alerts from the bishops’ campaign for immigrants by going to www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Responding to unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the U.S. Pope Francis recently wrote, “This humanitarian emergency requires … these children be welcomed and protected,” and that policies be adopted to “promote development in their countries of origin. …

“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed … moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

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 Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

BORDER CRISIS: Urgent petition to protect the children arriving at the U.S. southern border

Pax Christi USA has signed the following petition initiated by Jennifer Harbury on Change.org. We encourage our members, groups and regions to add their names to this effort.

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Please join us in asking President Obama for immediate protections for the refugees arriving at the southern border of the U.S. Most are young mothers, children and teenagers, and many are fleeing the drug wars in Central America and Mexico.

As set forth in our petition, we are asking for temporary protected status for these refugees, and for all unaccompanied minors to be provided with lawyers. No child should be subjected to expedited removal to a dangerous homeland. To deport an unrepresented and at-risk child, without full proceedings, is unconscionable.

Please click here to sign and share with as many friends as possible.

BORDER CRISIS: Mexican bishop calls for resolving the root causes of migration

from Zenit

“The phenomenon of migration can be addressed and resolved at the root only when the causes that force men, women and children to leave their countries in search of the ‘American dream’ are dealt with,” says Bishop Ruy Rendón Leal of Matamoros. Matamoros shares the US-Mexico border with Brownsville, Texas.

The bishop said this at the inauguration of a home to provide care for migrants, established in the border town of Reynosa.

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As reported by Fides, the prelate urged at the inauguration that “reflection and interventions today must go beyond mere material aid or a better treatment of migrants.”

“Economic injustice and social inequality in our Latin American countries are the main causes of this migration,” Bishop Rendón Leal affirmed. “In fact, families do not find the basic conditions to meet the basic needs of life in their countries of origin.”

The bishop observed that at times multinational companies are part of the root cause of the immigration phenomenon, as they “come to our country to seek only labor at low cost.”

“But wages should be fair,” he insisted, saying that it is “necessary to ensure better economic and working conditions.”

Click here to read the entire article.

BORDER CRISIS: Do not deport the children!

Scott Wrightby Scott Wright
Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore

A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what Gospel is that? – Archbishop Oscar Romero

There is a refugee crisis on the US-Mexico border, and a war in Central America and Mexico against children. It is being waged by gangs and drug cartels, corrupt police and corrupt government officials complicit with these non-state actors or governments unable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations to protect children from the violence directed against them.

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Children as young as two and their families are making a perilous journey north, fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and seeking to reunite with their families in the United States. The numbers may approach 90,000 this year, and even more in the year to come, and they are fleeing from the countries with the highest murder rates in the world.

There is clearly a moral crisis in our nation, as Congress refuses to pass comprehensive immigration reform and President Obama asks Congress for more money for border enforcement and a change in the law that protects unaccompanied children so that he can expedite their deportation without judicial review.

Above all, there is also a spiritual crisis in the nation. Undocumented children have become the new scapegoats. Communities of faith, on the other hand, have been among the first responders offering these families and children shelter, and advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. Now we are being asked to take a stronger stand on immigration, and those who are asking are the children who are fleeing the furnace of violence in their home countries and crossing the border to reunite with their families.

bordercrisis2The bottom line is: do not sacrifice these children on the altar of a broken immigration system, political expediency, and the lack of moral courage. Do not deport these children. Protect them. Help them reunite with their families. Welcome the stranger. Welcome the children. Fix the broken immigration system so that families may reunite with their children who are at risk. But don’t sacrifice the children, and don’t pretend we are doing them a favor by deporting them back to the violence they are fleeing. Isn’t that what the Gospel asks of us in this moment? And isn’t that what the heroes of our faith ask of us as well?

 “The great need today is for Christians who are active and critical, who don’t accept situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply. We no longer want masses of people like those who have been trifled with for so long. We want persons like fruitful fig trees, who can say yes to justice and no to injustice and can make use of the precious gift of life, regardless of the circumstances.” – Archbishop Oscar Romero

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are many reasons for this crisis, and they have political and economic roots going back decades and generations: support for military governments, free trade agreements that undercut local farmers leading to more poverty and increased migration, a military coup in Honduras, and the violence of corrupt police, drug cartels and youth gangs.

Every day an immigrant dies in the Arizona desert, and 1,100 immigrants are deported. Every day 34,000 immigrants are detained to fill a bed quota, many in for profit prisons, awaiting deportation. Every year, for the past several years, on both President Bush’s and President Obama’s watch, 400,000 immigrants are deported.

Immigrant-led movements, such as Fast4Families, targeted Republicans in Congress and called for comprehensive immigration reform, fasting for weeks on the National Mall last December. The National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) joined with faith communities and led protests across the nation last spring calling on President Obama to stop the deportations that were dividing immigrant families. The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) brought together African Americans from the Birmingham children’s march fifty years ago with the children of undocumented immigrants today who took their message to the White House in late spring and were arrested, calling on the conscience of the nation to do more.

Our immigration system is broken, and there is plenty of blame to spread around. Congress has failed to act, but so has President Obama. His strategy of reinforcing the US-Mexico border did not produce a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented in the country. Now he proposes to send more money to enforce the border and speed up administrative action to process and eventually deport the children.

Our message as people of faith must be unequivocal: do not deport the children. Protect them, offer them temporary protective or refugee status, and protect their families. Address the roots of the crisis in Central America and failed U.S. policies on immigration. Don’t blame the children. Press Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Take administrative action to end the deportations of immigrants until Congress acts. But don’t deport the children.

Thirty-five years ago, the martyred archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, in the midst of a difficult and bloody civil war, reminds us that something more is at stake here than politics:

 “Nothing is so important to the church as human life, as the human person, above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed. Besides being human beings, they are also divine beings, since Jesus said that whatever is done to them he takes as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths, are beyond all politics. They touch the very heart of God.”

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter regarding humanitarian crisis at the border

bordercrisisPax Christi USA has signed onto the letter below. The letter was initiated by three important immigrant advocacy and civil rights organizations: Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).  The letter urges President Obama to reconsider his administration’s plan to expedite the deportation of Central American children at the border. We must ensure fair, humane and appropriate treatment of these children. The President is expected to send his Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) request to the Hill early next week.

Dear President Obama:

We, the undersigned immigration, civil and human rights, faith, labor and community organizations, urge you to reconsider the plan to expedite the deportation of Central American children to the dangers they escaped in their home countries. The administration’s recent statements have placed far greater emphasis on deterrence of migration than on the importance of protection of children seeking safety. At a time when the region is confronted with a major humanitarian crisis, our nation cannot compromise on fundamental principles of compassion, fairness, and due process, nor on our international refugee protection obligations.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has found that almost 60 percent of children fleeing to the United States from Central America are legitimate asylum seekers. The United States is not alone in seeing higher than normal migration flows – according to UNHCR, other countries in the region have experienced a sharp increase in the number of asylum applications filed by Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans since 2008. From 2008 to 2013, the number of such applications filed in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize increased by 712 percent.

We are deeply concerned that the administration will circumvent the protections of the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 and remove the children apprehended at the border through a non-judicial process. Instead of affording these children proper screening for trafficking and persecution, as well as the opportunity to receive fair and full consideration of their legal claims before an immigration judge, the administration appears to propose to quickly deport them, without access to legal counsel, following cursory screenings that have already proven entirely inadequate to identify genuine refugee claims among Mexican children.[i]

Congress gave consideration to the unique circumstances of children when it enacted the TVPRA. The law includes protections such as the facilitation of counsel and the appointment of child advocates that help ensure that unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries receive proper care and that their requests for asylum and other legal relief are processed fairly and in a way that is consistent with their age and development. As it stands, the proposed plan would appear to place at risk these existing legal protections, jeopardizing the lives of children seeking only safety in the United States. Undermining due process and protection under the law is not the right answer, and certainly will not appease the criticisms of those who have been calling for more punitive and aggressive enforcement. The cost of pushing vulnerable children back into dangerous or deadly situations is simply too high.

Now is the time for America to demonstrate its international leadership and commitment to refugee protection and due process. We oppose any plan to amend the TVPRA to weaken the protections afforded to children from Central America, and we urge you to ensure that the rights and safety of these children are guaranteed.

Sincerely,

(organizations)

MOMENTUM: Pax Christi USA honors Teacher of Peace, reflects on immigration reform

jzheadshotby Johnny Zokovitch
Director of Communications

With the urgency of the humanitarian crisis happening at the U.S.-Mexico border serving as a backdrop, over 100 Pax Christi USA members gathered on June 27 at Trinity University to honor one whose life mission is advocating on behalf of immigrants.

The focus of this year’s Momentum event was immigration reform, and Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center and this year’s Teacher of Peace award recipient, was the center of the evening. McCarthy challenged those present to hear the stories of immigrants, to take those stories to our nation’s leaders, and to fight for those stories to influence the policies that shape our land.

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“Mary Meg McCarthty has a passion and a driving commitment to uphold the human rights of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the United States and to journey with these individuals, who are often at the fringes of our society, to access justice,” stated Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. “She teaches peace and inspires the life-giving hope that justice and peace are indeed within our reach.”

The keynote speech for the evening was presented by Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby and author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change and Community. Campbell addressed immigration reform and shared stories of people she met on a border tour she took part in last year.

“Is the American dream false advertising when we lock up the hungry people who try to come here and work for a better future?” Campbell asked.

She reminded those present that changing our nation’s direction on how we treat immigrants is a responsibility we all share. “It is an unpatriotic lie that our country is based on individualism. The U.S. Constitution says ‘we the people’ not ‘we the me.'”

The final speaker was Ivone Guillen, an immigration associate with Sojourners Magazine and a DREAMer herself.  Guillen is a recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.

“Millions of undocumented immigrants residing in this country wish to have similar opportunities like the one that I was given through DACA, based on our character and not our places of origin,”stated Guillen. “I cannot forget that I am part of a larger group of individuals who reside in your communities, provide you with customer service at stores and restaurants, and are part of the same congregations that many of you attend. We are people who have established longstanding roots and relationships and have the same kind of dreams, beliefs, and desires as you.”

“Pax Christi USA is grateful for all of those who participated in this year’s event,” stated Sr. Josie Chrosniak, HM, National Council Chair of Pax Christi USA. “From the donation of items for auction, like Fr. Peter Gray’s painting of Saint Kateri Tekawitha, to all of our speakers to every person who came out and joined us in supporting this event. We extend our thanks to all.”

For more on Momentum 2014, click here.