Category Archives: Immigration

IMMIGRATION: PCUSA signs onto letter to stop deportations

547712_10151386507149157_1947364312_nPax Christi USA signed onto the letter below, being circulated by the United Methodist Church, asking President Obama to take action to stop deportations.

Dear President Barack Obama,

Your Administration has now deported two million individuals. The mass number of deportations comes in spite of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memorandum, issued in 2011 regarding prosecutorial discretion with the purpose of focusing resources on individuals who pose a threat to public safety. The prosecutorial discretion policy has not worked.

We are dismayed that record levels of deportations continue, including valued members of our congregations and communities. Many individuals continue to be apprehended, detained, and placed into removal proceedings despite exhibiting severe vulnerabilities. These include individuals who are parenting children, who have severe mental health issues, and who are survivors of torture or persecution. Further, we recognize that many of those who have been deported would likely have been eligible for citizenship under most of the immigration reform bills currently being considered in Congress.

Mass deportations have not created public safety. On the contrary, they have terrorized entire communities through separating families and creating fear and distrust of law enforcement officials. Mass deportations have not brought about momentum for immigration reform in the House. Movement has stalled and deportations serve no purpose in the drive for genuine, solution-based reform. Therefore, we ask for the deportations to stop.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has been largely successful for the individual beneficiaries, their communities and the nation. We urge the Administration to renew DACA status for those who have it, to extend the application timeline, and to implement a similar process for the family members of DACA recipients and for all undocumented immigrants who make contributions to their communities. These contributions should include parents of minor children, regardless of immigration status; those who volunteer in local organizations in their communities; those who serve or provide assistance to others in need; those who hold memberships in congregations or places of worship; those who might have criminal records in the past but who have showed a change in character and behavior; and those with criminal records or who are currently incarcerated, but who have participated in victim/offender mediation programs. Expanded DACA recipients should also include those who are unable to work due to social, physical, or emotional challenges. We also urge the Administration to include DACA recipients in Affordable Care Act implementation and to clarify that DACA recipients should not be restricted by state policies or practices from receiving driver’s licenses or access to higher education.

Only by instituting this kind of open and transparent process can healing come to a community that has suffered so much under the past five years.

IMMIGRATION REFORM: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter opposing private prisons

Pax Christi USA has added its endorsement to a sign-on letter being circulated from Grassroots Leadership. The letter expresses that the signatories oppose any additional funding for Bureau of Prisons-contracted “Criminal Alien Requirement” private prisons.  

“We, the undersigned organizations working to ensure civil liberties and human rights in our communities, urge that you do not appropriate funding for any additional Bureau of Prison ‘Criminal Alien Requirement’ (CAR) contract confinement beds beyond those that now exist,” the letter begins.

It goes on to say, “CAR prisons use taxpayer funds to incarcerate non-violent, ‘low security’ federal immigrant prisoners, primarily prosecuted for immigration violations through the highly controversial program, ‘Operation Streamline’ and related prosecution programs. These facilities are substandard, privately-owned, privately-operated segregated immigrant prisons. For the reasons set forth below, we call upon you to redirect funding from the wasteful prosecution and incarceration of low-level immigration violations and focus resources instead on correctional programs that will better prepare federal prisoners for constructive lives when they are released from confinement…”

For more information, visit

TAKE ACTION: Ask the USCCB to support undocumented mother

from Dream Activist

Herminia Gallego, an undocumented mother from Arizona is now seeking sanctuary inside the Tucson’s Saint Augustine Cathedral Parish. Herminia made this decision because of recent retaliation from ICE in response to her advocating against the wrongful detention of her 20 year old daughter, Rosy Rojas.

sanctuary2Just three days ago, during visitation at the Eloy Detention Center, Herminia was told she would be banned from visiting her daughter for 2 months. She was told this ban was a result of her recently launching a 14-day hunger strike to bring help get attention to Rosy. “I don’t know why they are doing this to me, I just want my Rosy home.”

Rosy’s only hope is to have the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As it happens there are 8 U.S. Bishops currently right here in Arizona, they have come here as part of the Conference’s Committee on Migrants.


ON THE LINE: March 2014 edition includes groups trying to repeal the death penalty, raise the minimum wage, stop deportations!

Compiled by Johnny Zokovitch

Each month, “On The Line” features news items and announcements from around the nation featuring Pax Christi members, local groups, regions and partners. These are gleaned from articles in local newspapers, websites, magazines, and elsewhere.

PAX CHRISTI SOUTH DAKOTA MEMBERS WORK FOR REPEAL OF DEATH PENALTY: (from Leona Weiland) As the South Dakota House State Affairs committee met to discuss the death penalty, PC South Dakota members worked on the repeal effort, including circulating this letter to their elected officials: On behalf of five chapters of Pax Christi in South Dakota, we follow Pax Christi USA in stating that we follow the non-violent Jesus. The international Catholic peace movement, from the Latin for “peace of Christ,” began after WWII. We focus on issues central to Gospel values of life, love, truth and justice. In our prayer, study and actions, we respect the gift of life given by God who teaches that all life is sacred, from beginning to natural death. Following the example of Jesus in the Gospels, we commit ourselves to God’s way of caring with compassion, forgiveness, mercy and love. Please note our attached Statement for Repeal of the Death Penalty in our state and the many who have signed in support of it.


PC South Dakota members at the Capitol, taken the morning before the Committee Meeting for the Repeal of the Death Penalty. (photo courtesy of Leona Weiland)

PC-NEW JERSEY LEADS IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ACTIONS ON ASH WEDNESDAY: (from With Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as their backdrop, dozens gathered at Liberty State Park on Wednesday to kickoff a series of vigils, protests and rallies across New Jersey designed to urge the United States government to halt detentions and deportations of immigrants who live illegally in the country.  The events, organized by the Catholic organization Pax Christi New Jersey and scheduled to coincide with Ash Wednesday, came a day after President Obama presented a proposed budget that would set aside additional funds for immigration enforcement. With the 2 millionth deportation looming under the Obama administration, and after Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives said they will likely not bring immigration reform to a vote this year, advocates acknowledged they face an uphill battle… Read more at

Pax Christi New Jersey members protesting deportations. (photo courtesy of

PC New Jersey members protesting deportations. (photo from

Sr. Karen Nykiel OSB

Sr. Karen Nykiel, OSB of PC Illinois (photo by Tom Cordaro)

PC ILLINOIS MEMBER MODERATES PRESS CONFERENCE FOR RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE: (by Tom Cordaro) On March 6th, prior to International Women’s Day, seven women religious leaders from Chicago and the Western Suburbs gathered in Naperville, Illinois to call for an increase in the minimum wage. The event was held in conjunction with press events around the country organized by Interfaith Worker Justice – a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the U.S. since 1996. Moderating the event was Sr. Karen Nykiel, OSB, a member of Pax Christi Illinois, a chapter of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. Sr. Karen set the context of the event stating, “We are focusing on women at this event because more than 64%– almost two-thirds — of minimum wage workers are women.”… Read more at

PC FLORIDA JOINS CLEAN WATER EFFORT: (by Carol Ann Breyer) Citizens  and environmental  activists from around Florida gathered on the steps of the historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee on February 18 to demand legislative action to protect and restore Florida’s  endangered  springs, rivers, and bays. About 200 people attended the gathering for “Florida’s Clean Water Declaration” campaign that was launched last year after toxic algae blooms appeared in the Indian River Lagoon… Six Pax Christi Florida members and supporters from South Central and Southwest Florida were present at the event. Karen Dwyer spoke emphatically about the drilling threat in the Naples area which has been challenged by Pax Christi members. In 2013, Pax Christi participated in the effort to secure signatures for a proposed Constitutional Amendment on Water and Land Conservation that would dedicate finds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.

PCF Council Members, Carol Ann and Lee Breyer (right of podium) at Clean Water Rally at Florida State Capitol. (photo courtesy of PCF).

PCF Council Members, Carol Ann and Lee Breyer (right of podium) at Clean Water Rally at Florida State Capitol. (photo courtesy of PCF).

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

March 5-15 – Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Now is the Time” tour,

March 14-16 – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in Santa Barbara, CA,

March 21-24 – Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Theme is “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace” with John Dear,

March 22 – PC Southern California regional assembly, “A Call to Nonviolence: One Year with Pope Francis,” with keynote speaker Ted Smolich, S.J., at Loyola Marymount University,

March 24 – Archbishop Romero assassinated, 1980

March 27 – Vanderhaar Symposium with Malik Yakini in Memphis, TN,

March 28-29 – Friends of Sabeel North America Conference in Philadelphia,

March 29 – PC Michigan State Conference, “Christian Nonviolence: The Great Failure, the Only Hope,” with Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy; at Cristo Rey Parish, Lansing, MI,!pcm-2014-annual-conference/c6oh

March 29-30 – PC Florida Annual Retreat, “Nonviolent Resistance” with Jim Douglass, at Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center in Ellenton, FL;

March 30 – PC-New Jersey is co-hosting “Remembering Archbishop Romero” from 2-5pm, at Saint Peter’s University; contact for more information

March 31 – Cesar Chavez Birthday

April 5-6 – Pax Christi Texas State Conference, “Christian Peacemaker Teams: Peacemaking in Palestine,” followed on the 6th by the regional dialogue at the Dominican Center for Spirituality in Houston,

April 14-18 – Holy Week Pilgrimage with the Norfolk Catholic Worker and Hampton Roads Pax Christi that will stop at 14 area military bases in the Hampton Roads, VA area, the most militarized place on the planet; contact Steve at for more info

May 3 – Regional Dialogue with Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore,


In tribute to Marie Parmly, long-time Pax Christi USA member who lives in Florida and is celebrating her 90th birthday this year, her friends have set up a special fund in her name, “Tribute to Marie Parmly.” To give to this special fund, go to PCUSA’s “Donate” page and scroll down … In February, PC Los Angeles, PC Orange County, and PC Southern California co-sponsored with Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena a book signing event with John Dear to help launch his new book … Plowshares activist Joe Gump passed away earlier this week. Read the archived article in the Chicago Tribune to learn more about Joe’s actions in the 1980’s. Pax Christi USA gives thanks for Joe’s life and witness! … Support the #LetUsThrough Thunderclap on March 18  in response to the Syrian refugee crisis … John Dear’s father passed away in late February. You can see the obituary here … Check out Pax Christi International’s new blogPax Christi USA’s founding bishop-president, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, was featured in a column in The Toledo Blade recently … If you have high schoolers, you may be interested that PCUSA member Ellen Finnigan will be teaching a course this summer through Kolbe Academy called “The Hunger Games and Christian nonviolence” … The Coalition of Immokalee Workers are touring through some Pax Christi-rich states over the next few days. Check out the tour info and join them if you can … Pax Christi International’s March 2014 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

REFLECTION: “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor” – Two Million Deportations and a Sea of Tears

By Scott Wright


“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”- Emma Lazarus, 1883

On February 17, President’s Day, people of faith and undocumented immigrants will join hands, kneeling in prayer on the sidewalk in front of the White House, to call on President Obama to do the right thing and end the deportation of immigrants before his administration reaches the 2 million mark.

I must confess, every time I hear about another death in the Arizona desert or massive deportation to Mexico or Central America, I think about Emma Lazarus’ words on the Statue of Liberty. What meaning do they have for us today? And what moral obligation do they impose upon our conscience?

Every day an immigrant dies in the desert, and every day 1,100 immigrants are deported. Add that up and it becomes more than 365 deaths and 400,000 deportations each year.

But numbers are not the language of faith and conscience, human faces and human stories are. Each death in the desert, and each deportation leaves a trail of human suffering and tears in its wake. If we were to hear even a few of these stories, our hearts would break.

These are the stories I remember:

I remember the young pregnant Salvadoran woman who had been raped on her journey north. I interpreted for her a few years ago at Mary Center in Washington DC, the trauma of her journey and the fear of being undocumented etched in her sad eyes and shy demeanor.

I remember Sara and Saba, two young women from Ethiopia, survivors of torture, and survivors of an incredible journey being trafficked through a dozen countries, only to be shackled and detained for months in a private detention center in Florence, Arizona. I met them at TASSC, in Washington DC, as they sought help and successfully gained their political asylum.

I remember Ana Maria and Noemi, two young Salvadoran women I met at a church shelter in Mexico City at a conference on migration organized by SICSAL, an international network of solidarity named after the martyred Salvadoran bishop Oscar Romero. They had survived a two day journey riding atop the trains from the Guatemalan border, no small feat, as many fall victim to the abuse of gangs, cartels and police. You can see for yourself and search for “La Bestia” or “El Tren de la Muerte” on YouTube. Traumatized and exhausted, they were on the way to Boston to reunite with their families.

I remember the children whose parents were deported, reading the letters they had written and would deliver to Congress as we gathered one December evening in the Fast4Families tent on the National Mall. What does a member of Congress say to a nine-year-old whose father or mother was deported?

I remember meeting a frightened young woman from the DR Congo in the Don Hutto Federal Women’s Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. One can only imagine the horrors she had experienced. And I remember meeting a frightened middle-aged man from Mexico in the Federal Detention Center in Florence, Arizona, who had been kidnapped by the drug cartel and survived to tell his story. They told him he had to run drugs across the border or they would kill his family.

And I remember hearing the story Luis told about his visit to unaccompanied minors – children –in detention in El Paso, Texas. More than 40,000 come each year, and the number may reach 70,000 this year. Many come looking for their parents, and they draw the same sad pictures I remember from the refugee camps in El Salvador.

Why do people come? Many come to save their lives, many come to reunite with their families, many come for the opportunity to work and to feed their families.

What does this have to do with our faith? We don’t have to look far in the Bible to be reminded that we are to treat the widow, the orphan, and the stranger with compassion. For Christians, we are to welcome them as we would welcome Jesus.

Why are we at the White House and not Congress? Clearly, Congress has the obligation to enact comprehensive immigration reform. But will they do it, and when? Clearly, President Obama has the power to stop the deportations until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted. But will he do it, and when?

Why civil disobedience? This is one of our noblest traditions and one of the cherished safe-guards of our freedom and democracy. In hindsight, we lift up the shining example of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Can we do the same for the Dreamers, those undocumented immigrant youth who remind us of our moral heritage?

People of faith and immigrants have met many times with the White House and with Congress. Many have marched and rallied. And I know many of us will continue to do all of these things until there is comprehensive immigration reform that respects the dignity of our immigrant sisters and brothers and responds fully to the call of conscience and demands of faith.

But as people of faith, we cannot wait, because immigrant families have waited too long. The long train of suffering and abuse cries out to citizens and churches alike to act. If we have the power to alleviate human suffering, we cannot not act. Our faith and our conscience compel us to advocate, to organize, to march, and to prophetic action, for the sake of our immigrant sisters and brothers, for the sake of the children, but also for the sake of the soul of our nation.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Who will lift that lamp if not us? Who will welcome our immigrant sisters and brothers, if not people of faith and conscience?

Someone said, “If you want to have hope, do hopeful things.” That is why I am joining in this public witness, and in the fast for families. Because I find hope in the courage and fortitude of these immigrant men, women and children, many of them undocumented. Because they are our sisters and brothers. Because I want our nation to be more like that Lady in New York harbor lifting her lamp to welcome the stranger, just as she welcomed our own families not so long ago.

I take hope, also, from Howard Zinn, civil rights activist and author of The Peoples’ History of the United States, who said the following:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Scott Wright is a member of Pax Christ USA and recently served on the National Council.