Tag Archives: Immigration

TAKE ACTION: Protect deserving, carefully vetted Syrian and Iraqi refugees and their families fleeing violence and death

from Justice for Immigrants

jfiBackground: In the aftermath of the violent attacks on Paris, 31 governors made public statements that they wanted resettlement of Syrian refugees halted in their states. Days later, the U.S. House of Representatives, with comparable intentions, passed H.R. 4038, The American Security against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would effectively halt all resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States for a protracted time.

The week after Thanksgiving, the same bill or similar legislation will likely be introduced and voted on in the U.S. Senate, and even worse legislation may continue to be introduced. Meanwhile, some federal lawmakers may also try to use the Omnibus appropriations bill that must be passed by December 11th as a vehicle for securing passage of the SAFE Act or similar legislation.

On November 17th, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued a statement which said, in part, “I am disturbed…by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”…

Click here to read this full alert and take action now.

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.

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

IMMIGRATION: Report on the abuse of solitary confinement in immigration detention in NJ

from New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees

NEWARK, N.J. – An investigation of the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey’s immigration detention centers finds an unnecessarily harsh and unfair system that violates state and international standards. The report “23 Hours in the Box, Solitary Confinement in New Jersey Immigration Detention” is released by New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, a coalition of community-based groups that support immigration and detention reform, and NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic.

23HoursInBox_1The investigation examined hundreds of documents from public record requests and found that solitary confinement is applied far too often and far too long to immigrant detainees in New Jersey. Investigators also found an unnecessarily harsh system severely limiting due process and fraught with violations of state regulations and international standards.

“This task force has done a good job bringing these complex issues to the forefront. I look forward to working with all of the interested parties to improve the overall system. These complex issues deserve proper attention,” said Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of an Assembly version of a legislation to reform solitary confinement in New Jersey, A. 4510.

“As we continue to advocate for change in the way counties use disciplinary confinement, we need to remind counties and the federal government that immigrant detainees are held on civil violation of immigration laws and that they should not be detained in the first place. We are calling for an end to the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention,” said Alix Nguefack, Program Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program and the New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees.

These initial findings include the analysis of data from hundreds of documents provided by Bergen, Hudson counties and the Department of Homeland Security in response to the investigator’s public records requests. A second set of findings will be published later this year based on Essex County’s recent compliance after six months of repeated refusals to comply with our records requests. The report also raises serious due process concerns, highlights the civil nature of immigration detention and the noncompliance with state regulation and prison’s hearing procedures related to solitary confinement.

“Using solitary confinement on immigrant detainees is an additional affront to the human dignity of people which the state has no legitimate interest in incarcerating. Further after reading the report one can only conclude that the county jails are engaging in torture which is an intrinsic evil,’’ said Kathy O’Leary Region Coordinator for Pax Chisti New Jersey, a region of Pax Christi USA.

Specific recommendations include the renewed call to remove these civil detainees from detention especially from county jails which are designed as short term penal facilities. Interim recommendations include the need to strengthen NJ law, which would further limit the use and duration of solitary confinement, implementing mental health screenings and providing meaningful and authoritative community and state oversight to the county jails.

“In 2015, solitary confinement should not and must not be used without proper justification” said Senator Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex), a prime sponsor of legislation to reform solitary confinement in New Jersey, S. 2588. “There are too many cases where solitary is becoming the default punishment for relatively minor infractions, this is not justice, this is inhumane.”

The research for the report was conducted in New Jersey through open records requests to Hudson, Bergen and Essex County jails. While Bergen and Hudson timely responded to the requests, at the time the report was written, Essex had failed to comply with records requests.

“There are so many reasons not to use solitary confinement: the often permanent mental trauma, the increased violence, the added difficulties prisoners face upon reentry,” said Bonnie Kerness, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Program. “The isolation and lack of human contact is considered no-touch torture, and for the sake of human rights, civil rights, and political rights, we must abolish it. The report contributes to the growing number of advocate organizations protesting the use isolated confinement.”

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter calling for an end to family detention

from the Coalition on Human Needs

childrenattheborderbuttonMothers and children shouldn’t be jailed for seeking asylum in our country. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening. Vulnerable mothers and children fleeing extreme violence in Central America have come to the U.S. to seek asylum – only to be locked up in deplorable family detention facilities by our government. It’s wrong, and it has to stop.

For years, families seeking asylum met their legal requirements without the harm of detention. A very high percentage of the families who have had a chance to present their stories have been granted asylum or have been found to have a credible fear of persecution. None of these families should be incarcerated in woefully inadequate facilities while they wait for the chance to tell their stories.

Pax Christi USA has signed this letter urging President Obama to end the practice of family detention.

TAKE ACTION: Faith leaders’ open letter against family detention

from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition

Pax Christi USA has signed onto this letter and we encourage faith leaders within our network to add their signatures.

A “Faith Leaders’ Letter Against Family Detention” has been developed by partners affiliated with Detention Watch Network’s “Faith Based Family Detention Strategy” working group.  This team includes clergy/faith leaders within Texas, as well as additional denominational partners in other locations, and some of us who are members of the IIC, too.  The letter is directed towards President Obama, and is cc’d to Secretary Jeh Johnson of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

The letter will be delivered in a meeting with the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Monday, May 4th.

Click here to sign the letter.

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto statement that immigration reform is a “pro-life” issue

Last week, Pax Christi USA signed onto a statement with 100 other Catholic leaders challenging “pro-life” Catholics in Congress to make immigration reform a “pro-life” issue.

Immigration rally“As the national Catholic peace with justice movement we urge our elected officials to defend the sanctity of human lives at all stages. We too recognize the image of God in the migrant at the border, in the prisoner on death row, in the pregnant woman and in the hungry child,” stated Pax Christi USA Executive Director Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN. “It is time for all Congressional representatives to come together and vote for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

Read press release accompanying the statement by clicking here.