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.