Posted on 03. Apr, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following is from NPR (National Public Radio):
There are 11.3 million people in the U.S. who have immigrated illegally. And as you have probably heard, the presidential candidates have different opinions about how to handle them. Most notably, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump wants to deport them.
The immigration debate intensified a couple of years ago when a flood of women and children came across the U.S.-Mexico border.
The federal government didn’t know how to handle the influx, so they detained these women and children in three family centers: two in Texas; one in Pennsylvania. Today there are more than a thousand people in these centers, waiting to know if they’ll be allowed to stay in the country.
This week on For the Record: detaining families at the border.
Maria Rosa Lopez and her son were some of thousands of people who fled from Central America to the U.S. in 2014 to escape gang violence, drug wars, civil war, or in Maria’s case, domestic abuse — which is considered a credible fear that can warrant an asylum claim.
That fall, Lopez, living in Honduras, had nowhere to turn. She spoke to NPR through a translator.
“It’s not easy to explain because there was a lot of violence of at home,” Lopez says. “And then outside my home, I really didn’t have anybody and so I couldn’t get help.”
Her husband was abusive and she feared for her life and the lives of her three kids.
“I called the police a couple of times, but they didn’t show up. And that was when I really needed them. The cops are not to trust. But when you’re pushed to the wall, and you don’t have anybody to call, the police is the only place you can go to. But they didn’t help me,” she says.
Honduras has one of the highest crime rates in Central America. Violence was all around her and it finally got so bad she decided she would take her youngest child and flee.
“My son was asking me to leave. He wanted to get out of Honduras. He went through a lot of violence himself,” Lopez says.
When she arrived in Guatemala, she knocked on someone’s door, hoping a find a place to clean up. “This family helped me,” Lopez says. “And then, I was able to catch a bus to the capital, to Guatemala City.”
From Guatemala City, she and her son crossed another border into Mexico and then took a bus north to Monterrey, close to the northern Mexico-U.S. border.
“I paid someone to take us across on a boat. It was night time and we slept in the desert on the U.S. side. There were other moms and their kids there too. A Brazilian woman asked me if she could sleep next to us,” Lopez says.
The next morning, immigration officers woke them and took them to the Karnes detention center outside of San Antonio, Texas.
Lopez wanted asylum so she and her son could start their lives over in the U.S. She didn’t know what to expect when she got on American soil, but she didn’t expect to be housed in this facility with no word on when she’d be released.
“I was desperate when we got there. It was hard to see my child crying and he was asking a lot of questions,” she recalls. “He knew it was a detention center and he wanted to know how long we were going to be there.”
But she didn’t know either. “No one was answering questions. I talked with people who had been there for six, eight months, and it was very depressing.” she says. “Often my son couldn’t fall asleep, we had bunk beds. He was on top of me but he would crawl down and wanted to be with me.”
Denise Gilman, one of Maria’s former lawyers, says the Karnes detention facility “feels very much like a prison” with “cinderblock walls, clanging doors, X-ray machines all over the place, buzzers that you have to use to get in and out to go see your 9-year-old client and his mom.”
Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas Law School, says these women and children are seeking asylum, but they’re treated like criminals. Oftentimes, they have family members who’ve already made it to the U.S., and she says these new immigrants should be able to stay with their families while their cases proceed.
“The families have every incentive to appear for their hearings,” she says. “They need this protection, the ability to remain in the United States with stability, with the ability to work and integrate into the community so that they can be safe, recover from the trauma they’ve experienced and avoid facing possible harm or death in their home countries.”
“We Want People To Come Here The Right Way”
Phil Miller is with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), part of the Department of Homeland Security. As you might imagine, he has a different view of the detention facilities.
“Some NGOs are promulgating these gulag-like scenarios where women are locked in rooms and they can’t see their children,” Miller says. “And what you actually see is that there’s a school there for the children. There are gyms, there are open cafeterias. I mean, eating in the cafeteria there is no different than where my kids go to eat. We take our custodial and care responsibility very seriously.”
He says the facilities were the best way to respond to the crisis at the time. Advocacy groups filed legal challenges against the government for holding women and children for months. The government made changes after that, and now immigrants are expedited through family detention in a matter of weeks.
Detention was supposed to deter immigrants, but there are other forces at work. Miller points to criminal syndicates throughout Central America that prey on vulnerable people looking to flee desperate situations. They perpetuate the myth that all it takes is putting your feet on U.S. soil to get some kind of permisos or permit to stay.
“A lot of folks were convinced that if they made it to a border patrol station they would be receiving these permisos,” Miller says. “So really we had to do something that, historically, ICE had done in very small numbers, which was devise a strategy where we could process, vet and detain these folks that were coming to the border in these numbers. Which is why we took this historic step of expanding our family detention capacity.”
In 2014, at the height of the crisis, more than 136,000 unaccompanied minors and families were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley.
Texas Republican Congressman Roger Williams has seen how border agents try to vet all the immigrants right after they’ve crossed into the U.S.
“It literally tears your heart out,” he says.
He describes signs that separate the genders and age groups, the mothers and fathers. “And then you go to another area and there might be a dozen of the worst and meanest people in the world that they’ve also captured down on the border,” Williams says.
That’s the group he’s most concerned about.
“There’s a lot of issues down there, and being from Texas, and being engaged like I am, you realize that it’s very, very serious,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we’re a land of laws and we’ve got to maintain American sovereignty, and we want people to come here the right way … They are coming over for a better life for their family — I get it. But still, we’ve got to do it the right way.”
That right way includes creating more deterrents, which is why Congressman Williams supports building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
After six months in the Karnes detention facility, Maria Lopez’s 9-year-old son was granted asylum and she was released with him. Her brothers live in Baltimore, and they flew both her and her son there to live with them. Today, Lopez’s son is in second grade, and she works part time cleaning at a restaurant. It’s not enough to live on but it’s a start.
Lopez can’t say that crossing the border was worth it.
“I didn’t dream about this, but this is the way things have turned out,” she says. “I’m just very thankful to God because I’m alive, I’m well and I’m fighting for my children.”
Lopez’s two teenage daughters are still in Honduras. Now that her case has been settled, she’s going to focus her energy on bringing her other kids here too.
We should also note that this past week, the director of ICE, Sarah Saldaña said that the federal government is considering ending the detention of women and children at the Karnes facility in Texas.
Posted on 26. Feb, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
This article is from the Orange County Register which tends to be more right leaning than the Tower of Pisa. But it describes the worth-while efforts of the diocese.
The Catholic Church in California plans to launch a statewide effort to naturalize more than 2 million legal permanent residents who may lack the money or resources to become U.S. citizens.
About 160,000 of these residents are in Orange County, said Ryan Lilyengren, spokesman for the Diocese of Orange.
“There may be a number of reasons why these people may not have been able to complete their path to citizenship,” Lilyengren said. “Maybe English is not their first language. Maybe they have a tough time understanding the many rules and regulations and navigating complex bureaucracy.”
Leaders from the Diocese of Orange and Catholic Charities will join the archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez, and parish leaders from across California at the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove on Saturday to announce the new drive. The goal is to train parishioners in the coming weeks on how to hold forums and workshops on naturalization, said Greg Walgenbach, the diocese’s Director of Life, Justice and Peace.
“This is the initial launch of what is really an awareness campaign,” Walgenbach said.
The drive is the latest move in the church’s longstanding commitment toward immigrants, including those who are in the country illegally. Last week, Pope Francis held a Mass across the border, in Ciudad Juárez, where he prayed for compassion toward immigrants and spoke about “the human tragedy that is forced migration.”
“This is an issue that connects with our story of faith,” Walgenbach said. “We want immigrants to tell their stories in these forums to help other parishioners engaged in why we’re doing this.”
Meanwhile, a nationwide campaign by a network of organizations is working to convince the country’s 8.8 million eligible green-card visa holders to convert their legal residency into full-fledged citizenship.
The Obama administration has also expanded its efforts to push for citizenship, increasing public education and awareness and taking other measures, such as accepting credit card payments for the service. Last year, the federal government granted $10 million to organizations that will assist residents in preparing and applying for citizenship.
Church officials could not say how much money they plan to commit to the new program. Catholic Charities, a nonprofit arm of the church, will help immigrants seek waivers to cover the $680 naturalization fee.
Such efforts are viewed by some as an attempt to create new voters, particularly Democratic voters, and influence elections.
“This is left wing politics wrapped up in the Catholic Church,” said John Berry, spokesman for the Redlands Tea Party Patriots.
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration, said he’s not surprised by this latest initiative from California Catholic leaders.
“They’ve taken a position they will advocate on behalf of immigrants, and often, it’s at the expense of other people in American society,” said Mehlman, whose Washington D.C.-based organization promotes lower immigration levels, advocates for better border security and is against illegal immigration.
Louis DeSipio, a UC Irvine political science professor, said it’s not a partisan effort.
“It’s an outreach effort,” he said. “The church is fulfilling a responsibility it has long had: serving the needs of its congregants.”
And although the Diocese of Orange said this was a new effort, DeSipio said that historically, even in the early 1900s, churches were involved in assisting immigrants to become citizens.
Posted on 26. Feb, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following is written by Cardinal O’Malley and is from The Crux
The pastoral visit of Pope Francis to the city of Juarez on the US-Mexican border came at a providential time. The fact of an historic moment in global immigration, affecting Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Central America, and the United States simultaneously, means that the Holy Father’s words and deeds at the border will draw attention throughout the world. What he said and did will be seen and understood in a broader perspective than the United States and Mexico alone.
The visit was providential because, faced with a global crisis, democracies of East and West are having enormous difficulty thinking about, speaking about, and acting upon the crisis in a productive way. In the United States, the question of immigration policy, affecting millions within our country and thousands on our borders, has produced both powerfully held convictions and deep divisions. These, in turn, have made a rational response to the crisis virtually impossible to achieve. Politically and legally we are in gridlock, a condition which democracies often face, but which on this question seems to be a permanent condition.
In the midst of this division, in the face of debates which often lack civility, much less compassion, Pope Francis focuses on the human dimension of the immigration crisis. The human dimension involves two profound truths: the dignity of every human person and the common humanity we share as persons. These two truths, repeatedly stressed in the Holy Father’s ministry and teaching, are the heart of the human crisis of migration and immigration. But these truths, deeply human, moral, and religious in their content, exist in a world of great conflict and complexity. The immigration crisis cuts through the basic levels of our existence as a human community; the crisis is simultaneously global, national, and local.
It is a global problem because in a globalized world, market, and economy, migration will happen. In a world where ideas, resources, and interests cut across national borders each hour of every day, people also will move, either by desire and choice or from coercion and chaos. Migrations have marked human history from millennia; today they have reached historic proportions. It is a fact of life.
Immigration then becomes a national question as states must shape national policies in a globalized world. Because human lives and human dignity are at stake, it is reasonable to expect that national policies will combine secure standards of safety for states, compassion toward those often in life-threatening situations, and recognition that policies of nations like the United States will establish precedents, good or bad, for others.
National policies will become local questions because migrants and refugees will need welcome, support, and understanding at the local level. Unlike other global problems like arms control or complex financial relationships, immigration is one of those problems which engage people at the most local level of existence.
How we think about them, how we speak about them, how we decide policy will all be powerfully influenced by how we see them. They can be called migrants or refugees, they can be described as Syrians or Salvadorans, they can be known as Muslims or Christians. But it is a mistake to begin in this way, and a failure of moral imagination to end this way. None of these titles, while important eventually, touch the deepest meaning of the immigration crisis. Before all else in every migrant, refugee, or family escaping danger and destitution we meet the human person, sharing our humanity, sharing our vulnerability to conditions of war, conflict, poverty, and discrimination.
Too often, our public debates about immigration focus on secondary characteristics of human identity. Religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality are important, but they are secondary to human dignity and human uniqueness. The ancient religious belief that each of us is a unique creation of God has, in our time, been reinforced by the scientific knowledge of the unique character of our DNA. We cannot ignore this truth if we are to respond from our humanity to others in danger and in need.
My hope and prayer is that Pope Francis’ visit to the US-Mexican border will help us all — of many faiths and of none — focus on dignity and humanity. We are invited, I believe, to think again deeply about our world, our country, and our convictions. Our world produces, through choice or coercion, the fact of migration. Our country must produce a policy which combines compassion and safety. Our convictions, religious and rational, are challenged and invited to use the necessary standards of compassion and effectiveness to meet this crisis of our time.
Posted on 16. Jan, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., (CLINIC) has produced an information sheet to help people understand the recent enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take into custody and deport families. Although the Jan. 2-3 actions took place in a handful of states, they have led to an environment of confusion and fear in immigrant communities around the country.
Posted on 18. Oct, 2015 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following is from KOMO News and was written by Valeria Fernandez:
NOGALES, Mexico (AP) – Armed with sky-blue paint, artist Ana Teresa Fernández began to “erase” the border fence that splits up Mexico and the U.S. on Tuesday.
Fernández, who was born in Mexico but raised in San Diego, is leading an effort to paint the border fence in Nogales, Sonora, so blue that it blends with the sky, rendering it nearly invisible. Nogales sits on the border with Nogales, Arizona.
Fernández solicited the help of about 30 volunteers who helped paint.
“This wall has become a symbol of pain, a symbol where we lament the lives who have not been able to cross it,” Fernández said.
The artist wants to use her painting as a visual platform of migrant and human rights on an international level.
“For me, the border, the border wall, is like a tombstone,” she said.
Neither the Mexican or U.S. authorities interrupted the painters as they covered a little over 30 feet of fencing with blue paint.
“It’s not erasing the border, it’s pulling the sky down to us,” the 34-year-old said.
This isn’t the first time Fernández “pulls down they sky.”
She painted the border fence on a beach in Tijuana in 2012, saying the border fence mostly exists for Mexicans, not Americans.
Tuesday’s project attracted the attention of Luis Guerra, an immigrant who was deported two years ago. Guerra lived in the U.S. since he was 13 years old and has U.S.-born children. The 36-year-old said he can’t enter to the U.S. to see his family.
Guerra volunteered to paint on Tuesday.
“It gives me strength. It makes me feel like I’m strong,” Guerra said. “Now I don’t feel like I’m in jail. It looks nice.”
Susannah Castro, of Border Community Alliance, invited Fernández to take on this project. She said Mexican authorities were made aware of the project and didn’t object.
“We’re not doing anything illegal. We’re an humanitarian organization and we’re not gonna shy away from these topics,” Castro said.
Added Fernández: “The role of an artist is to make sure people don’t become compliant.”