Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’
Lizbeth Mateo, who is registered to attend Santa Clara Law School in California this fall, took part in a risky border protest on July 22 with other activists who had all been brought illegally to the U.S. as children. The protest started when Mateo and two others flew into Mexico and then tried to reenter the United States by crossing the border. Other immigrants and a large group of supporters, including Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which works on migration issues on the U.S.-Mexico border, joined them.
The young people, who call communities across the United States their home, presented themselves to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the at the Morley Gate in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Fr. Carroll, along with three other staff members of KBI and other religious leaders, gathered near the border with the nine immigrants.
“I and other religious leaders accompanied them and went through the gate with them as part of the action. At the same time, there were people gathered on the U.S. side of the border in support of the DREAMers and calling for an end to the deportations,” Fr. Carroll said.
The young men and women walked to the official pedestrian crossing point and requested humanitarian parole to rejoin their family members and communities within the United States.
Their request for humanitarian parole was denied, and Mateo and the other immigrants are now being held in Eloy, Ariz., while their case is considered. According to Fr. Carroll, it’s not clear how long they will be there, and he said they are planning to apply for asylum.
Mateo and other protesters say that those already expelled from the country have been lost in the current immigration debate. Deportations have increased from just under 300,000 in 2007 to nearly 400,000 in 2011, according to federal statistics.
“We should not forget the people who have been deported,” Mateo said.
Fr. Carroll said, “The protest has drawn attention to the effect of deportations on families and on young people. It causes separation of family members and it draws attention to the urgency to passing immigration reform that unites families and gives young immigrants the opportunity to realize their dreams. We’re asking that they be released to their families in the U.S.”
The three immigrants have put themselves at risk by returning to Mexico voluntarily, reports The Los Angeles Times. Under an immigration package backed by the Obama administration, young immigrants deported could apply to return to the U.S. Those who leave voluntarily would not have that option, immigration experts say.
According to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the protest, some of the protesters, including Mateo, are now on a hunger strike until they are released.
Jesuit Father Michael Engh, president of Santa Clara University where Mateo plans to start law school in the fall, released a statement of support for the protesters, calling Mateo “one of our courageous incoming law students” and saying he had “contacted our local representatives requesting their assistance with this matter on behalf of our student.”
Earlier this month, 20 presidents of U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities signed a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging for comprehensive immigration reform as the country’s immigration system continues to separate families and “trap aspiring Americans in the shadows.” [The Los Angeles Times, Kino Border Initiative]
On Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee finished wading through more than 300 amendments to the 800+ page proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill yesterday, approving an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws with a 13 to 5 vote. As the bill now moves to the Senate floor, there’s new and renewed enthusiasm for immigration reform.
Last week, the nine U.S. provincials of the Society of Jesus in the United States sent letters to Congress and the Obama Administration calling for “fair, just and humane” immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million. The provincials made a similar appeal in 2011. Currently, the provincials are attending a Jesuit Conference board meeting in El Salvador, where they will explore this complicated issue in greater depth.
In a wide-ranging interview with National Jesuit News, Jesuit Father Tom Greene, Secretary for Social and International Ministries for the Jesuit Conference, discussed his hopefulness regarding immigration reform, the provincials’ commitment to the 11 million and the role of the “pesky priest” in the ongoing debate.
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U.S. Jesuit Provincials Urge Action in Letters to Congress and Obama Administration
In letters to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, the nine provincials of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in the United States are calling for comprehensive and humane immigration reform. More than 200 Jesuit communities, affiliated organizations, parishes and institutions are also lending their support to the provincials’ appeal.
Provincials are leaders in the Society of Jesus, an order of priests and brothers founded in 1540, responsible for colleges, middle schools and high schools as well as parishes and ministries that practice a faith that promotes justice. The provincials’ letters to Congress and the president urge that any proposed immigration reform include a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants as well as a legal employment structure protecting both migrants and U.S. workers, expedited family reunification and an end to policies that exacerbate family separation. The letters to Congress and the Obama Administration follow a similar appeal made by the provincials in 2011.
“The immigration debate provokes emotion on both sides of the aisle and we hope that our elected officials can rise above partisan politics,” said Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference. “Because of our commitment to educating the children of migrants in our schools, serving migrant communities in our parishes and offering men, women and children food and shelter on the border, we see firsthand the costs of current immigration laws. We’ve been calling for reform for many years, and we’ve never been closer. We pray that Congress considers the future of 11 million people hanging in the balance.”
The letter is the most recent action by the Jesuits supporting immigration reform. Earlier this year, the Jesuit Conference, the Kino Border Initiative and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA released a new study, “Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” highlighting excessive use of force, particularly dangerous deportation practices and abuse of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, testified at a congressional hearing on the report in April.
At a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), testified about a new report that’s shedding light on disturbing cases of family separation caused by current U.S. immigration policy.
The report, “Documented Failures: the Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” commissioned by the Jesuit Conference of the United States, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and KBI examines the experiences of migrant women, men and children deported from the United States to cities along Mexico’s northern border.
As the executive director of KBI, a bi-national humanitarian ministry of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Carroll works to aid deported migrants who pass through the KBI’s Aid Center and through Nazareth House, KBI’s shelter for migrant women and children.
At an ad hoc hearing convened by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, U.S. representative for Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, Fr. Carroll testified, “At the U.S./Mexico border, we are witnesses to what many don’t see or refuse to acknowledge: the physical, psychological and emotional destruction caused by current U.S. immigration policies in the lives of Mexican and Central American men, women and children looking to be reunited with their family members who live in the United States.
“This report, supported by our experience and service on the border, confirms the disastrous effects of current U.S. immigration policies on families, whether through the process of deportation or because of mixed immigration status. We can and must do better.”
Following the hearing, Fr. Carroll attended the Rally for Citizenship on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol with thousands of immigrants and activists seeking to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Fr. Carroll said that he thinks this is an incredibly hopeful time for immigration reform as “we are doing our best to ensure that this reform is just and humane.”
This summer, the Jesuits in the United States took the rare step of sending a joint letter from all ten of their Provincial major superiors across the country to the president and to each member of Congress seeking immediate and comprehensive immigration reform. Understanding that in order for such reform to be enacted there must be a national demonstration of support; they are urging Jesuit communities, ministries, institutions and Ignatian-affiliated groups to join them in speaking out for the least among us by asking their members of Congress to act now in enacting comprehensive immigration reform for the nation.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that ten provincials have come together and signed a letter requesting legislative action on a particular issue. This speaks volumes about the current state of U.S. immigration policy and the critical need for reform. It also shows that this is a nation-wide issue and not limited to certain states. The system is broken and the provincials’ letter recognizes this,” said Jesuit Father Thomas Greene, secretary of social and international ministries at the Jesuit Conference of the United States in Washington, D.C. “Today, 180 schools, parishes, retreat houses, Jesuit communities and other institutions have signed on to the provincials’ letter. Their response has been very encouraging and it is clear to me that people are tired of immigrant bashing and want to stand up for the immigrants they live in community with – the people with whom they live, work and study.”
Across the country, Jesuit-affiliated groups and institutions are adding their signatures in support of comprehensive immigration reform that is fair, just and humane. At Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas, in addition to endorsing the institutional sign-on letter, students and faculty were asked to add their names to a large four foot by six foot poster of the Jesuit provincials’ letter to Congress. With over 100 signatures, the letter is being mailed to the White House this Monday. This Sunday, members of Jesuit-sponsored works in Southern California and Arizona are joining together in prayer at Dolores Mission parish in Los Angeles to add their voices to those wanting immigration reform enacted immediately. During the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice being held November 13 – 15 in Washington, D.C., participating schools, universities, colleges and parishes will be asked to add their signatures of support during the group’s Advocacy Day.
With the goal of having 200 institutional signatories signed-on by All Saints Day on November 1, Jesuit groups are being asked to join in the effort and add their voices to the call for Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform for the nation today.