Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’
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.
Today, a letter signed by every Jesuit major superior in the United States was hand delivered to the White House and each individual Congressional office. Their canvassing effort seeks immediate and comprehensive immigration reform. “With the new Arizona law, there is a real risk that life on our national borders will become subject to a patchwork of state responses; Congress is faced with both a constitutional and moral imperative to act,” said Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States. “Despite what some reactionary politicians would have us believe,” Smolich added, “we can secure our borders in a way that does not cost us our humanity.”
With important primary elections on Tuesday and Capitol Hill staffers working on the legislative agenda for the resumption of the Congressional session, the Jesuits took the rare step of issuing a joint letter from all ten of their Provincial major superiors across the country. “In our language of religious life, we would refer to this as a kairos moment,” Smolich said. “Or in the language of a baseball fan,” he continued, “now is the time for Congress to get in the game.” John Kleiderer, director of social and international ministries at the Jesuit Conference, worries that if Congress does not act quickly, “the lives of thousands of people on both sides of the border will be hostage to the mid-term elections and neither side of the debate will see progress toward either security or justice.” Referencing the Justice for Immigrants Campaign sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Smolich said “the Catholic Church has been a leading advocate of immigration reform. We wanted to send a clear message to the President and Congress as well as invite all Jesuits and our many lay partners to join us in support of the Church, speak out for the least among us and ask your members of Congress to act now.”
The Jesuits are asking for legislation based on five core principals shared by the Justice for Immigrants Campaign.
1. A path to legalization that ensures undocumented immigrants have access to full rights.
2. A legal employment structure for future workers that protects both migrants and United States workers.
3. Expedited family reunification and emphasis on family unity.
4. The need for due process and humane enforcement of our immigration laws.
5. Economic development assistance and fair market access for developing countries.
For the complete text of the letter, you can click here.
Jesuit Father John McGarry, provincial of the California Province of the Society of Jesus, issued a letter on behalf of his province declaring that it stands “in solidarity with the migrants and their families in opposition to the enactment and implementation of Arizona SB 1070.”
In the letter, Fr. McGarry writes: “The enforcement of this law will unnecessarily divide otherwise peaceful communities along lines of racial difference and cultural suspicion, as U.S. citizens and legal residents with Latino backgrounds will likely be arrested. This law will needlessly and tragically lead to the separation of family members, in particular parents from their children.”
He goes on to say, “Most significantly, SB 1070 fails to address the concrete reality of our broken immigration system in the comprehensive, humane and just manner that the Church has been striving for in the Justice for Immigrants campaign.” The full letter is available online.
More Resources on SB 1070 and Comprehensive Immigration Reform from the California Province:
AZ State Legislature SB 1070 (AZ Legislature website)