News and Events
Jesuits respond to Supreme Court decision on immigration law
June 26, 2012 — JRS/USA
The U.S. Jesuit Conference, the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and the Kino Border Initiative welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down three key provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B.1070. In doing so, the Court correctly recognized the federal government’s constitutional authority to regulate immigration.
We are disappointed however that the decision left standing a final provision of the Arizona law, requiring Arizona law enforcement officers to stop and detain without warrant individuals on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion” of irregular status. We fear this provision places Arizona law enforcement officers at odds with the communities they seek to protect. This decision not only affects all Hispanics in the state of Arizona, but anyone deemed “foreign looking” is subject to detention and interrogation by law enforcement officers of the state. Such laws endanger all residents of Arizona by creating a fear and mistrust of law enforcement and drive immigrant communities further into the shadows by discouraging them from contacting the police when they are victims of crimes.
The Supreme Court’s decision on this provision of the Arizona law acknowledges the potential for future legal challenges, and we are hopeful that the provision will be overturned once the problems associated with it are further documented.
Through the Kino Border Initiative (a cooperative endeavor between six religious organizations, including JRS/USA and two provinces of the Society of Jesus, operating in the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico) we have borne daily witness to the harsh realities of the current broken immigration system. The Jesuit Conference, JRS/USA, and the Kino Border Initiative have long been committed to a humane and comprehensive approach to immigration reform.
In this spirit, we welcome the words of Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, who has said, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision, “The U.S. Catholic bishops across the nation will urge their state governments to not pursue laws such as in Arizona, but rather to pursue humane reform on the federal level. Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown.”
1200 Participants in the Ignatian Family Teach-In Canvas Capitol Hill Advocating for Immigration Reform
Washington, November 15, 2010
Story from the National Catholic Reporter (11.17.2010)
Immigration Reform Framework ‘Important First Step,’ But Still Needs Work, Say US Bishops
The U.S. bishops called the introduction of a framework on immigration reform by Senate leadership, April 29, an “Important first step” in the process of achieving enactment of comprehensive reform legislation. The framework, developed by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and endorsed by Senate leadership, attempts to lay a road map for launching negotiations toward a bipartisan immigration reform bill.
The bishops’ position was outlined April 29, by Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration.
“We urge members of both parties to begin a process toward introducing and enacting bipartisan legislation which affirms the rule of law and basic human rights,” Bishop Wester said.
Bishop Wester pointed to flaws in the framework that require revision, including a controversial provision that would permit same-sex couples to receive immigration benefits equal to married couples. He also pointed out that enforcement measures in the framework should not violate basic rights, and that policies that address the root causes of migration should be addressed.
Bishop Wester urged Congress to begin discussions on the issue, with the goal of passing legislation in 2010.
“We call for a robust but civil debate. This issue can no longer wait and should not be politicized or held hostage to ideology. Our immigration system is badly broken and is in need of immediate repair,” Bishop Wester said.
The statement follows.
Statement of Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City & Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration
April 29, 2010
The U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently spoken out on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform and have urged its enactment. Today’s introduction of an immigration framework in the U.S. Senate is an important first step in the process of achieving the enactment of a comprehensive measure. We urge members of both parties to begin a process toward introducing and enacting bipartisan legislation which affirms the rule of law and basic human rights.
While we support the general direction of the framework, including a legalization of the undocumented and improvements to our employment and family-based immigration systems, we strongly oppose extending marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex relationships. This proposal threatens to undermine the opportunity to bring together the Congress and the American people around a common solution to the important challenge of immigration reform.
We also have concerns about the increases in enforcement resources contained in the framework. Over the past several years, the United States has poured billions of dollars into immigration enforcement, which has not only not solved the problem but in some cases led to the abuse of migrants. We would support the inclusion of provisions which address “push” factors that compel migrants to come to the United States, such as the lack of economic development in sending countries, so that migrants can remain in their countries and support their families in dignity.
We stand ready to work with the Administration and our federal elected officials of both parties to address these concerns and to improve the legislation in all areas. We call for a robust but civil debate. This issue can no longer wait and should not be politicized or held hostage to ideology. Our immigration system is badly broken and is in need of immediate repair.
Comprehensive reform, not hostile legislation, is necessary to fix broken immigration system
April 23, 2010
To say the least, these have been challenging days, both in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, as well as throughout the State of Arizona.
At the Kino Border Initiative’s Center for Deported Migrants in Nogales, Sonora, we are seeing increasing numbers of repatriated migrants each day. Hundreds of people come to us with blistered feet and with broken spirits. Drug violence and abuses against migrants also plague the border region of Ambos Nogales, and discourage us deeply as we respond to the great needs of deportees. Finally, to add insult to injury, the Arizona state government is looking to pass a law that would empower local police officers to verify a person’s immigration status if they simply suspect he or she is undocumented.
We feel very strongly that this legislation would encourage racial profiling and would make our communities less safe, by making people reluctant to report criminal activity to local police.
In response, we have signed letters urging Governor Jan Brewer not to sign this bill into law. KBI staff member Fr. Donald Bahlinger, S.J. has also participated in a protest at the Governor’s office, to urge her to veto this legislation.
We continue to support efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, which would include a path to legalization for undocumented people, as well as reform of the visa system. Such policy changes would facilitate family reunification and provide employment opportunities where labor needs exist. These steps would obviate the misguided efforts of Arizona and other states to enforce immigration law, which should continue to fall under the purview of the federal government.
The Spanish poet Antonio Machado reminds us that “There is no path,” and that “the path is made by walking.” May we join the efforts of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the Kino Border Initiative, and other like-minded organizations to create a path that helps us all to respect and protect the God-given dignity of our migrant sisters and brothers.
“Immigration Raids Destroy Families”
March 12, 2010
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and the Society of Jesus of the United States were surprised and disheartened to hear of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County Thursday morning, March 11. The raid was carried out on two restaurants, within mere hours of a White House hosted meeting between President Barack Obama, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D. – N.Y.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R. – S.C.), during which they discussed immigration reform.
JRS/USA and the U.S. Jesuit Conference are particularly troubled that raid appeared to target workers and families rather than the employers who allegedly hired undocumented workers. Of extreme concern that several nearby homes were reportedly also raided by ICE agents.
It is the position of the Jesuits of the United States that workplace enforcement raids disproportionately punish the most vulnerable in our communities and fail to pass the policy test of protecting families.
While the Jesuits respect the right of the U.S. government to enforce the law, the Society of Jesus in the United States argues that dividing families, one of the consequences of the raids, is inherently inhumane.
“The use of worksite raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should cease not only because more humane methods of immigration law enforcement exist, but also because the collateral damage to affected communities far outweighs any benefits gained by the raids,” said Jesuit Father Thomas Greene. “In August of 2008 I spent an afternoon gathering information on families affected by the raids in Mississippi and the damage was quite evident. One woman related that one of her children now cries and hides under the bed when the doorbell rings. A woman who is a U.S. citizen and longtime resident of the community talked about feeling ostracized and getting hostile stares from others simply for being Hispanic.”
JRS/USA and the Jesuit Conference are following up with the Administration and with Congress as we seek an end to actions that terrorize communities and tear families apart while failing to offer a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system.