Announcement Welcome News for Some Immigrant Families, While Much Work Left to be Done
November 21, 2014 — The Jesuits of the United States, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national border ministry in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, welcome President Obama’s announcement of temporary relief from deportation for as many as five million of our community members. At the same time we acknowledge that millions more families will continue to suffer under the constant specter of family separation caused by our broken immigration system, which can only be permanently resolved through positive, humane and practical legislation.
Through our ministries, we witness on a daily basis the tragic consequences of our nation’s current immigration laws and policies.
As Jesuits, we assess each immigration policy by whether it adheres to the Catholic and American value of promoting and affirming human dignity. The President has exercised his constitutional discretion to prioritize immigration enforcement resources, while offering a process by which some of the 11 million undocumented may apply for a temporary reprieve. Meanwhile, Congressional leaders must complete the urgent and necessary work of permanently fixing our unjust and broken immigration system.
Through the President’s order, the following groups will be offered the chance to apply for relief through a fee-based system: parents of U.S. citizen children who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years; parents of U.S. legal permanent resident children who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years; and Dreamers who arrived in the U.S. before their eighteenth birthday who have been living in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, and meet education or military service requirements.
To be sure, the President’s policy change is a major step forward, and we celebrate this move toward recognizing the worth and dignity of up to five million of our brothers, sisters, parishioners, friends, colleagues and companions. However, this is only a first step, and we will continue to struggle for a day when all men, women and children who live within our communities are welcomed as full members of our nation.
Secure Communities Program
We also are tentatively optimistic about the President’s commitment to end the problematic “Secure Communities” program. We hope that the new Prioritized Enforcement Program will avoid the pitfalls of Secure Communities by allowing states and localities the freedom to implement the program in ways that respect the civil rights and due process protections of community residents.
We also express our sadness and disappointment that the Administration has failed to seize the opportunity to increase oversight, accountability, transparency and justice in its implementation of border policy. A genuine understanding of the realities faced by border communities will yield the best policy. We contend that our borders are best secured and our communities are best kept safe by humane, transparent, and accountable practices which foster trust between border communities and law enforcement entities. Law enforcement agencies like Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must take local community input into account for true security and respect for human rights to become a reality along the U.S./Mexico border. Rhetoric and actions that demonize and marginalize border communities fail to acknowledge the vibrant cultural and economic contributions of those who live and work on our Southern border.
In his speech last night, the President conflated the arrival of Central American children fleeing violence with a border that requires more militarized enforcement. We reject this assessment. The forced migration of children and families from Central America can rightly be attributed to the tragic and violent circumstances facing children, youth and families in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, not to “lax” border policy. As such this situation is best resolved not through boots on the border but through serious policy choices that responsibly address the corruption and violence that have destroyed the social fabric of these nations and caused our Central American neighbors to hemorrhage displaced children, youth, mothers and asylum seekers. We cannot “enforce” our way out of the humanitarian situation in Central America’s Northern Triangle.
We urge our elected officials to work together to craft a viable immigration system. Our leaders must place family unity, human dignity, mercy and justice, transparency and accountability at the center of this crucial debate.
The Jesuits will continue to work with our elected officials until just, comprehensive and humane immigration reform is achieved.