By Doris Yu
December 19, 2013 — This week, 39 members of Congress sent a letter to acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers requesting a meeting to discuss humanitarian concerns at the U.S.-Mexico border. The congressional appeal to Beers marked a victory for the Jesuit-run Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and the Office of Social and International Ministries at the Jesuit Conference, which have been calling for legislative action for months.
The letter, coordinated by Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), specifically addressed dangerous deportation practices, the significant recent increase in migrant deaths, and severely inadequate short-term custody conditions. Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of KBI, and Jesuit Father Tom Greene, Secretary for Social and International Ministries for the Jesuit Conference, have been lobbying Congress to address these and other concerns affecting individuals at the border and their families.
This past spring, the Jesuit Conference, the Kino Border Initiative and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA released a joint study titled “Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Following that, the nine provincials of the Society of Jesus in the United States issued a letter to lawmakers calling for comprehensive immigration reform, which Fr. Greene discussed in an interview with National Jesuit News.
Fr. Carroll testified at congressional hearings in both April and September of this year and accompanied a group of DREAMers who had been brought to the U.S. illegally as children in a protest at the border this past summer.
"We at the Kino Border Initiative continue to witness firsthand the terrible consequences of migrant deaths, inadequate short-term detention conditions and dangerous deportation practices in the lives of migrant men, women and children,” said Fr. Carroll. “I urge acting Secretary Beers to implement policies and practices that will save migrants' lives and will protect their God-given human dignity along the U.S./Mexico border."
Fr. Greene echoed Fr. Carroll’s thoughts on the congressional letter:
“A comprehensive and humane reform of our immigration system is a key advocacy priority of the Jesuits of the United States. We appreciate the efforts of these 39 members of Congress to urge the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate action to make our deportation and short-term detention practices more humane and to do all in their power to decrease the incidence of migrant deaths. While we will continue to press for legislative solutions to fix our broken and inhumane immigration system, we believe the Obama administration can take immediate action to ensure our country protects the lives and human dignity of migrants at our border and ensures that our deportation and detention practices live up to our country’s ideals.”