Immigration Justice

From Church World Service

Advocacy Days Conference Rallies with March for America

Crowds at National Mall

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Frustrated by an immigration system that fractures families and is viewed by reform proponents as neither fair nor humane, the nearly 750 participants at this years Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference in Washington (March 19-21) are urging new U.S. immigration policies that make family unity a priority and provide visa reform, fair workers rights, earned legal status for the undocumented, and humane enforcement.
Americas broken immigration system creates the undocumented immigration problem, said Jen Smyers, Associate for Immigration and Refugee Policy with humanitarian agency Church World Service. The punishment doesnt fit the crime.” Lacking documents is in violation of a civil statute, she said, and the punishment of “ripping people from their families” is too harsh.
Conscious of the historic deliberations on health care in the U.S. Congress over the weekend, Smyers remarked to the advocacy conference attendees, While we are at the March for America rally, Congress is voting on health care, with all of us out there saying, Congratulations!  Next up  comprehensive immigration reform!
John McCullough, Executive Director and CEO of Church World Service, told participants, We are called to be part of an expanding vision of what it means to be family.
Frank Sharry is Founder and Executive Director of Americas Voice, a communications campaign working to win common-sense immigration reform, and is former Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum policy organization. Addressing the advocacy conference, Sharry said, “How can we be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, so that family members can come with visas and on planes rather than risking their lives to cross the desert and using smugglers?
“The only way we can couple enforcement with humanity is to change the law. The current brutal enforcement policies are trampling our values,” he said.
I don’t support breaking the law, but I do support reviewing laws that are not in accord with the values of our country and that don’t serve our nations needs, Sister Mary McCauley told conference attendees. McCauley was pastoral administrator for St. Bridgets Church in Postville, Iowa, where a U.S. immigration raid at Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in May 2008 arrested 389 undocumented workers.
Carol Fouke-Mpoyo One conference participant, a U.S. citizen and wife of an undocumented immigrant, told of her husband’s deportation to Mexico and subsequent arrest when he tried to return to the U.S. Hes now serving time in a federal penitentiary, she said, for the crime of wanting to be a father to his children.
“It’s not fair to strip a family of its dignity,” she said. “We need strong effective laws while providing families the option of staying together. But it’s not fair to keep a father from his children. It’s not fair to keep a husband from his wife.”
Rev. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), told the gathering, There is no God but God, no family but the human family.  Human history shows that one God does not necessarily mean one people.  But it should.  It should.  The challenge is to see past false division and to see one human family, no matter which side of the human-made border we were born on or whether or not we have documents.
The weekend’s advocacy conference, A Place to Call Home: Immigrants, Refugees, and Displaced Peoples, focused equally on global issues: Participants balanced preparations for a day of immigration reform lobbying on Capitol Hill on Monday  while attending workshops deliberating the displacement of millions worldwide who are forced to migrate because of conflict, climate-induced water and food shortages, natural and economic disasters.
Church World Service is a co-sponsor of Ecumenical Advocacy Days.
Media Contact: Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526,


WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on January 6, announced steps to push for the enactment of immigration reform legislation in 2010. Bishop John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, bishop of Albany, New York, and chairman of the International Policy Committee of the USCCB, made the announcement.
“It is our view, and that of others, that the American public, including the Catholic and other faith communities, want a humane and comprehensive solution to the problems which beset our immigration system, and they want Congress to address this issue,” said Bishop Wester.
Steps announced by Bishop Wester include:

  • The launch of a nationwide postcard campaign under the Justice for Immigrants campaign, with 1.5 million postcards already ordered;
  • The launch of  two Web sites, a new Justice for Immigrants Web site with tools for parishes (, and the National Migration Week Web site, which provides other resources (; and
  • A nationwide action alert asking for Congress to enact immigration reform as soon as possible.

Bishop Hubbard, chairman of the International Policy Committee, spoke to the root causes of irregular migration and how the long-term and humane solution to the problem is integral human development. 

“The first principle of the U.S. bishops with regard to immigration is that migrants have the right not to migrate—in other words, to be able to find work in their own home countries so they can support their families in dignity,” he said. “Migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.


Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a Sister of Notre Dame and Secretary for Parish Life and Development in the Diocese of Cleveland, spoke about support for immigration reform in Ohio, where nearly 300,000 postcards will be distributed throughout the state.

“In the end, to stand with those who are frightened, alone or in danger; to educate, to speak with and for, and to pray—this is the message of the Gospel and the work of the Church,” she said.

Sister Mary Beth Hamm, justice coordinator of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Philadelphia, outlined what her religious order and other orders are doing to support immigration reform.

Bishop Wester concluded that the Church will work to make sure that legislators act on this issue in the near future.

“We remain committed to moving immigration reform as soon as possible,” he said. “We hope to make sure that our federal legislators are committed to that goal as well.”
Keywords: Bishop John Wester, Bishop Howard Hubbard, Migrants, Migration, USCCB , United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, immigration reform

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops are sponsoring a campaign—Justice for Immigrants– calling on Congress to undertake comprehensive immigration reform.  The Bishops will be engaging members of parishes by means of a postcard distribution and collection during the Advent Season this December of 2009.

Below is a link to the Adobe pdf file that contains a sample of the postcard artwork and photos.


The New York Times

November 14, 2009

White House Plan on Immigration Includes Legal Status


The Obama administration will insist on measures to give legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants as it pushes early next year for legislation to overhaul the immigration system, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Friday.

In her first major speech on the overhaul, Ms. Napolitano dispelled any suggestion that the administration — with health care, energy and other major issues crowding its agenda — would postpone the most contentious piece of immigration legislation until after midterm elections next November.

Laying out the administration’s bottom line, Ms. Napolitano said officials would argue for a “three-legged stool” that includes tougher enforcement laws against illegal immigrants and employers who hire them and a streamlined system for legal immigration, as well as a “tough and fair pathway to earned legal status.”

With unemployment surging over 10 percent and Congress still wrangling over health care, advocates on all sides of the immigration debate had begun to doubt that President Obama would keep his pledge to tackle the divisive illegal immigration issue in the first months of 2010.

Speaking at the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group in Washington, Ms. Napolitano unveiled a double-barrel argument for a legalization program, saying it would enhance national security and, as the economy climbs out of recession, protect American workers from unfair competition from lower-paid, easily exploited illegal immigrants.

“Let me emphasize this: we will never have fully effective law enforcement or national security as long as so many millions remain in the shadows,” she said, adding that the recovering economy would be strengthened “as these immigrants become full-paying taxpayers.”

Under the administration’s plan, illegal immigrants who hope to gain legal status would have to register, pay fines and all taxes they owe, pass a criminal background check and learn English.

Drawing a contrast with 2007, when a bill with legalization provisions offered by President George W. Bush failed in Congress, Ms. Napolitano said the Obama administration had achieved a “fundamental change” in border security and enforcement against employers hiring illegal immigrants. She said a sharp reduction in the flow of illegal immigrants into the country created an opportunity to move ahead with a legalization program.

Some Republicans were quick to challenge Ms. Napolitano’s claims that border security had significantly improved or that American workers would be helped by bringing illegal immigrants into the system.

“How can they claim that enforcement is done when there are more than 400 open miles of border with Mexico?” asked Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. He said the administration should “deport illegal immigrant workers so they don’t remain here to compete with citizen and legal immigrant job seekers.”

But Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the top Republican on the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, agreed that it was time to open the immigration debate. “My commitment to immigration reform has not changed,” he said in a statement Friday. “I am interested in seeing a proposal sooner rather than later from President Obama.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and the chairman of that subcommittee, has been writing an overhaul bill and consulting with Republicans, particularly Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Mr. Schumer said that the administration’s agenda was “ambitious,” but that he was “confident we can have a bipartisan immigration bill ready to go under whatever timeline the president thinks is best.”

Ms. Napolitano has been leading the administration’s efforts to gather ideas and support for the immigration overhaul, meeting in recent weeks with business leaders, religious groups, law enforcement officials and others to gauge their willingness to go forward with a debate in Congress.

Framing the administration’s proposals in stark law and order terms, she said immigration legislation should include tougher laws against migrant smugglers and more severe sanctions for employers who hire unauthorized workers.

Ms. Napolitano said that the Border Patrol had grown by 20,000 officers and that more than 600 miles of border fence had been finished, meeting security benchmarks set by Congress in 2007. She was echoing an argument adopted by Mr. Bush after the bill collapsed in 2007, and by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in his race against Mr. Obama. They said Americans wanted to see effective enforcement before they would agree to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants.

Some immigrant advocates were dismayed by Ms. Napolitano’s approach. Benjamin E. Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, praised her package of proposals, but said some enforcement policies she outlined “have proven to do more harm than good.”

U.S. Immigrant Detentions Violate Human Rights: Report

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The detention of hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year in the United States represents a violation of human rights, Amnesty International USA said in a report on Wednesday.

On an average day, the rights group said, more than 30,000 immigrants are in detention facilities. That’s triple the number that were in custody a decade ago, according to Amnesty’s report “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA.”

“America should be outraged by the scale of human rights abuses occurring within its own borders,” said Larry Cox, director of Amnesty International USA.

“The United States has long been a country of immigrants, and whether they have been here five years or five generations, their human rights are to be respected.”

Amnesty said more than 300,000 people are detained by U.S. immigration officials each year. They include asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, longtime legal permanent residents and parents of U.S. citizen children.

“The use of detention as a tool to combat unauthorized migration falls short of international human rights law,” the report said.

According to Amnesty, tens of thousands of people languish in American immigration detention facilities every year — including a number of U.S. citizens — without receiving a hearing to determine whether their detention is warranted.

Amnesty called on the U.S. government to ensure that all immigrants and people seeking asylum in the United States who have been detained receive a hearing to determine whether their detention is necessary.

Sernata Reynolds, Amnesty USA’s policy director for Refugee and Migrant Rights, said U.S. officials stepped up detentions after the September 11 attacks.


“Although the law permitted it, it hadn’t been used in the way that it was,” she said in an interview. “Then, in the climate of fear, it was exponentially growing, and continues to grow. This year … they expect to detain 400,000 people.”

“No one comes close to detaining the amount of people that the United States does,” she said. “I don’t know of another country that detains hundreds of thousands of people as a normal policy every year.”

According to the report, there were about 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States as of January 2007. The top five countries of origin were Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines and China.

The Department of Homeland Security can detain people at the border or during raids if it suspects them of an immigration violation.

People detained at the border are not entitled to a review of their detention by an immigration judge, Amnesty said. Those apprehended inside the United States have the right to appear before a judge, but the wait can be long.

“U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention and have spent months or years behind bars before being able to prove they are not deportable from the United States,” the report said.

Under international law, detention should only be used in exceptional circumstances, must be justified in each individual case and must be subject to judicial review.

Amnesty said many of the immigrants who are arrested are unable to be freed on bond because the amount is set too high for them to pay.

The report said U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention with no right to a bond hearing before a judge and spent months or years behind bars before proving they are not deportable.

Amnesty cited the case of a man who was born in Minnesota and placed in immigration detention in Arizona. He was unable to access his birth certificate because he was in detention and ended up working for $1 a day in the prison kitchen to earn the $30 necessary to order a copy of his birth certificate.

The report said detention facilities for immigrants violate international standards. Amnesty said detainees have reported receiving poor medical care, some complained of being put in excessive restraints and others were held with people imprisoned for criminal offenses.

Justice For Immigrants:

The recent Province Chapter for Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America (2008) charged the office of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation to assist in the education of the Province in the matter of immigration.  In their joint pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope (2003), the bishops of the United States and Mexico called for a series of reforms to the broken U.S. immigration system.  These include: (1) policies to address the situations that create refugees and migrants, such as war and global poverty, (2) reform of our (US) immigration system, incuding an earned legalization program and a temporary worker program with appropriate worker protections, and (3) restoration of due process for immigrants.   Further information can be obtained at : or call (800) 235 8722.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Service can be reached at :

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