Jesuits support Obama immigration order

Calling it “a major step forward,” the U.S. Jesuits, the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, and the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national border ministry, have added their voices to Catholic groups welcoming President Obama’s executive order to provide immigration relief.  They added that there remains much work to be done.

The Obama announcement Nov. 20 offers temporary relief from deportation for as many as five million of our people.  The groups said they were pleased with the initiative.

“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,” the statement reads.

“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.”

“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.”

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. 

The statement continued:

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. 



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