Last year I lived in a Catholic Worker house that offers hospitality to immigrants without first inquiring about their legal status. One day, a woman called the house on behalf of two young boys who had come home to an empty apartment; their parents had been taken in a raid, and the boys had no other relatives or friends in the country. They had been born in the U.S., but their parents were undocumented workers; the raid had traumatized and temporarily orphaned them. They were afraid to leave their home and had no idea how to locate their parents.
Unfortunately, these boys' story is not unique. Over the past year, throughout the country the Department of Homeland Security has conducted increasingly numerous worksite enforcement raids that target employers who hire unauthorized workers. During these raids, large numbers of workers who have often worked in difficult and appalling conditions are arrested. Children are separated from their working parents for days at a time, and community life is disrupted.
Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement urging Homeland Security to discontinue worksite enforcement raids until several "humanitarian safeguards" are put into place. The statement says, "The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society" and reminds us that "many families never recover, others never reunite."
Catholic social teaching states that the family is the "fundamental institution upon which society and government itself depends" and that the family "must be supported and strengthened." May Christians follow the lead of these courageous bishops to speak with one voice, urging the government to support families and put an end to the inhumane practices of worksite enforcement raids.
Jennifer Svetlik is a policy and organizing assistant at Sojourners.