Immigration

With Controversial ICE Raids Ongoing, White House Announces Refugee Resettlement Plan

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Due to a sudden wave of ICE raids and deportations of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America, the White House has faced anger from numerous Democrats in Congress, who drafted a letter denouncing the raids. This new refugee plan, which sets up screening facilities in Central America, aims to reduce human smuggling as well to slow the flow of undocumented immigration.

What Is an American?

statue of liberty
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com

January 1 marked the 124th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island. Years later, in 1916, the immigrant inspection station was opened. Over the course of 60 years, more than 12 million immigrants came through the island.

Almost all of my great-grandparents were among that number, although, according to a sister who has been researching our history on ancestry.com, we can’t find any records. A fire destroyed the original station in 1897. It’s likely that our family’s records went up in flames with so many others’. Although — like many New Yorkers — I’ve never been there (who really has the time to schlep over there except tourists or class trips?), the island looms large in our collective self-understanding. Yes, we are Americans, but for us “American” meant “immigrant.”

WATCH: This Is What Deportation Looks Like

The Mejia family
The Mejia family. Via Sin Pais.

On the day Sam and Elida we to be deported, I arrived at the airport, with the entire Mejia family, and was witness to one of the most intensely sad events I’ve ever seen: a mother and father saying goodbye to their children, not knowing when they would see them again. As I drove home from the airport that night, I thought to myself, if every politician, faith-leader, and citizen in the U.S. could have met the Mejia family, and then seen the family ripped apart, the U.S. would not be deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year. The raids that are descending on immigrant communities right now, targeting Central American families who recently crossed the border escaping extreme violence, would most likely not be happening. The de-humanizing term ‘illegal alien’ would not proliferate across our airwaves.

The State of the Dream

izzet ugutmen / Shutterstock
izzet ugutmen / Shutterstock

IN NOVEMBER, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a series of Obama administration executive orders intended to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.

Of course, there’s a backstory: After the 2014 failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama attempted to create one program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), and expand an existing one, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

As its name suggests, DACA was created to protect children—more than 1.7 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute—who were brought to the United States before they turned 16. These “Dreamers” have become a visible and powerful political movement. DAPA is intended to provide work permits and exemption from deportation to those adults with children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

In the dangerous environment created by our failed immigration policy, these two protections are essential for keeping families safe and together.

But when the Obama administration announced these programs in November 2014, some states claimed that expanding the number of immigrants allowed to stay in the U.S. would cause an unfair increase in the cost of state services. Ultimately, 26 states sued to stop the DAPA/DACA changes. In November 2015, the Fifth Circuit—which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—found in favor of the states. The Justice Department then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to decide the case before a new president takes office.

Immigrant and family advocates, along with religious leaders, criticized the ruling. “After the Fifth Circuit’s decision concerning DACA and DAPA, what remains abundantly clear is that the U.S. Congress needs to urgently address immigration reform,” said Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “Hispanic Evangelicals are looking for genuine leadership on this issue. No more delays and excuses.”

Nineteen faith-based organizations (including Sojourners) filed an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit Court to advocate alongside individuals seeking relief from deportation, and churches across the country had begun to prepare members to apply for DAPA and the expanded DACA.

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Trump: a bully who just needs a hug?

As Donald Trump continues to dominate media that try to balance a fascination for celebrities with a duty to check facts claimed by public figures of all stripes, some critics of the GOP presidential frontrunner may recall 18th century novelist Oliver Goldsmith’s line, “The loud voice that spoke the empty mind.” But a more apt thought may come from the classic 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” (airing on Turner cable networks dozens of times this week).

Remember Ralphie noticing the neighborhood bully?

Why are evangelicals supporting Ted Cruz and Donald Trump?

It’s one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the 2016 election: Why are evangelicals, who historically have supported immigration reform and a path to citizenship for deeply felt religious and moral reasons, gravitating towards the two candidates who are most hostile to policy changes that would accommodate and integrate undocumented immigrants into American life?

Mexico Trip: Pope to Visit Ciudad Juarez Prison, Address Border Issues

People gather near a crime scene in Ciudad Juarez. Image via REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / RNS

Pope Francis will visit a prison and celebrate Mass in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican border city plagued by violence in recent years, the Vatican has said in an announcement of details of the pontiff’s upcoming visit to Mexico.

The pope’s visit to Ciudad Juarez will conclude his six-day Mexico tour, starting on Feb. 12. The stop will draw attention to drug-related violence and the U.S. policy on migration.

While in the city on Feb. 17, Francis will tour a prison, meet with workers, and celebrate Mass at the fairgrounds close to the border. Around 220,000 people are expected to attend the Mass, with tickets offered to parishes on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border.

A Politics Beyond Fear

Moral Mondays March in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 8, 2014
Moral Mondays March in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 8, 2014. EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics / Shutterstock.com

Since the Republican presidential front-runner announced after San Bernardino that he would close America’s borders to Muslims, a debate has ensued about what “radicalization” means and how far we as a nation are willing to go to protect ourselves from it. So-called liberals (and even some in the Republican party’s mainstream) have said, “Not all Muslims have been radicalized.” To this Donald Trump retorts, “Until we know which ones have been, let’s keep them all out.” The unquestioned consensus in America’s public square is that we can only be safe by figuring out who the un-American terrorists are and getting rid of them.

But where we're from in North Carolina, we should not be so naïve. We have a disproportionate share of homegrown terrorists.

Finding Light in the Darkest of Days

Chockdee Romkaew / Shutterstock.com
Chockdee Romkaew / Shutterstock.com

Not since the World War II have United States politicians exercised such an extreme level of xenophobia, nationalism, and unapologetic bent toward fascism. Trump is calling Americans to break faith with our own constitution, which guarantees the protection of all faith traditions within our borders. This is not only un-American: It is ungodly. All humanity, regardless of religious affiliation, is made in the image of God. As such every human being is worthy of respect, dignity, and equal protection of the law. To scapegoat Muslim people is to scapegoat the image of God on earth.

There is a real threat, but it does not come from Islam. It comes from a relatively small band of misguided extremists who are leveraging our fear in order to destroy us — from within.

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