ONE OF THE HARDEST things about being an immigrant and advocate for immigrants is an unspoken assumption that immigrating for strictly economic reasons is not as worthy of admission (and compassion) as doing so to flee war or persecution. Historically, this made refugees the “good immigrants,” until the current administration began to stoke fear against them. I love that Sarah Quezada turns that idea on its head by sharing the story of her relationship and marriage to an undocumented immigrant who didn’t leave his country for anything other than more opportunities and, to some extent, adventure.
Quezada tells a story that is part memoir, part biblical reflection, and part policy and data. She relates how she fell in love with and married an undocumented immigrant, Billy. As they make their way through the maze of the U.S. immigration system, she learns what immigrants know through experience: Gaining legal status is a complex, expensive, and lengthy process. She also reminds readers that many immigrants don’t have options to gain legal status, which might shock those who instruct immigrants just to “get in line and wait.”
What makes the story compelling is Quezada’s own hospitable rhetoric; it is easy to identify with her as she acknowledges knowing next to nothing about immigration before she began dating Billy. In fact, she barely knew people different from herself prior to a move to an urban Los Angeles neighborhood. The gentle humility of her storytelling makes this a book you can recommend to Christians new to the immigration debate. They will learn and come to greater awareness, as Quezada herself does through her journey.
I was glad to see “Convicted of the Gospel” by Darlene Nicgorski included in the September/October issue. The “ministry of sanctuary” that she mentioned is an important and timely way to show the world we are Christians through our love. I have been lobbying my members of Congress and letting them know why my faith motivates my advocacy. The faith voice is crucial to immigration reform’s success and is necessary if we want any reforms to reflect our beliefs in human dignity, equality, and justice. I hope that the church around the country will join in the sanctuary movement, whether it is through advocacy, charity, or sheltering those who face the immediate threat of deportation.
You cannot reform the police state or our culture of incarceration (“Black and Blue,” by Ryan Hammill, September/October 2016) without a critique of our country’s values that proliferate fear and aggression. It’s how we were built and how we’ve sustained our way of life. Until then, taxpayers need to demand transparency from law enforcement, stop the flow of tax dollars to militarize them, and advocate for laws to protect citizens—especially citizens of color.
Prophets On the Loose
I read about the Tennessee weapons plant protest (“An 82-Year-Old Nun Did What?” by Rosalie Riegle, September/October 2016) in the news when it happened. I appreciate the update. I did not know that the “prophets of Oak Ridge” were released. Few realize the danger we all face; nuclear war cannot be allowed to happen. Pray for peace and the destruction of these weapons.
I see you but you do not see me
I am made invisible by your special powers
Not mine. I have no power.
Your shiny car passes me
It does not have a speck of dirt
But I am filthy
Only my sweat shines at the bus stop
As it did today in the fields
I smell like dirt
I know you are not hungry
Because I see you in your red car
Driving to a fancy restaurant
You do not know I am hungry
Because you cannot see me
I had no lunch today
My belly hurts
But you cannot hear my emptiness
You only hear the music in your car
I see you but you do not see me
Perhaps all of me was left
In the woods where I slept last night
Or maybe the mosquitoes sucked my life away
One by one as they found me on the ground
Because I had no blanket to cover me So I itch. They saw me though you do not.
I dream of home. My mother and my sisters
Hungry, waiting for the money I will send for food.
“America ... you will make lots of money
Our stomachs will be full
And your sisters will have shoes”
I hope my boss pays me this week
I look at my boots
These boots took me 15 days through the desert
Now they will bring me through the fields
And I wonder ...
Is it the car that makes me invisible
Because I see you but
You do not see me
LAST SUMMER, THE FUTURE of for-profit prisons seemed bleak. The U.S. Department of Justice announced it would begin phasing out its use of privately run prisons and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security quickly followed suit, declaring that it would reconsider its use of privately run detention centers. Stocks for companies that ran for-profit prisons plunged.
But then Donald Trump was elected president, and private prison stocks immediately soared. The nation’s largest prison company, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), reported a boost of more than 40 percent in the value of its shares. Given Trump’s promises to “create a new special deportation task force,” investors bet that privately run detention centers will play a key role.
And the investors may be right. Every year, DHS detains about 400,000 undocumented immigrants in 250 centers nationwide, and 62 percent of the beds in these centers are operated by for-profit corporations.
According to Maria-José Soerens, a licensed mental-health counselor serving undocumented immigrants in Seattle, there are two major problems with for-profit detention centers. First, for-profit centers are not held accountable to the standards that govern federally run centers. In her work in these centers, Soerens has heard complaints ranging from a lack of medical attention to inadequate opportunities for parent-child visitation; one young woman who was having suicidal thoughts was kept in solitary confinement until she told guards she was “better.”
But the deepest problem, explains Soerens, is that most detention centers only exist because corporations saw a “business opportunity.” Beginning in the early 2000s, for-profit prison companies successfully lobbied Congress to expand drastically the number of beds in the immigration detention system—a move that doubled the revenue of the two largest for-profit prison companies. In 1998, there were 14,000 beds available for immigrant detention; today, there are 34,000.
"REMEMBER YOU are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Each year the community of Jesus stands at the beginning of the season of Lent and recalls death, mortality, corporeality. We are dust. We are dying. And, as the pastor smears the mark of the cross on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday, she says, “Remember you are dust.”
Such an awareness is where resurrection hope begins. It must. How can one celebrate resurrection hope without first understanding that we are dust and to dust we shall return? The act of marking ourselves with ashes is not morbid. Such rituals of death and resurrection give witness to God’s grace for both the dead and those who love them.
But what happens when there is no body over which to mourn?
In circumstances where a loved one’s body is lost, the pain and grief are magnified. A plane disappears over the depths of the waters, and bodies are never found. A person goes missing, and remains are never recovered. Whatever the circumstance, a funeral without a body is almost always a source of extra pain. Not only is a loved one dead, but the ritual act of tending to their body is taken away.
There are people in the United States, Mexico, and Central America who experience such trauma largely because of U.S. border policy. As people die migrating through the desert lands of the southern border of the United States, their bodies are literally returning to dust, and their suffering is largely invisible. Rather than receiving ritual care from family and community at the time of death, these immigrants die alone. Their remains are left in the desert, discovered only by chance.
A humanitarian crisis at the border
“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” Bates wrote in his opinion statement released Tuesday. “Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an immigration statute requiring the deportation of noncitizens who commit felonies is unlawfully vague in a decision that could limit the Trump administration's ability to step up the removal of immigrants with criminal records. The court, in a 5-4 ruling in which President Donald Trump's conservative appointee Neil Gorsuch joined the court's four liberal justices, sided with convicted California burglar James Garcia Dimaya, a legal immigrant from the Philippines.
Opponents fear the decision could result in a severe undercount that can lead to increased marginalization of immigrants by potentially reducing their representation in Congress and federal funding for local jurisdictions, which is determined by population.
An inaccurate census means more than a mistaken count of the U.S. population: Census data not only determines how many congressional districts each state gets, it also often determines the disbursement of federal funds. Urban, lower-income areas with a high population of immigrants and people of color are often the most affected by undercounting and the lack of funding that comes with it.
"I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded," Trump wrote on Twitter.
Countries in the Gulf States have some of the highest levels of immigration as a percentage of their population in the world.
I return to Sojourners — nearly a decade since I served as the Senior Political Director, and after a great deal of prayerful discernment — inspired by the courage and boldness of a new generation of young activists. The protests and activism of the Black Lives Matter movement has forced the issue of racialized policing and police violence onto the public agenda. Student survivors of the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past Ash Wednesday continue to speak out with such moral clarity about the need to address the fraudulent and pernicious state of gun violence in our nation. Dreamers are reframing the narrative and debate around immigration with their personal testimonies and bold advocacy to expand opportunity and justice, not simply for themselves but for all immigrants in this nation.
"The Holy See has to work in whatever conditions arise. We can't [always] have the society that we would like to have, or the conditions that we would like to have," he told the Catholic news agency SIR.
Among President Trump’s many concerning stances on U.S. immigration policy is his proposal to end the long-standing family reunification immigration policy, the process by which nearly six out of 10 Asian immigrants enter the United States.
“Giving legal status to Dreamers is not a political issue. It is a moral issue,” said Father Tom Reese, a Jesuit priest and popular Catholic columnist. “It is time for the people who worked in that building [pointing to the Capitol] to realize this is a moral issue, this is a justice issue. And the political gamesmanship must stop.” He was arrested shortly after.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a setback to President Donald Trump, requiring his administration to maintain protections he has sought to end for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally into the United States as children.
It’s not always the case that the gospel is at stake in a Senate debate. But this week it is. Starting yesterday, on Ash Wednesday, the United States Senate engaged in a debate with enormous moral stakes for who we are as a nation, and it is the moral obligation of Christians in this country to get involved.
"Non-citizens who receive public benefits are not self-sufficient and are relying on the U.S. government and state and local entities for resources instead of their families, sponsors or private organizations," the document states. "An alien's receipt of public benefits comes at taxpayer expense and availability of public benefits may provide an incentive for aliens to immigrate to the United States."
“I was 22 years old when I was forced to leave [El Salvador] due to the earthquakes,” Madrid said. “I knew that despite this tragedy I could get ahead in terms of my career by going the U.S. so when I heard the news of TPS being canceled I immediately felt myself being put in those shoes again and it was like, 'Man, this is going to be tough for a lot of people.'”