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Home | Tag Archives: border immigration

Tag Archives: border immigration

Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz – Remarks on the Suspension of Due Process at the Border

On Thursday, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso was in Ciudad Juárez to inaugurate a project supported by the Border Refugee Assistance Fund that will aid pregnant migrant women in Juárez.

Bishop Seitz also sat down with expectant migrant mothers to hear their stories. The bishop offered the following remarks on Title 42 expulsions and the suspension of due process at the border:

I’m very happy to be with you all this afternoon.

Today I was able to visit with my brother, Mons. José Guadalupe Torres Campos, the bishop of Ciudad Juárez, and thank him for the efforts of the church here on behalf of human dignity and all those who are migrating. It is very humbling to see the breadth of the work of the faith community and community organizations here in Ciudad Juárez even in very difficult circumstances.

Are there risks to me leaving the security of my home to come here during this time of pandemic? Of course there are, but whatever risks I have taken today are nothing in comparison to the suffering being faced by those who are leaving home and family because this is the only hope they have for themselves and their children.

The situation here at the border has challenged all of us to work more closely together and in a graced way, has bridged gaps between Catholics, Protestants and other faith communities and also brought us to work even more closely across borders. Even in the midst of all the inhumanity, the Lord is writing a very amazing chapter in the history of the US-Mexico border and in the building of the beloved community here. The current crisis is bringing out the very best of us and the grace of the Holy Spirit here, is almost palpable.

Today, I was also able to meet with some organizations on the front lines of the current migration crisis that we have been able to support financially through our Border Refugee Assistance Fund. I’m very inspired by their work and I want to thank Blanca Navarrete Garcia in particular, who has organized a maternity support program for expecting moms.

I also want to thank all those who have, and continue to contribute to, the Border Refugee Assistance Fund, which is an expression of the church in El Paso’s solidarity with migrants and refugees who find themselves trapped in Ciudad Juárez as a result of policies such as Remain in Mexico.

This morning, I crossed the US-Mexico border to come here to Ciudad Juárez. I was able to drive across unimpeded. I hope to be able to return later this afternoon unimpeded. But I came from a country where the moral fabric is literally fraying, exposed and naked before the Lord. And the racism which we are again forced to confront in the United States, is not disconnected from the reality here. Racism enables us to look away from the mass of black and brown people huddled at our gates in this city, kept at arm ‘s length, denied due process, denied equal protection and denied a gaze or glance of love.

The attention of the national news cycle has moved on from the border. There are times when change comes as quickly and fantastically as a flash of lightning and then there are times when it happens as the result of persistent erosion. And even though many of us cannot see it, we may be living, right now, in the exact moment, when the American commitment to asylum seekers and refugees has eroded away. Eroded is too deceptive a word. It obscures agency and responsibility. And we are all responsible. A future generation may look back and hang its head in shame that in this moment we did not act.

Respect for the truth demands that I speak up to say that this fundamental right to asylum here at the border really is effectively over.

During World War II, the United States thought it had learned after we felt the guilt of having returned a boat filled with Jewish refugees back to the extermination camps of Nazi Germany. But today we send those who have escaped back into the hands of narco-trafficking gangs, ignoring the very laws we had written.

It’s been just over a year since the dramatic expansion of the Remain in Mexico policy at the border. While the United States government has denied that it places migrants in danger, according to Human Rights First, there have been over 1,000 publicly reported cases of rape, murder, kidnapping and torture of migrants in the Remain in Mexico program.

The COVID-19 crisis has served as cover for the government to turn the screw even more tightly on migrants at the border and I want to speak right now very specifically to the administration’s invocation of Title 42, or the administration’s health orders, to justify the near total suspension of due process.

Yesterday, before Title 42, immigration judges adjudicated asylum claims. Today, Border Patrol agents and CBP officers on the line make that decision and without a second thought every day forcibly return migrants, brutally stripped of the protections of the law, including women and children, to this, now the second most dangerous city in the world.

Yesterday, asylum seekers could be safely paroled into our El Paso community. Today, those who are able to get over the ‘demilitarized zone’ that our border has become, go from being trapped in Ciudad Juárez to being trapped in detention centers which have become petri dishes for COVID-19. There is currently a major and dangerous outbreak of COVID-19 in the detention centers in El Paso as well as throughout the country. Unseen. Unheeded. Who will pay attention?  The threat here is not from the refugees themselves but from our insistence as a government that those who have fled here from places where there is a lower incidence of the virus and who are not accused of a violent crime must be detained in unsafe conditions.

And this poison of indifference is exported back to Central America. In Guatemala, some 20pc of coronavirus cases have been traced to irresponsible and reckless deportations of infected migrants back to that country.

Yesterday, we valued the life of babies, toddlers and youth. Today, we run roughshod over the law and forcibly return unaccompanied children, putting them at risk of exploitation, trafficking and coronavirus. I’m filled with fear and horror that with hardly a qualm of conscience we are returning these children back to the very threats from which they’ve fled. How long, O Lord?

The administration’s new proposed asylum regulations, posted on June 15, would mainstream many of these abuses and add others. Anna Gallagher, the executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, has said that these regulations violate U.S. and international law and will eviscerate the asylum process.

Today I raise my voice as a Christan, a pastor, and as an American bishop who has crossed this ‘demilitarized zone’ to kneel before and learn from Christ in the suffering. And I have learned that it is we who are causing him to suffer.

If I may, I want to tell the story of one woman that I met earlier today, let’s call her Clara. She is a mother of two beautiful children, one of them recently born, and I can tell you she’s looking forward to the baptism. The circumstances of her story are truly frightening and to protect her I can’t even tell you what country she’s come from to seek asylum or what forced her to flee. Her children were conceived in the most brutal of ways. But that is not what I want to emphasize.

What I want to say about Clara is this. Hers is a story of hope. In spite of everything that she endured and everything that she is enduring and everything that she will endure if she gets to the United States. Clara is an inspiring sign of strength, resilience and hope. Just like each one of the moms with us today.

That hope shows me that the machinery of darkness which our immigration enforcement has become is not permanent. There will be a day when all of this pain will be no more, when the walls of hatred come tumbling down and when grace will transform the dark present into something better. But it is ours to undo. The Lord entrusts the present moment to our freedom and responsibility. To transform racism and hatred into repentance and reconciliation. To transform divisions ancient and modern into occasions for encounter and forgiveness. To transform the weight of the law into the sweetness of mercy. To stop the suffering.

I close with the words of Saint Paul to the Romans, who after concluding a reflection on how Christians should relate to the law says, ‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.’

Thank you.

*

Editor’s note: The comments were provided by Hope Border Institute, following the Bishop’s comments in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

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Statement: Bishop of El Paso on expansion of Remain in Mexico to include Brazilians

A year of Remain in Mexico has damaged enough human lives, hurt enough families and chipped away far too much at our country’s commitment to life, dignity and the protections that should be afforded to asylum seekers and refugees.

It is unfortunate that on this sad anniversary the government should expand this indefensible program to Brazilians, who cannot speak Spanish and are thus made even more vulnerable to criminal predation and exploitation.

Remain in Mexico unnecessarily puts Border Patrol agents and Customs officers in the pews of our churches in the lamentable position of having to choose between following the laws of conscience or the morally bankrupt dictates of man when they encounter human beings in need, who represent for us Christ, hidden beneath the guise of misery, fear and desperation.

May our consciences not be dulled and may those with the power to end Remain in Mexico, and every inhumane action against the one human family, hear our voices shouting out in the desert for compassion and for justice.

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El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all views and viewpoints.  To have your opinion heard, review the guidelines here and the submit your letter to news@epheraldpost.com

Federal Officials Cite “Zero Tolerance” After Border Apprehensions Dip Nearly 20% in June

The number of people who were apprehended or turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border last month dipped nearly 20 percent when compared to May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday.

The total number of apprehensions on the southwest border was 34,114 last month, down from 40,338 in May. That figure, which includes people who were apprehended between the ports of entry, also shows a slight decrease in the number of unaccompanied minors and family units that were caught.

The decrease comes amid a firestorm over President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their families. Trump’s policy directed that anyone who crossed the border between a port of entry be criminally charged. Since parents and kids can’t be kept in jail together, thousands of families were split up. Trump has since signed an executive order designed to end family separations, though many families have not yet been reunited.

In a statement, Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Tyler Q. Houlton touted the “zero tolerance” and said the government would continue to enforce current immigration laws while Congress debates a change to the current system.

“As we have said before, the journey north is dangerous and puts individuals in the hands of smugglers and traffickers,” Houlton said. “We continue to call on Congress to address the crisis at the border by closing legal loopholes that drive illegal immigration.”

The number of family units caught on the southern border dipped only slightly during the same time frame; from 9,485 to 9,449, while the number of unaccompanied children fell from to 6,388 to 5,115. The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas remained the busiest in the country last month, with about 14,700 apprehensions occurring there last month. That figure includes 5,420 family units and 2,576 unaccompanied minors. The second busiest was Tucson with 4,146 total apprehensions. That was followed by the El Paso sector (which includes New Mexico) which registered 3,572 total apprehensions, including 1,604 family units and 839 unaccompanied minors.

Though the DHS statement said the decline last month came after the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, figures provided by DHS show that traffic has generally declined in the summer months over the last few years. Since the 2013 federal fiscal year, only 2017 saw an increase in traffic from May to June.

And despite the drop in apprehensions over the last two months, government data shows that during the current fiscal year, from October to June, overall apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied minors increased when compared to the same time frame in  during the 2017 fiscal year. From October 2016 to June 2017 about 33,000 unaccompanied minors and 63,400 family units were caught. From October 2017 thought last month, those figures were 37,450 and  68,650, respectively.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Report: Texas Could Lose Billions if New Immigration Enforcement Law Stands

Representatives from Texas’ business, local government and higher education sectors argued Tuesday that the state’s new immigration-enforcement law, which is slated to take effect Sept. 1, could do billions of dollars in damage to the Texas economy.

Using data from the 2015 American Community Survey and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance — a group made up of 40 state-based immigrant and civil rights groups — estimated during a Tuesday press conference that the state stands to lose roughly $223 million in state and local taxes and more than $5 billion in gross domestic product under Senate Bill 4.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May and seeks to outlaw “sanctuary” jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials, would also allow local police officers to ask about a person’s immigration status when they are detained — not just when they are charged with a crime.

“We estimate those costs as they relate to jobs, earnings, taxes and GDP if 10 percent of undocumented immigrants were to leave Texas,” the group said, calling that 10 percent figure a conservative estimate. The group analyzed the top 10 industries that benefit from undocumented labor and used Harvard University economist George Borjas‘ undocumented population analysis in its research, according to the methodology outlined in the study.

Supporters of the legislation argue it’s needed to prevent local law enforcement officials from providing a safety net to deportable and violent undocumented immigrants who have already been charged with crimes. But opponents — who are keeping their fingers crossed that a judge will halt the measure before it takes effect — say it’s a racial-profiling bill that’s similar to Arizona’s “show-me-your-papers” law.

The economic argument isn’t a new one for opponents of the law; several Democratic state lawmakers tried and failed to convince their colleagues of its merit during this spring’s regular legislative session. State Democrats also called for an update to a study released in 2006 by former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. That analysis showed that undocumented immigrants who lived in Texas in 2005 added $17.7 billion to the state’s economy.

In a statement Tuesday, representatives from local chambers of commerce at the news conference went after the lawmakers who championed the legislation, calling them dishonorable. 

“Each of you standing with us have a big job to do,” said Ramiro Cavazos, the CEO of San Antonio’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “And that it is to protect this economy for our children and our grandchildren.”

The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Bilateral African American Chamber, the United Chamber of Commerce Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce were among those represented at the news conference.

They also tied SB 4 to the state Legislature’s current debate over whether transgender Texans should be able to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. The legislation, backed by conservative lawmakers, would restrict bathroom use in schools and local government buildings to what’s on a person’s birth certificate.

The National Football League has expressed concerns that passing such a bill could affect the league’s decision to host next year’s draft in Dallas, the chamber groups said. “Similarly, professional sports players’ associations may oppose SB 4, given the diversity of their memberships, and may withhold events from Texas.”

The constitutionality of SB 4 is still being weighed in two federal courts in Texas.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The border city of El Paso on Tuesday voted to add its name to the list of local governments that have joined a lawsuit to stop Texas’ immigration bill, Senate Bill 4, from going into effect. [link]
  • The Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the federal court case over Texas’ Senate Bill 4, arguing that the state is within its rights to adopt the anti-“sanctuary cities” law. [link]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

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