The Supreme Court and Immigration

The highest court in the land will rule on a case that calls President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration into question. Here is some background and a summary of the issues it raises.

On April 18, the Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Texas, a case originally brought by Texas and 25 other states against the federal government about the legality of President Obama’s November 2014 executive order offering temporary deportation relief to as many as 4.9 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Soon after the order was issued, a case was filed in Brownsville, Texas, and Judge Andrew Hanen ruled against the order, thereby blocking its implementation. Two appeals since have upheld that ruling, and in December 2015, the Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, and they agreed.

President Obama’s executive order was a response to years of legislative gridlock and polarization in Congress on the issue of immigration reform. The order offers temporary stays of deportation via two programs for as many as five million undocumented migrants. First, if implemented, it would establish Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), providing deportation postponement to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents and the ability to apply for work visas. Secondly, it would expand an existing program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which applies to non-citizens who came to this country when they were under the age of sixteen; qualified applicants could obtain a 3-year deferment rather than the current term of two years. Regardless of the Supreme Court decision, the existing DACA program is still operating and accepting applications.

DACA, initiated through an executive order in June 2012, was an attempt to make good on some of the promises of the DREAM Act, which failed to pass. Even so, these young people—a constituency of 1.2 million—often call themselves DREAMers, borrowing the aspirational language and intent of that legislation, and many are active in advocating for laws that keep families together and provide opportunities for new immigrants. In July 2013, Father Sean prayed with a group who had entered Mexico to cross back into the U.S. as a means of drawing attention to the need, both logical and dire, for immigration reform.

In United States v. Texas, the argument put forth by Texas and the other states is that the order imposes an undue burden on the states to take on the expense of providing subsidized driver’s licenses and other benefits to qualified immigrants. They deem this a form of financial harm. And though they concede that the Executive can designate how to enforce immigration law on a case-by-case basis, they contend that the president does not have the constitutional authority to designate how the law is applied to broad categories of people. In so doing, the argument goes, the president is making law rather than enforcing it.

The position of the Obama administration is that the states do not have standing to bring the suit; the order is directed at immigrants, not the states, and state governments do not incur any obligations or harm due to this action. More precisely, the states determine how—and how much—they can underwrite federally issued laws or actions, and to grant standing to sue over any federal law that increases state costs sets a worrisome precedent, opening the door to other challenges.

The administration also asserts that it is not creating new law—the order does not grant exemption, amnesty or citizenship, but rather allows for temporary stays and delineates enforcement priorities for determining who is deported and who is not, a constitutionally mandated function of the Executive called “prosecutorial discretion.” In Arizona v. United States, a 2012 Supreme Court case, the court upheld the right of the executive branch to exercise discretion in deciding how to prioritize deportations; this latitude is, in fact, inherent in how immigration officials make deportation decisions every day, and would not be considered “overstepping” when employed by the president.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June. Here are the issues affecting how the case is interpreted:

  • Executive Actions on Immigration: President Obama is not the first chief executive to put forth actions concerning immigration and offer guidelines on how to interpret and apply immigration law. Every president for the past 50 years has granted some form of temporary deportation relief through executive order.
  • Budget Limitations: Congress approves, extends or limits various government programs and activities by controlling the purse strings. Practically speaking, the funds appropriated for deportation only allow for about 400,000 returns and removals each year, far less than the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S. Not only does the current budget scenario require discretion about who is deported; Congress has implicitly approved the non-deportation of the vast majority of undocumented individuals by not providing the resources to implement such a policy.
  • Politics: Though the case is being heard in a legal venue and context, the recent history of immigration reform has been highly controversial and divisive in Congress and the media. Congressional stalling, along partisan lines, was a major reason behind President Obama’s decision to issue the executive order in the first place. Even now, the order does not preclude passing new immigration laws, but Congress continues to be unresponsive.
  • Public Sentiment: Over the years, polls have consistently shown that two-thirds or more of the American public favor programs that provide discretionary guidance about how to apply immigration law and that designate a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
  • Supreme Court Vacancy: With Justice Scalia’s seat remaining vacant, there is a possibility of an evenly split court. If the decision is 4-4, the earlier federal district court ruling stands, and the executive order remains blocked. Another possibility is that the Court may decide to postpone a ruling, and reconsider the case once a full complement of justices is in place.

Whatever the Supreme Court’s decision, it may well be short-lived. Even if they overturn the present injunction and President Obama’s order goes forward, a new president will take office six months later, and can rescind, expand or change the way existing immigration law is applied. This puts those eligible for deportation relief in a distressing bind if the executive order is implemented with mere months left in President Obama’s term. If the next president leaves the order unchanged or chooses to expand on it, coming forward and applying for relief could provide a more stress-free window of time to seek legal status while remaining with family and in stable work situations. On the other hand, if the order is rescinded or eligibility is reigned in, immigrants who come forward would have essentially informed the government of their undocumented status and be subject to deportation. Once again, the long-term solution lies with Congress who has the power and responsibility to create more humane immigration legislation. Until then, millions of immigrant lives continue to hang in the balance.

Father Sean prays with young DREAMers at the Arizona-Sonora border in 2013.

Father Sean prays with young DREAMers at the Arizona-Sonora border in 2013.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Praying Together at the KBI

At the Kino Border Initiative, prayers are offered in so many instances. Offered in gratitude or supplication, joy or sorrow, as expressions of solidarity with others in the comedor or loved ones far away, these invocations provide spiritual support and are a foundational part of the KBI’s message and mission.

Each KBI board meeting opens with a prayer led by Father Sean. This one, in English and Spanish, is a testament to the value of compassion in this important border work. We share it here so that our readers can also be part of an extended circle of prayer and support that sustains the migrants we serve and all of us.

Value of Compassion/Valor de Compasión:

We believe that/Creemos que…

  • Our work with migrants, and the communities that receive them, requires patience, listening, empathy and caring./Nuestro trabajo con migrantes, y las comunidades que los acogen, exige paciencia, la capacidad para escuchar, empatía y cuidado.
  • Direct experience with the suffering of migrants has the ability to change the hearts and minds of people./Experiencia directa con el sufrimiento de los/las migrantes puede cambiar los corazones y mentalidades de la gente.
  • Education is critical to creating empathy for the migrant experience./La educación es crítica para suscitar empatía por la experiencia del migrante.

Pope Francis – Jubilee Year of Mercy/Papa Francisco – Año Jubilar de Misericordia:

“I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy.”

<<Yo presento, por eso, este Año Extraordinario Jubilar de Misericordia dedicado a vivir en nuestras vidas cotidianas la misericordia que el Padre nos brinda constantemente a todos nosotros.  En este Año Jubilar, dejemos que Dios nos sorprenda.  Él nunca se cansa de abrir las puertas de su corazón y de repetir que nos ama y quiere compartir su amor con nosotros.  La Iglesia siente la necesidad urgente de proclamar la misericordia de Dios.  Su vida es auténtica y creíble sólo cuando ella se hace un heraldo convincente de la misericordia.>>

Reflection Questions/Preguntas de Reflexión:

How do I see God’s mercy at work in the Kino Border Initiative?  How can I be an instrument of that mercy in the KBI and in my own life?

¿Cómo veo la presencia de la misericordia de Dios en la Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera?  ¿Cómo puedo ser instrumento de esa misericordia en la Iniciativa Kino y en mi propia vida?

Before each meal at the comedor, everyone prays together. Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Before each meal at the comedor, everyone prays together.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

A Fair Day in Court for Kids

For the many thousands of immigrant children seeking asylum in the U.S., access to legal counsel is not currently guaranteed. The result is that children—some as young as four or five—are expected to attend asylum court proceedings without the benefit of an attorney!

To address this critical issue, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016. This legislation would ensure legal representation for children and other asylum seekers, and uphold due process in these court proceedings.

Please join the KBI in supporting this important legislative action by contacting your congressional representatives to let them know your position. Jesuit Refugee Service/USA provides an easy online form to make your voice heard. Here is the link, with thanks for your help in advocating on behalf of immigrant children: http://cqrcengage.com/jesuit/app/write-a-letter?2&engagementId=194173&ep=AAAAC2Flc0NpcGhlcjAx3Pd5BXBS6ub4yW8VwMZTw_7iRVoI6F5UmIdUOWsezAOLLFdydxkzXdjlwqss701oU_SH1E0PpoqWxw-ELYcn_VVmGHrHJfjgyiAz0GjKoxI&lp=0.

You can also read the April 29, 2016 letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch sent by 177 organizations, the KBI among them, calling for an immediate halt to conducting deportation proceedings against children who have no legal counsel: https://www.aclu.org/letter/sign-letter-attorney-general-loretta-lynch-re-counsel-children-deportation-proceedings.

Children at the comedor are the most vulnerable of those the KBI serves. They require the support and skill of a legal representative during asylum court proceedings, and the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act will ensure that.

Children at the comedor are the most vulnerable of those the KBI serves. They require the support and skill of a legal representative during asylum court proceedings, and the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act will ensure that.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

KBI May Announcements

As part of the KBI’s advocacy efforts, staff members travel to meetings, conferences and government offices to share information and ideas. And the 2015 Annual Report, outlining the work and successes of the past year, will be available this summer.

  • Representing the KBI: Last month, Director of Education an Advocacy Joanna Williams participated in the quarterly Customs and Border Protection–NGO working group meeting held in McAllen, Texas. The two-and-a-half day gathering included tours of the McAllen Border Patrol Station, the Ursula Special Processing Center (where unaccompanied minors and families are held as they await transfers) and the border area. Discussions covered topics of major concern, such as adequate screening for asylum eligibility, detention conditions, and use of force by Border Patrol agents.
  • Presenting the KBI’s Findings: Migrant Advocate and Volunteer Coordinator Marla Conrad gave a presentation in mid-April at a Washington, D.C. conference sponsored by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). As part of a panel discussion, she elaborated on research the KBI contributed to the recent WOLA report, An Uncertain Path: Justice for Crimes and Human Rights Violations against Migrants and Refugees in Mexico. Marla also visited several congressional offices to express concerns about abuses by Mexican immigration officials and an increase in violent crimes against migrants and refugees traveling through Mexico.

KBI Annual Report: This summer, the KBI will release its 2015 Annual Report, an overview of the reality at the border and the notable events and activities of the past year. Please look for the report in your mailbox soon, or email us to request a copy at ifuentes@kinoborderinitiative.org. Thanks to all our donors, volunteers and partner organizations who help the KBI respond to the crisis at the border with both urgency and compassion.

Joanna Williams on a tour of the border on a recent advocacy trip to McAllen, Texas.

Joanna Williams on a tour of the border on a recent advocacy trip to McAllen, Texas.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Immigration in the News

This month, we share news about the migrant experience and the immigration crisis from around the country and the world. There are encouraging stories, such as immigrant students seeking college educations and the sway of U.S. public opinion in favor of avenues to citizenship, as well as heartbreaking ones about family separation and the recent deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean. A couple highlight the work of the KBI. Please read on.

3.NewsLinks

Among our news links this month, a reflection on a KBI immersion experience. Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Immigration in the News

As the presidential election year heats up, this month’s news coverage includes stories of troubling developments, such as migrant children without legal representation in asylum cases, as well as encouraging examples of advocacy work. Other articles cover the migrant experience, the contributions of undocumented workers to the U.S. economy, the upcoming Supreme Court case on immigration and more.

A recently introduced bill would guarantee legal representation to unaccompanied migrant children or children seeking asylum. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

A recently introduced bill would guarantee legal representation to unaccompanied migrant children or children seeking asylum.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Up Close: In Their Own Words

Online Narratives about the Immigrant Experience

There is nothing quite as compelling as hearing a story from the person who has lived it. When immigrants tell their stories, it includes experiences, details and emotion that third-person accounts cannot convey as directly or powerfully. These first-person narratives enhance our understanding of the struggles endured, and engage our empathy by asking us to identify directly with the person telling the story. Here are some recent examples of immigrant stories, in written, photographic, audio and video formats.

Each migrant has a story to tell. Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Each migrant has a story to tell.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

The KBI in the Capitol

In late February, soon after the Holy Father’s visit to Mexico, KBI Director of Education and Advocacy Joanna Williams visited Washington, D.C. as part of a human rights delegation advocating for greater protection of migrant rights and accountability at the border.

Sometimes effective border work happens far from the border. On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Joanna Williams, the KBI’s Director of Education and Advocacy, joined colleagues from five other immigrant rights organizations as part of a Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) delegation. Their main objective was to promote the proposed Border Enforcement, Accountability, Oversight and Community Engagement Act (HR 3576), a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D–TX), who joined the delegation, and Congressman Steve Pearce (R–NM).

Breaking it down, HR 3576 calls for (1) better oversight in protecting the due process and human rights of those living in and passing through border communities and policies that help reduce migrant deaths, and (2) improved training, supervision and accountability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel to ensure greater safety for everyone. The BNHR delegation participants are in a unique position to provide vital data and border experience that members of Congress need as this bill is considered. The KBI, for example, collects both statistical and anecdotal information from the migrants who visit the comedor and stay at the shelter. This data was the basis for the KBI’s recent report published last fall with the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S., Our Values on the Line: Migrant Abuse and Family Separation at the Border (http://jesuits.org/Assets/Publications/File/REPORT_2015_Our_Values_on_the_Line.pdf). The report reveals distressing patterns of human and civil rights violations of migrants who are apprehended, detained and deported, which the bill, in part, sets out to address. Since the report’s release, the KBI has filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security about specific cases of abuse, and while in D.C., Joanna spoke about the challenges encountered in the complaint process.

During the three-day visit, Joanna and her colleagues met individually with various congressional leaders from both the House and the Senate, to cover as much ground as possible. They shared their knowledge about the U.S.–Mexico border, offered constructive suggestions, and conveyed the urgency of the situation. Joanna herself visited eight Senate offices, met with several D.C.-based NGOs to coordinate advocacy efforts in the evenings, and made a stop at the Mexican embassy as well. The delegation as a whole staged a press conference about the reasons for their Washington visit, and met with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a network of D.C.–based immigration advocacy organizations.

This is the detailed and demanding behind-the-scenes work that helps to create more just laws and a more humane immigration policy, both now and in the future. As part of its mission, the KBI has devoted critical time and resources to these legislative advocacy efforts, and the work has yielded life-saving results, such as halting the practice of night-time deportations. You can help by lending your voice and responding to our Call to Action, below.

CALL TO ACTION: Let your congressional representatives know you want to see more humane immigration legislation and show your support for HR 3576, a bipartisan law that would secure the constitutional rights of border communities and require greater accountability of U.S. border officials: http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/alert/?alertid=70479626.

NOTE: In addition to BNHR executive director Fernando García and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Joanna’s delegation colleagues included: David Stout, County Commissioner of the El Paso County Commissioners Court; Eddie Canales, Founder of the South Texas Human Rights Center; Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute; and Sister Rosemary Welsh, Executive Director of Casa de Misericordia, Mercy Ministries of Laredo. The Border Network for Human Rights is an El Paso-based organization advocating for human rights and immigration reform since 1998 with the support of over 7,000 members in West Texas and Southern New Mexico (http://bnhr.org/).

The KBI’s Joanna Williams (second from right) with the Border Network for Human Rights delegation in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

The KBI’s Joanna Williams (second from right) with the Border Network for Human Rights delegation in Washington, D.C.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

 

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Holy Week at the KBI

At the Kino Border Initiative, Holy Week, the highlight of the Church year, is observed with various activities, both celebratory and humble.

In many ways, Holy Week at the KBI is like any other. Two meals are served every day; the shelter is in full operation; migrants can receive medical attention for injuries; and the advocacy work on behalf of individuals, families and all who are displaced and seeking reunion with friends and family continues uninterrupted. But a mindfulness of the import of these days is palpable. For Catholics, this is a somber, reflective time, culminating in a great celebration of rebirth and renewal. Easter and the Resurrection offer hopeful encouragement to the migrants who suffer considerably on their journeys, holding out for the love and light of safety, livelihood and family.

Here are some KBI moments from Holy Week this year, with thanks to Mr. Hung Nguyen, S.J. and Sister María Engracia Robles Robles, M.E. of the KBI who took most of these pictures.

Father Samuel Lozano de los Santos, S.J. KBI Director of Programs in Mexico, prays with those gathered outside the comedor on Palm Sunday.

Father Samuel Lozano de los Santos, S.J. KBI Director of Programs in Mexico, prays with those gathered outside the comedor on Palm Sunday.

 

Father Samuel celebrates Palm Sunday Mass at the comedor.

Father Samuel celebrates Palm Sunday Mass at the comedor.

 

On Monday, 40 students from San José Parish pack the comedor for a presentation about how faith can guide good works at the border. KBI educational efforts continue, on both sides of the border, throughout the year.

On Monday, 40 students from San José Parish pack the comedor for a presentation about how faith can guide good works at the border. KBI educational efforts continue, on both sides of the border, throughout the year.

 

On Holy Thursday, Sister Alicia Guevara Pérez, M.E., one of the KBI’s Migrant Aid Coordinators, washes the feet of a migrant visitor to the comedor.

On Holy Thursday, Sister Alicia Guevara Pérez, M.E., one of the KBI’s Migrant Aid Coordinators, washes the feet of a migrant visitor to the comedor.

 

The ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday.

The ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday.

 

At the Holy Thursday meal, migrants share nourishing food and companionship. Two meals a day are offered at the comedor, 365 days a year.

At the Holy Thursday meal, migrants share nourishing food and companionship. Two meals a day are offered at the comedor, 365 days a year.

 

Fr. Sean commemorates Good Friday with the Adoration of the Cross.

Fr. Sean commemorates Good Friday with the Adoration of the Cross.

 

Long-time KBI volunteer Joel Caldera and a group of friends bring breakfast to the comedor and serve it every two weeks, this time on Holy Saturday.

Long-time KBI volunteer Joel Caldera and a group of friends bring breakfast to the comedor and serve it every two weeks, this time on Holy Saturday.

 

Migrant painters create works they can sell to help support themselves during an uncertain time.

Migrant painters create works they can sell to help support themselves during an uncertain time.

 

Painted wooden crosses become works of art and faith in the hands of these talented painters.

Painted wooden crosses become works of art and faith in the hands of these talented painters.

 

Children at the comedor on Holy Saturday.

Children at the comedor on Holy Saturday.

 

 On Easter Sunday, the crucifix on the comedor wall, strewn with rosaries, palm leaves and tokens, is a particularly apt reminder of both the suffering and promise of the journey.


On Easter Sunday, the crucifix on the comedor wall, strewn with rosaries, palm leaves and tokens, is a particularly apt reminder of both the suffering and promise of the journey.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Pope Francis in Mexico

The Pontiff’s visit to Mexico last month drew worldwide attention to major issues in that country—drug violence, economic justice, indigenous rights, and immigration.

On his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis prays beside crosses honoring those who died trying to cross the U.S.–Mexico border. Ciudad Juárez, February 17, 2016. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis traveled to Mexico “as a pilgrim,” to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the country’s patron saint. But in his words and activities over the 6-day tour, he is seen by the wider world as an advocate—for the poor, the victimized, and the vulnerable among us. During the week, the Holy Father covered 2,000 miles, celebrated 5 Masses (one at the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe), and gave 13 speeches in his native language of Spanish. In a Spanish-speaking country where 84% of the population identifies as Catholic, crowds were record-breaking, and his presence offered solace and solidarity to hundreds of thousands of people—and not only Catholics—throughout the nation.

The pope’s itinerary included cities in Mexico that align with the issues covered in his speeches: San Cristóbal de Las Casas, where indigenous peoples have been persecuted for decades; Morelia, where drug-related violence is rampant; and Ciudad Juárez, once a twin city to El Paso, Texas, now an emblem of worker exploitation, drug-related violence, and failed immigration policies. In Ciudad Juárez, Pope Francis offered a blessing at the border wall, and prayed for migrants who have lost their lives on their journeys. He celebrated Mass for more than 200,000 at the fairgrounds, 300 feet from the border, which was also broadcast in El Paso’s Sun Bowl Stadium. “This human tragedy of forced migration is a global phenomenon today,” he said. “This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families.”

From the beginning of his tenure, the Holy Father has placed immigration and human dignity for all at the center of his papacy; his first official visit was to Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Italy where migrants who have made the treacherous boat trip from Africa wait to move on. As Francis astutely observed, “The challenge of our age is immigration.” And today, with 60 million displaced people around the globe, migrants and refugees face greater challenges than ever before, not only in acclimating to their new homes and facing harsh political realities and cultural obstacles, but in surviving their journeys to begin with. Migrating from Mexico or Central America has become nothing less than life-threatening as migrants face crackdowns on both sides of the border. U.S. policies, such as militarization and the strategically-built border wall, have funneled travelers to the most perilous border terrain; in Mexico, the Plan Frontera Sur has resulted in more arrests along safer, well-traveled routes, forcing migrants (among them many women and children) to traverse dangerous areas dominated by organized crime.

Pope Francis has shone a spotlight on the crisis. A humble pilgrim he may be, but his words issue forth from a high-profile podium, and his advocacy on behalf of the poor, the unprotected and the displaced brings our failures into sharper focus. Though his approach is subtle and his criticisms implicit rather than overt, his observations about immigration and other issues amount to loving indictments as he speaks for those who are not granted a voice. Can we—as individuals, churches, societies and governments—respond lovingly in kind?

CALL TO ACTION:

To express your solidarity with Pope Francis and support for more humane immigration policies, sign this letter from the Ignatian Solidarity Network: http://ignatiansolidarity.net/pope2border/#letter.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

Here is further coverage of the Pope’s visit and related topics:

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest