Immigration orders weaken core American values

Jan 26, 2017

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – Immigration-focused executive orders signed Jan. 25 by President Trump “greatly challenge and weaken the United States’ history and core value of offering refuge to the persecuted,” said Bishop Kevin W. Vann, chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., the nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration services agencies.

“As Catholics, we believe that immigration is sometimes necessary for people to care for their families and preserve human dignity,” said Bishop Vann, who heads the Diocese of Orange in California. “A just society protects these immigrants, our brothers and sisters. Too many of these executive orders veer far from our national ideals, presuming guilt over innocence, and risk depriving desperate people of due process rights and human dignity.”

Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, said the executive orders “were poorly conceived, based upon inaccurate presumptions and do not reflect who we are as a country.”

In the first of what are expected to be several executive orders related to immigration and refugees, the president ordered work to begin on constructing a wall the length of the Mexican border and a significant expansion of detention and deportation.

Just a few of the areas of the executive orders with which CLINIC took issue are:

  • Plans to ramp up detention of immigrants while their legal cases are in process: “Detention is detrimental to the people detained, not necessary to ensure appearance at immigration proceedings, and much more costly than alternatives,” said Atkinson. “It is abusive and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

    Especially with the shortage of immigration judges, people awaiting their day in court could be languishing for years in dehumanizing conditions.

    As part of the CARA Pro Bono Family Detention Project in Dilley, Texas, for the last two years, CLINIC has helped provide legal representation for vulnerable families who have fled violence in Central America, sought asylum in the United States and been detained in harsh conditions. Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement is under court order to stop detaining children, the practice has continued.
     
  • A dramatic increase in the scope of enforcement priorities, which goes far beyond focusing on non-citizens with serious criminal convictions, is a threat to due process. “President Trump’s emphasis on using state and local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration laws is a step in the wrong direction,” said Atkinson. “The president is reviving the Secure Communities program and 287(g) agreements that have been widely criticized for leading to increased racial profiling and a lack of oversight and damaging relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities.”

    Local police know what is best for their communities, she said. “The federal government should not force local police to take actions that make their communities less safe. Local governments have no legal obligations to execute federal enforcement priorities.”

    Cities are safer when there is trust between the people and law enforcement, she added. “Under this measure, undocumented crime victims will be afraid to come forward and report crimes for fear of being detained and handed over to ICE for removal.”
     
  • Threats to penalize communities that offer sanctuary to immigrants. According to a new study by Tom Wong of the University of San Diego, crime rates are significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to comparable non-sanctuary counties. The data reflects that communities are safer when law enforcement agencies do not become entangled in federal immigration enforcement efforts and that economies are stronger in sanctuary counties. When households remain intact it is often easier for family members to contribute to their communities.
     
  • Expedited removal, including for asylum seekers and other vulnerable people at the expense of due process protections. A focus on rushing deportation is bound to result in violations of human rights. “A cherished American principle is that someone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty,” Atkinson said. “Immigration violations are not even crimes, but violations of civil codes. Expedited removal eliminates the chance for people to defend themselves, in some cases meaning they are returned to dangerous situations in their home countries.”

Don’t miss our press conference Wednesday, Feb. 1, with several other Catholic organizations.

Feb. 1, 2017 | 11 a.m.

Casa Italiana at Holy Rosary Church
595 3rd St, NW
Washington, DC 20001

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Contact Patricia Zapor for details.