As we celebrate our country’s birthday and independence on the Fourth of July, many of us will contemplate what it means to be Americans. Being an American for the foreign-born goes beyond the ability to vote in elections or obtain a U.S. passport. Many immigrants already feel American at heart long before they take their first step to becoming naturalized U.S. citizens – a pre-requisite to vote and obtain a passport. Many of them have integrated into their communities long before – going to weekly church services, volunteering in their children’s schools, and paying their taxes.
There are currently about 539 women and children detained at the temporary family detention center run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Artesia, New Mexico. This facility is one of three family detention centers currently operating in the United States. The women and children detained at the facility are asylum seekers and a vast majority of them are survivors of violence and sexual assault. Having recently returned from Artesia myself, supporting staff and volunteers assisting detainees, my thoughts go out to detained victims of abuse this October, Domestic V
The Midwest has a history as a gateway for immigrants even if not as heralded as port cities in the east and west. Think of Chicago with its diverse ethnic population as early as the late 1800’s, especially among Eastern Europeans, that continues today with the largest Bosnian refugee population in the country. Think also of Detroit, Motor City, at the turn of the last century when Ford Motor Company attracted immigrant workers from Southern Europe and the Middle East to build the earliest automobiles. Detroit now has the largest Middle Eastern population in the United States, most recently welcoming tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees.
Since its inception two hundred years ago, the story of the Archdiocese of New York is an immigrant story – a tradition which continues today. For more than 30 years, the Archdiocese of New York has provided services to the foreign-born, including refugee resettlement and immigration legal services, through Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS). As the immigrant and refugee population in the area has grown and changed, so has CCCS.
Each year on September 17, we come together as a nation of immigrants to celebrate Citizenship Day. This is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of being a U.S. citizen and recognize the many lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in our communities who are on their journey to becoming U.S. citizens.