The possibility of an executive order by President Obama to prevent deportation of many undocumented persons while the executive order is in effect is a cause for hope. Among the most sympathetic undocumented persons are students educated in the United States and you cannot help but cheer for them. At the same time, what is frightening is the suggestion that while these children may get relief from deportation, their undocumented parents may not.
Those who argue for support of families might want to consider this.
Do children, both adults and minors, need their parents? Look around.
With fear of stating the obvious, children need their parents, and parents sustain even their adult offspring in many ways. They offer help with childcare, for example, and as grandparents they have a unique bond with grandchildren. They pass on the faith and ethnic traditions that root the younger generations. They stand as role models of self-sacrifice in a consumerist and often me-first society.
Catholics of all stripes, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, know family issues are important. One hopes they will stand behind President Obama’s efforts with proposed executive orders and other efforts to fix the broken immigration system and hold families together. It is a simple goal with great ramifications and it is one that Catholics need to get behind.
Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, California, chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., outlined a wise course of action in a September 9 letter to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Among the requests made in the letter, the bishops ask that the government:
Protect immigrants with strong community ties and equities in the U.S. who have lived in the U.S. for ten years or longer. “They already have built equities in our communities and have contributed our economy and social fabric,” the bishops said. “Providing them protection from deportation would permit them to come out of the shadows and fully contribute to our society as they get processed through the legal system.”
Help parents of U.S. citizens. Separating parents from their U.S. born children is “heart-wrenching,” the bishops said. Parents face the decision “to leave their children in the United States with families or friends, knowing they will not see them for a long time, or take them to a country they do not know.” These children are “the future leaders of our country,” the bishops wrote. Their parents “have no doubt…raised a family, bought homes, and started businesses—which would warrant consideration and the use of discretion in their removal.”
Support parents of children who in 2012 were awarded deferred action as children who entered the United States with their parents as minors. Their parents should not be separated from their children as the offspring achieve the American dream of high school and college diplomas and stand ready to give back to the country that educated them.
Deal with the backlog of visa requests. We already have people living in the United States who have been approved for family based and employment based visas. How difficult can it be to unclog the visa pipeline?
Do not count spouses and children when deciding the number of persons who can be included in petitions for families seeking visas. The bishops urged an approach that facilitates families being “reunited in a more expeditious manner” than we have now.
Expand the number of persons who can be awarded visas if they can “prove extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or children,” the bishops said.
Consider individuals who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) “to have been ‘inspected and admitted’ to the United States so that they may, if otherwise eligible, apply to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident,” the bishops said. “Many TPS grantees are long-term residents of the United States and have established roots in their communities including families and lawful employment.”
Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M., is a member of the Northeast Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and U.S. Church Correspondent for America Magazine.