The Trump administration is apparently moving forward with a nationwide deportation operation rumored to begin this weekend. It targets undocumented migrants under final deportation orders and will include “collateral deportations” of other undocumented persons who may be at the scene of enforcement raids. The deportation plan, first announced in June then quickly postponed, has provoked opposition from congressional Democrats and raised questions about the best use of Immigration and Customs Enforcement resources during a time of perceived crisis at the border. Though the numbers of asylum seekers and migrants from Central America reaching the U.S. southern border have risen dramatically this year, in June border apprehensions plummeted, suggesting the migration north may be stalling.
The raids target individuals whose immigration cases were fast-tracked by judges in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and other major U.S. cities with significant immigrant populations. The threat of such raids actually being initiated this time is sufficiently credible that the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., used its Twitter account to recirculate a “know your rights” checklist for undocumented residents detailing how to respond to a raid in order to best ensure their chances of thwarting a deportation order. It begins: “Do not open the door… Ask for identification… Ask the officials if they have a warrant.”
A spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said on July 12 that the conference was monitoring developments on immigration closely. The spokesperson added that the U.S. bishops “stand with our migrant sisters and brothers” and were ready to forcefully advocate on their behalf. Noting a previous statement from the conference opposing the ICE raids, the spokesperson said U.S. bishops were prepared to continue to speak out against widespread deportations.
A spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the U.S. bishops “stand with our migrant sisters and brothers” and were ready to forcefully advocate on their behalf.
The deportation plan was first announced by the Trump administration on June 17. Speaking in reaction on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 22, the Most Reverend Joe Vásquez of Austin, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, criticized the proposed raids.
“We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner,” Bishop Vásquez said. “However, broad enforcement actions instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration. Instead, we should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good. We stand ready to work with the administration and Congress to achieve those objectives.”
He added, “During this unsettling time, we offer our prayers and support to our brothers and sisters, regardless of their immigration status, and recognizing their inherent dignity as children of God.”
Anticipating the raids, on July 11 the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, in a letter signed by 235 religious leaders representing 51 faith-based organizations, urged the passage of the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act. The measure would expand and codify the Department of Homeland Security’s existing “sensitive locations” policy, preventing ICE, Customs and Border Protection and any immigration enforcement individual from engaging in immigration enforcement actions at or within 1,000 feet of locations like schools, hospitals, courthouses and places of worship without prior approval and “exigent circumstances.” The act is meant to assure immigrants that they will be able to worship, access education and receive medical care without fear of deportation.
Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, is among many faith-based advocates objecting to this weekend’s planned enforcement raids and the policy of large-scale deportation it may inaugurate. In a statement supporting the passage of the Sensitive Locations Act, he said, “The Office of the Inspector General and several members of Congress have witnessed and disclosed photos of the mistreatment and basic human right violations of children and parents in detention centers at our southern border. Yet, the Trump administration is moving forward with family separation raids.
“This is abuse, plain and simple. As people of faith, we will not stand for it. We must invest in common sense and humane solutions that do no further harm to our brothers and sisters.”
“We are called to respect the dignity of every human person no matter their immigration status or station in life.”
Carol Zinn, S.S.J., executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, likewise deplored the treatment of children at the U.S. southern border as immoral. “Now we hear that President Trump’s long-threatened raids will begin this weekend, causing more harm to children and families,” she said. “Plans to ‘sweep up’ thousands of our undocumented neighbors without regard to the children these parents would leave behind or the communities that would be devastated by their loss is unconscionable.
“Catholic teaching is clear,” Sister Zinn said. “We are called to respect the dignity of every human person no matter their immigration status or station in life. As women of faith we are compelled to speak out about these injustices and to recommit ourselves to the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and to stand with those in need.”
Other advocates for undocumented U.S. residents and their families have taken to the courts to attempt to halt the rumored weekend raids. On July 12 the American Civil Liberties Union, representing the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, the Central American Resource Center and other immigration advocates, sued the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. The complaint argues that the Constitution requires the government to bring unrepresented individuals before an immigration judge, so they can have a fair day in court before they face deportation.
“Our government is attempting to detain and deport families who came to the Mexico-U.S. border seeking asylum, and who were never given the opportunity to even present their case before an immigration judge,” said Conchita Cruz, co-executive director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. “For those seeking safe haven at the Mexico-U.S. border, deportation can be a death sentence. We must ensure each and every asylum seeker has their day in court.”
According to the A.C.L.U. statement, the Trump administration “asserts the power to deport refugees because they failed to appear in immigration court. However, as the lawsuit describes in detail, these refugees failed to appear because of massive bureaucratic errors and, in some cases, deliberate misdirection by immigration enforcement agencies. The agencies’ flagrant and widespread errors made it impossible for people to know when their hearings were being held.”
According to a 2017 report from the Center for Migration Studies in New York, six million U.S.-born citizens share three million households with undocumented residents—typically their parents. Of these U.S.-born citizens, 5.7 million are children.
The C.M.S. report contemplated the impact of nationwide deportation raids and concluded that widespread civic and economic dislocation would result. Among its findings: If just one-third of the U.S.-born children of undocumented residents remained in the United States following a mass deportation program, the cost of raising those children would total $118 billion.
With content from the Associated Press