BY CHRIS KERR | May 25, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration expressed deep concern over reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon begin a month-long series of immigrant deportation raids. Incoming committee chairman, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, also voiced such concern.
Like the ICE enforcement actions conducted in early January, the upcoming operation is expected to focus on undocumented Central American mothers and children.
While recognizing the federal government’s role in upholding immigration laws, Bishop Elizondo warned against the underlying rationale behind the ICE enforcement actions. “Sending women and children back to Central America will not serve as an effective deterrent to migration because this is a humanitarian crisis and individuals from the region are being forced to flee for their lives,” Bishop Elizondo said.
Archbishop Gomez also noted that “The raids are yet another depressing sign of the failed state of American immigration policy.” While ICE is reportedly expected to target individuals with deportation orders, many of these cases raise due process concerns. Data shows many of the families with outstanding removal orders were issued such orders in their absence from court or without legal representation. As Bishop Elizondo noted in a January 2016 letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, the objection is to “the removal of any migrants who were apprehended without first confirming that they received actual meaningful opportunities to present their asylum claims at hearings in immigration court.”
“These operations spark panic among our parishes,” said Bishop Elizondo. “No person, migrant or otherwise, should have to fear leaving their home to attend church or school. No person should have to fear being torn away from their family and returned to danger.”
The statements by the bishops come as a broad range of faith groups have called attention to the use of raids to target Central American families. Last week the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and Ignatian Solidarity Network issued an action alert inviting advocates to send a message to President Obama and their members of Congress to disengage from the raid strategy.
Other faith-based organizations have made similar calls including Church World Service. “The women, children and families who are impacted by these raids are fleeing unspeakable terror. For them to be persecuted again in a country that prides itself on exemplifying welcome and hospitality is unconscionable. Our country is at its best when we are most welcoming,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service. “It is time that the Obama administration immediately end these raids and stop the terror that they inflict on our immigrant brothers and sisters. The protection of people from harm should never be a pawn of any political strategy; and sending people back into danger is not good public policy.”
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.