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Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, JD, Encourages Action on Behalf of Immigrants and Dreamers

November 1, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – While the United States is known as a nation of immigrants, recent federal policies have made it much more difficult for today’s immigrants to obtain permanent resident status, for people from Central America to be granted asylum, and for “Dreamers” who may have only known life in the United States to be safe from deportation.

That was the gist of a presentation October 29, 2019, by immigration attorney Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, JD, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Immigration Assistance Office. Sister Attracta provided background on a number of specific immigration policies, described their current status, and in many cases suggested actions that the public can take to bring about just immigration policies.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a policy built on “prosecutorial discretion,” delaying the deportation of young adults – known as “Dreamers” – who had come into the United States at a very young age with parents who did not have the proper immigration papers, Sister Attracta said. Since 2012, when the DACA act was passed, she said, about 800,000 young adults were granted temporarily relief from the threat of being deported. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA on September 5, 2017.“We’re talking about people – many of whom are very wonderful professional people,” Sister Attracta said. “They have gone to school, held down two jobs, and worked really hard. Many of our DACA people are doctors and physician’s assistants, working where most U.S.-born professionals would not dream of going to work.” Many of the Dreamers have only known life in the United States and could face deportation to their parents’ country of origin, which would be foreign to them. 

“The fate of DACA will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court,” beginning with arguments on November 12, 2019, Sister Attracta said. “Between now and November 12 we need to pray very, very genuinely from our hearts to open the hearts of the Supreme Court justices so they do what Jesus would do – look at these people as human beings who need to be treated with respect.”

Sister Attracta announced a novena – developed by Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation – that begins on Sunday, November 3, and concludes on Monday, November 11. She also encouraged people who live in the Adrian area to attend a prayer service for Dreamers at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, November 10, 2019, at the St. Joseph campus of Holy Family Parish, 415 Ormsby Street, Adrian.

Asylum

Sister Attracta noted that asylum seekers – especially those from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua – have been in the news because of changes in the U.S. administration’s asylum policy and its treatment of those who have come to the U.S. border without formal papers.

Asylum is defined by international law as pertaining to “people fleeing persecution in their home country where the government will not or cannot protect them from harm,” Sister Attracta said. Those seeking asylum “must show past persecution or fear of future persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group,” she said.

The U.S. government no longer allows people seeking asylum to wait in the United States for their court hearing, Sister Attracta said. Instead, they must return to Mexico or apply at a “safe” country closest to their home country. But, Sister Attracta said, while the United States considers Mexico and the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to be safe, they actually are not. 

It has been the treatment of families seeking asylum that has garnered the most attention, Sister Attracta said. Under the U.S. government’s zero tolerance policy, “all adults crossing the U.S. without proper documentation will be criminally prosecuted,” she said. In the past, such offenses were considered civil rather than criminal violations.

In June 2018, the U.S. policy of separating families at the border and holding children as young as less than a year old in confinement “shocked the world with its cruelty,” Sister Attracta said, adding that the public later learned that this policy had already been in practice a year before it became known. Although the courts ordered that this practice be stopped, many of the children have not yet been reunited with their families, Sister Attracta noted

Sister Attracta encouraged action to bring about immigration reform in the United States:

  • Contact your U.S. representative and senator, urging legislation that would ensure that asylum seekers can stay in the United States to await their court hearing.

  • Speak to your legislators on the need to retain the Flores Settlement, which requires that children be kept in as humane a condition as possible and that their time of incarceration be limited.

“Pope Francis urged us to embrace what he terms a ‘culture of encounter,’ face-to-face encounter with others, which challenges us with their pain, their pleas, and their joy,” Sister Attracta said. “The Christian way of life is to pray, be available, and passionately act for the common good. If we respond as Pope Francis calls us, we must look at the root cause of our immigration problem. We must work together to fix our very broken immigration laws.”

Watch Sister Attracta’s complete presentation in the video below.


Statement of Adrian Dominican Sisters on Cruel Treatment of Children at US-Mexico Border

June 25, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued the following statement concerning the treatment of immigrant children at the border between the United States and Mexico.

We denounce in the strongest possible terms the unconscionable mistreatment of children on the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump Administration, and call on our elected leaders to take all measures necessary to provide them with adequate food, shelter, and healthcare – and, most importantly, to reunite them with their families.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14).

That children “such as these” – infants, toddlers, youngsters – reportedly have been subject to horrific overcrowding, hunger, lice infestations, sleeping on concrete floors, and other unhygienic and inhumane conditions is an assault on our human decency and fundamental moral values. It should have all Americans, as the prophets of old, rending our garments and weeping in anguish at the depravity. 

It is not enough that children at the facility in Clint, Texas, are being moved to other facilities after the spotlight of public attention has exposed the scandalous way this Administration is treating these migrant children. What other facilities are holding children under similarly harsh conditions? These and other children must be reunited with their parents or with relatives residing in the United States who must be able to claim them safely.

This is not the first time we have learned about the inhumanity visited upon children at the border. In 2018, the international community was aghast at stories about this Administration’s treatment of migrant children, separating them from their families and placing them in cages for days on end in clear violation of the Flores Agreement, which provides that children may not be confined for more than 20 days. 

As Members of Congress take steps to address the urgent humanitarian crisis on the border created by this Administration’s venomous approach to immigration, the top priority must be to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of God’s beloved – children such as these – now and into the future.   

Members of the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters are Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Sister Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise García, OP, General Councilors.


Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Director of Immigration Assistance at the Adrian Dominican Sisters was recently featured in a news story by NBC 24 News (Toledo, Ohio). Click here to view the story.


 

 

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