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.
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:
“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.
January 9, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – The Doctrine of Discovery, a series of 15th-century papal bulls that gave European Christian explorers the right to subdue native, non-Christian people, still has an impact on the rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas, particularly in the area of land rights.
A group of about 50 Adrian Dominican Sisters heard more about this sobering situation on January 5 when they viewed The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. The presentation was hosted by the Laudare Mission Group, a group of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates who are part of the Chicago-based Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter.
Sister Marilee Ewing, OP, a member of the Laudare Mission Group, welcomed the audience, noting that the presentation was part of Mission Group and Chapter’s efforts to educate the Sisters and Associates on the Doctrine of Discovery. The ultimate goal is to reaffirm the 2014 Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) plea that Pope Francis rescind the bulls “to repudiate the period of Christian history that used religion to justify political and personal violence against indigenous nations and peoples.”
Directed by Sheldon Wolfchild and co-produced by author Steven T. Newcomb, the production explores the origins of the Doctrine of Discovery and its implications, even today, through Supreme Court rulings that deal with land ownership.
The Doctrine of Discovery originated in a time when non-Christians were seen as enemies of Christianity. The papal bulls charged European settlers into the Americas and Africa with converting the native peoples. A 1452 directive by King Alfonso permitted the settlers to subdue the native people of Africa who would not convert, and to “reduce them to slavery and take away their property,” according to the production.
In U.S. law, the Doctrine of Discovery was used as a precedent to keep Native Americans from claiming land that was taken from them. Chief Justice John Marshall, in the 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, ruled that colonists who claimed to have discovered tribal land had title to that land. As recently as 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court used the Doctrine of Discovery. In City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, the court allowed the City of Sherrill to sell what had been tribal land, claiming that the tribe did not have sovereignty over the land.
“This showing tonight was the first step in educating our Congregation about the Doctrine of Discovery,” said Sister Anele Heiges, OP, also a member of Laudare Mission Group. Sister Anele led a question and answer and discussion session after the presentation.
Sister Marilee noted that the issue of the Doctrine of Domination – and efforts to rescind it – is directly related to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2016 General Chapter Enactment on relationships and diversity.
Feature photo: Sister Marilee Ewing, OP, welcomes Sisters and friends to the Weber Center Auditorium to view The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code.