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September 18, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – At a time when so many issues and crises are grabbing the attention of the U.S. public, about 200 organizations that work with and advocate for immigrants and refugees in the United States have endorsed an immigration reform plan that they hope will be a blueprint for the next administration. 

“There’s no doubt that our immigration laws need to be changed, to be worked out,” said Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, immigration attorney. During a September 15, 2020 presentation, she reviewed immigration reform efforts from the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted amnesty to many people who lived in the United States without legal status, through 2013, when a “very fine” immigration reform bill initiated by four Republican and four Democratic Senators failed to pass in the House of Representatives. 

But since 2016, Sister Attracta said, those efforts have been undermined – and hopes are that efforts to reform the immigration system will be strengthened in the 2021 Immigration Plan. While outlining the 10 steps of the plan, Sister Attracta also described the current situation in which immigrants endure much suffering, discrimination, insecurity, and fear of being deported to their native country – which many fled for their lives.

For example, step one in the plan is to “prioritize equity and harm reduction in the immigration system.” This step includes reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was designed to help young immigrants – ages 15 to 30 – to apply for deferral of deportation, giving them time to get a social security card and a driver’s license – and work toward legal status, Sister Attracta said. Most of the “Dreamers” applying for DACA have known the United States as their only home and fear the prospect of being deported to a country they don’t know.

President Trump called for an end to DACA in 2017, she said, and while the Supreme Court in June 2020 let the program stand, it has been diminished and does not allow for new applicants.

Step 10, Sister Attract said, would “restore and improve the U.S asylum, refugee, and other humanitarian programs.” The United States has accepted fewer and fewer refugees into the country, she said. In addition, the system of offering asylum to people facing persecution and death in their native countries has been dismantled. 

Starting in 2018-2019, “asylum seekers were sent back into Mexico to live on the streets and in tents with no access to counsel” until they received a court date for their case to be heard. Many are now sent back to what is designated as “the safest place” in Central America to await court hearing – yet none of these nations are truly safe because of struggles with war or other crises, she said.

Sister Attracta concluded by encouraging her viewers educate themselves on immigration issues; speak out on the injustices of the system and the benefits that immigrants bring to the United States; advocate with legislators for a just immigration system; and “welcome the refugee, immigrant, and asylum seeker.”

Read the 2021 Immigration Plan and watch the video of Sister Attracta’s presentation below. 
 

Presentation Slides (PDF)


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By Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP
Outreach Program Director, Gianna House

September 15, 2020, Detroit – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, struggles with job loss and worries about obtaining vital necessities were real and far-reaching. Gianna House Pregnancy and Parenting Center in Eastpointe, whose mission is to provide support and resources to mothers in need, looked at creative ways to continue to serve these women during this unprecedented time.

Gianna House opened a residence for pregnant teens ages 13 through 17 just over a year ago. While we did not accept new residents during the first, uncertain months of the pandemic, we continued to provide loving support to our resident teen and celebrated the August birth of her beautiful, healthy son. Teens may come any time during their pregnancy and remain up to a year after birthing to continue their academic education and gain parenting and life skills.

In addition, for the past five years, Gianna House has been a resource for underserved mothers of any age through a vibrant Outreach Program. In looking for ways to continue to help while our center was quarantining, our Outreach Program was expanded to include online learning opportunities for community mothers to continue to attend our classes. Mothers who take classes receive “baby bucks,” which they can use to purchase items from our closets, such as diapers, wipes, and clothing – all donated to Gianna House throughout the year.

Starting in May, modified classes were led virtually by our volunteer facilitators. As each class is completed, mothers email reflections on what they learned in class and what they need to purchase for their babies. Each Monday they pick up their items at designated times from the Gianna House porch. 

“I found Gianna House very soon after COVID hit my community,” said Carmen, a mother from Macomb County, Michigan. “I was newly pregnant and very nervous. I had recently lost my stable job and money has been very tight with the conditions of the world shutdown. I was home, which made it very easy to conduct classes online and to earn diapers and other baby supplies for my son. I’m very happy GH is here to help women and families like me. They are a true blessing.”

Myleka, the single mom of five children, ages 2 to 12, from Wayne County, Michigan, also describes Gianna House as a blessing because of its online courses. “Not only did Gianna House bless us mentally but they have also helped by blessing us with the necessities that we need for our little ones,” she said. “Being able to reach out for help at a time like this and receive it was a real blessing. I would like to thank Gianna House and all of their sponsors for helping me and my family. Thank you for thinking about moms and families like mine during this pandemic!”

Finding teachers with the capability to conduct online classes was a bit challenging, but networking with established groups such as CARE of Southeast Michigan, Ascension Health System’s Southeast Michigan Community Health, and Community Housing Network, Inc., has been a great help. It works both ways – they provide great classes and we refer moms to their programs.

“As part of our national mission at Ascension, our goal is to serve the most vulnerable populations,” said Neefesha Marion, LLMSW, of Ascension Infant Mortality Program’s Jubilee Parenting Support Group. “It has been a great experience working with Gianna House, providing women and families parenting education.”

CARE’s Early Learning and Parent Education Director, Tonia Pauli, thanked Gianna House for its “unwavering support of the moms in our community. Through our state’s COVID-19 closures, Gianna House has collaborated with us to continue to provide workshops and education.” 

Gianna House is now accepting applications for new residents, using safety procedures to ensure the continued health of all staff and residents. For more information please call 586-445-0440 or visit www.giannahouse.org.


 

 

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