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Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Immigration Attorney, Outlines 10 Steps to Immigration Reform

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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