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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)
June 22, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council supports the following statement of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) on the Supreme Court’s DACA ruling and the renewed commitment to the work of dismantling systems that oppress people of color.
The LCWR’s statement is as follows:
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is grateful that the Supreme Court struck down President Trump's attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Court's ruling safeguards the right of 700,000 DACA recipients to live and work in the country that is their home. This is an enormous victory for the immigrant youth who have led the challenge to the Trump administration's attempt to end the program that has protected our colleagues, students, neighbors, and friends from the threat of deportation.
DACA recipients have long contributed to our communities and our economy. They are teachers and engineers, specialist and essential workers of every kind. Nearly 30,000 DACA recipients are among the healthcare workers combating the outbreak of COVID-19 working to prevent the spread of the virus and to save the lives of those infected.
While we welcome the Court's ruling, we recognize that this is not a permanent solution. We call on members of Congress to move expeditiously to pass legislation that will provide lasting stability for DACA recipients, those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Dreamers, their families and our communities. It is long past time to enact a Dream Act that provides a path to citizenship without including funding for detention, deportation, or border militarization, or provisions that would limit opportunities for family reunification. The House of Representatives has already passed the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (HR 6). It is time for the Senate to do the same.
Catholic sisters will continue to advocate for bipartisan legislation that addresses the injustices in our current immigration system. We will continue to stand in solidarity with our black and brown neighbors who seek the justice and dignity that is their right.
We note that this decision comes as Black people and their allies have courageously organized to demand an end to police brutality, systemic racism, and white supremacy. Our commitment to the gospel mandate to uphold the dignity of all people requires that we recommit ourselves to the work of dismantling all those systems that oppress people of color and to advocate for Black lives and the protection of immigrants.
(LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has approximately 1350 members, who represent about 80 percent of the women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today's world.)
Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; and Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilors.