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September 26, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters was among a number of immigration and faith-based organizations to sign on to a formal letter to President Joseph Biden, calling on him to end the implementation of Title 42 that aims to keep migrants out of the United States. The plan was to deliver the letter in the days leading up to September 26, 2021, declared by the Vatican as the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.
Enacted under the Public Health Service Act of 1944, Title 42 gives the executive branch the authority to close U.S. borders to migrants when the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems that the United States faces a “serious danger to the introduction of [a communicable] disease” into the nation.
Title 42 was implemented by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the presidential campaign, candidate Joseph Biden promised to create a more humane immigration policy.
The letter to President Biden – co-written by Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice – outlined four reasons that Title 42 should be rescinded.
“Title 42 is anti-science and perpetuates anti-immigrant tropes,” the letter states. “This policy continues even though epidemiologists and public health experts have indicated that Title 42 lacks health justification and actually threatens public health. This policy is a gross violation of human dignity of the migrants and refugees and this policy perpetuates a false, dehumanizing and hateful narrative that connects immigrants with disease.”
“Title 42 violates international human rights law and undermines U.S. credibility on the world stage,” the letter states. “Since the Trump Administration implemented the policy, no asylum seekers have been admitted resulting in a denial of their opportunity to begin the process of applying for asylum by being able to make a credible claim of threat in their home countries.”
Title 42 makes it impossible for President Biden to fulfill his campaign promise to “restore the soul of the nation” by returning to morality “in furtherance of just and humane law and policy.” The letter notes that Title 42 “fails to respect the dignity of refugees and migrants as well as not honoring the belief that every person images God.”
Title 42 is a violation of Jesus’ call to love one another. The letter calls on President Biden to heed the call of Pope Francis in his message for the 2021 World Day for Migrants and Refugees, to “make no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”
Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Immigration Assistance, pointed to Title 42 as one example of the nation’s broken immigration system. When people come to the border seeking asylum, they have already traveled far in “horrendous conditions” and are ready to tell an Immigration official about their need for asylum, Sister Attracta said. “The humane response was always that if people could say why they wanted asylum, they were allowed to come in, given a court date, and allowed to find an attorney to work with them.”
Sister Attracta noted that most people would not leave their homeland unless they felt compelled by a sense of desperation. “More often than not, people who leave home are doing so because they are in fear for their lives, in fear for the lives of their families and they’re trying to find a safe place to live,” she said.
Typically, asylum seekers come to the U.S. border with no resources, having sold their possessions to travel to the United States, Sister Attracta said. If they are deported, they return to their native country with nothing. “Many times they’re running from people who have threatened their lives and there’s no doubt that if they go back, for many of them it means that they will be killed,” she said.
“The problem is our immigration laws desperately need to be changed and nobody wants to take it on because politics has divided us totally,” Sister Attracta said. She spoke of her experience with clients who, as U.S. citizens, had tried to sponsor family members to come to the United States. Her clients and others like them are facing a years-long backlog. Currently, she said, immigration agents are working on cases from Argentina that were filed in 2003. Visas for family members from Mexico that were filed in 1999 are just now being processed, she added.
Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, spoke of the plight of people who sought asylum during the years of the President Trump administration. Asylum seekers from throughout Latin America were made to stay in Mexico until their court date.
“This creates a whole different danger,” Sister Kathleen said. “They are subjected to violence. They’re robbed. The women are raped. They have nothing. It’s totally, totally unjust and it creates greater danger for the asylum seeker.”
Sister Kathleen noted that the current immigration system is “criminalizing migration into this country.” Migrants are put into detention centers and jails. “Why are we criminalizing people when all they are looking for is to be safe, to have a safe and secure life?”
While the situations of migrants are tragic, Sister Kathleen also pointed to the larger tragedy. “The real crisis is that there are so many people who are having to leave their homes because of famine, because of the climate, because of wars and oppression,” she said. She pointed to the thousands of Haitians who are encamped at the border town of Del Rio, Texas – many of whom have been deported back to Haiti – and of the thousands of Afghan refugees who fled their country.
Sister Kathleen said the letter to President Biden is an important step, adding that the World Day for Migrants and Refugees would be an appropriate day for him to rescind Title 42.
February 11, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters was among members of a wide coalition of faith-based communities that signed on to a statement supporting the January 22, 2021, entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the “first international treaty to comprehensively ban nuclear weapons.”
In the statement, the faith leaders applaud the 86 signatory nation states – which does not include the United States – and note that the treaty “addresses the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and on indigenous peoples.” The statement further references the “existential threat to humanity” posed by nuclear weapons and the need to eliminate all nuclear weapons to ensure the safety of the planet.
The faith leaders encourage all nation states to sign the treaty and invite all people to join them in their efforts eliminate nuclear weapons. “At this historic moment, we must act decisively to strengthen the power of the TPNW upon its entry into force, and to work for peace, cooperation, and common security,” they write.
Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, said the TPNW and its support by faith leaders is an important step in helping to make the world safer. “The UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons might be our last chance to end the insanity of the possibility of nuclear war,” she said.
Even the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) – extended in 2019 by Russia President Vladimir Putin and supported by President Joe Biden – doesn’t go far enough, Sister Kathleen said. It would reduce each country’s arsenal to 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. “Why would we need even one nuclear warhead?” she asked.
The stated purpose of the arms build-up – deterrence, to prevent either side from using nuclear weapons – “defies all logic,” Sister Kathleen said. “[The existence of nuclear weapons] poses so many dangers. I wonder how many close calls have happened, where we were by mistake seconds away from an accidental nuclear catastrophe.”
While the issue of nuclear weapons has received little attention in recent years, Sister Kathleen said it is again recognized as a major issue. “People can easily forget that this is a constant threat,” she said. “We got away from worrying about nuclear weapons – until North Korea started testing. These past few years, Japan and South Korea were very threatened because of the saber-rattling and the rhetoric between North Korea and the United States.”
Highlighting the seriousness of the issue, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists earlier in January 2021 announced that it is keeping the hands of its famous Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight – less than two minutes to a possible global catastrophe.
“That’s the closest [to “midnight”] that it’s ever been,” Sister Kathleen said. “The scientists say unchecked climate change and nuclear weapons arsenals pose a continued threat.” This threat, she added, demonstrates the significance of the TPNW and the statement that the General Council signed.
Nuclear disarmament has been an issue for the Adrian Dominican Sisters for a long time, Sister Kathleen said. The Congregation’s Motherhouse Campus has been set apart as a nuclear-free zone for years.
In 2007, the Sisters approved a corporate stance on nuclear disarmament. “In corporate stances, you make a statement and then, more importantly, you work toward the implementation of the statement,” Sister Kathleen explained. “It becomes more than words on a page. It becomes something that you are aware of and act on.” Sisters and Associates have continued to take action for nuclear disarmament through the years, she said.
The Congregation’s stance and the recent statement by the coalition of faith- based groups reiterate a recent statement by Pope Francis during his visit to Hiroshima, that “the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral,” Sister Kathleen said. The Catholic Church has spoken out against nuclear war for years, at least from the time of the Second Vatican Council. Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) states that the nuclear arms race “is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree” (No. 81).
To learn about individual actions that may be taken against nuclear weapons, visit the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Action Alert page and scroll down about half of the page.