Noting recent enforcement actions conducted by the Department of Homeland Security which resulted in the deportation of 121 individuals, "primarily mothers with children," in a prepared statement today, the bishops who chair the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network called for the deporations to be halted. The bishops suggest that sending migrant children and families back to their home countries "would put many of them in grave danger because they would face threats of violence and for some, even death." The bishops urged the administration "to end this practice and not engage in such future enforcement actions targeting immigrant women and children, as they terrify communities and are inconsistent with American values."
In a letter sent to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, January 11, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, chairman of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., urged the administration to cease deportations which began in early January and have targeted individuals in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.
The bishops wrote, "Our organizations have first-hand knowledge that these actions have generated fear among immigrants and have made their communities more distrustful of law enforcement and vulnerable to misinformation, exploitation and fraud. We find such targeting of immigrant women and children—most of whom fled violence and persecution in their home countries—to be inhumane and a grave misuse of limited enforcement resources.”
They complained that the DHS’s actions "contrasts sharply with the statements articulated by President Obama himself in November 2014, namely, that his administration would pursue the deportation of ‘felons, not families; criminals, not children; gang members, not a Mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.’"
Acknowledging that the federal government has a "vital role...in ensuring orderly and coherent migration processes, the bishops said they did not accept the underlying rationale behind the deportations—"that sending children and families back to the dangerous environment they fled will serve as a deterrent for other children and families who are considering fleeing Central America." The said, "We know from our experience with serving thousands of Central American children and families in the United States that most left their families and their homelands because they felt they had no other choice.
Bishop Elizondo and Bishop Vann also addressed serious due process concerns. “Some of these cases, and likely many others, illustrate the serious due process issues facing these mothers and children.
"We object to the removal of any migrants who were apprehended without first confirming that they received actual meaningful opportunities to present their asylum claims at hearings in immigration court,” the bishops wrote.
Bishop Elizondo and Bishop Vann also urged the administration and Congress to adopt long-term solutions such as supporting humanitarian efforts in Central America and addressing the root causes of forced migration.