Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bishops take on Homeland Security practices

Photo by AP) Bishop Jerome Hanus, of Dubuque, Iowa, directs an immigration rally march, Sunday, July 27, 2008, in Postville, Iowa. Busloads of people from Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and other nearby cities came to protest a federal immigration raid of the local Agriprocessors plant. Nearly 400 people were arrested during the May raid of the plant.

Many voices have complained about the inhumane treatment of illegal residents by the forces of our government in recent years. News outlets have been regularly reporting how government agencies have been running roughshod over basic human rights as well as civil rights guaranteed to us by the U. S. Constitution. Here's a summary of a statement released today by the American Bishops. You can read the complete statement at the USCCB site.

WASHINGTON— Speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and President Bush to reexamine the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration enforcement tool.

“The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society,” Bishop Wester said. “While we do not question the right and duty of our government to enforce the law, we do question whether worksite enforcement raids are the most effective and humane method for performing this duty, particularly as they are presently being implemented.”

The statement, released September 10, addresses the increase in worksite enforcement raids across the nation over the last year, in which DHS has targeted employers who hire unauthorized workers by using force to enter worksites and arrest immigrant workers. During the process of these raids, U.S. citizen children have been separated from their parents, immigrants arrested have not been afforded the rights of due process, and local communities, especially relatives including legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens, have been left to cope with the aftermath.

“We have witnessed first-hand the suffering of immigrant families and are gravely concerned about the collateral human consequences of immigration enforcement raids on the family unit,” say the bishops in the statement. “Many families never recover; others never reunite.”

In the absence of comprehensive reform, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have sought to work collaboratively with DHS to ensure humanitarian considerations in executing workplace raids. The statement calls for refraining from enforcement activity in certain areas that provide humanitarian relief such as churches, hospitals, community health centers, schools, food banks, and other charitable services. It also calls for the release of caregivers who have dependents offering a variety of release mechanisms available under the law; access to legal representation; respect for basic human dignity; and, mechanisms for families to remain together and locate each other following an enforcement raid. It also states that non-profit and community groups should be engaged in this effort.

“Absent the effective implementation of these safeguards, we believe that these enforcement raids should be abandoned,” the statement reads, adding that “[i]mmigration enforcement raids demonstrate politically the ability of the government to enforce the law. They do little, however, to solve the broader challenge of illegal immigration. They also reveal, sadly, the failure of a seriously flawed immigration system, which, as we have consistently stated, requires comprehensive reform.”

The bishops urged the two presidential candidates “to engage the issue of immigration in a humane, thoughtful, and courageous manner” and to turn away from enforcement-only methods.

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