Re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter is an Advent tradition that plays out in some parishes in our diocese and around the nation. The story should cause us to reconsider our individual and collective “no” to the immigrants and refugees today asking for room at the inn: our communities, state and nation.
But hospitality and mercy are in short supply this Advent season. The U.S. is pulling out of a U.N. global compact on migration because it could “undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a Dec. 2 statement. No room at the inn here — except in confinement facilities. A detention quota is part of our federal spending bill because Congress mandates that the U.S. pay for 34,000 spaces in immigrant detention. These for-profit detention centers will be addressed in a future editorial.
No room at the inn is being played out in equally exclusionary ways, following the Trump Administration’s decisions to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on March 5, 2018, and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haitians, to take effect 18 months from now. Many immigrants and refugees have become productive members of society who enrich our state and our nation with their talents, skills and hard-earned dollars.
Approximately 800,000 DACA recipients live in the U.S. (more than 2,000 in Iowa) and about 50,000 Haitians live in the U.S. with the TPS designation. Why are we punishing these persons for wanting nothing more than what the Holy Family sought: a place to call home and a livelihood to sustain them?
This Advent, let’s focus on making room at the inn through daily reflections, prayers and actions. Start with a visit to www.sharejourney.org, which offers ideas to implement the “Share the Journey” campaign in homes, parishes and dioceses worldwide. Pope Francis initiated this campaign that calls the universal church to reach out to our immigrant and refugee neighbors. The campaign’s Advent resources aim to deepen awareness of the experience of our immigrant and refugee neighbors and the correlation with the Holy Family’s journey. Locally, some parishes in our diocese are offering Las Posadas, an activity honoring Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter (see our front-page Advent article).
Last week, Quad Cities Interfaith representatives and others gathered with a DACA recipient and the wife and 2-year-old child of another DACA recipient in the Davenport office of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). During a video conference with the senator, they asked for her “prayerful reconsideration” of the DACA program and to support the Dream Act 2017. The wife of the DACA recipient said that if her husband is deported, he would not be allowed to apply for re-entry in the U.S. until their young child is an adult!
Admirably, Sen. Ernst gets the message. She said during last week’s video conference that she supports accommodating DACA recipients (also called Dreamers) so that they can remain in the U.S. legally, according to Kent Ferris, the Davenport Diocese’s Social Action Director, who participated in the conference. She does not support giving them citizenship, however. Contact her at www.ernst.senate.gov to share your thoughts.
Our church upholds the sanctity of the family. We ought to advocate on behalf of families regardless of their immigration status. A church that espouses mercy is obligated to extend it. Bishop Joe Vasquez, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, asked his fellow bishops to participate in actions to advocate on behalf of Dreamers. On Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for the protection of immigrants who are making long and dangerous journeys. Share information from the Justice for Immigrants website (www.justiceforimmigrants.org) and voice support for bipartisan legislation that would provide lawful, permanent resident status for qualified persons.
Second, participate in an online, “virtual march” Dec. 6-7 to keep immigration in the national conversation as Congress looks to address the budget and appropriations.
Participate in an action alert through a DACA advocacy page (action.thenextamerica.org).
As we reflect on the journey that Mary and Joseph were forced to make more than 2,000 years ago, let us pray for today’s immigrants and refugees and ask our Congress members to support the Dream Act and TPS. We must make room at the inn: our communities, state and nation … and in our hearts.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor