Our country’s determination to protect our southern border comes with tangible costs. We lose the talents, skills and dedicated labor of hundreds of thousands of productive immigrants. We lose their participation in our parishes — 40 percent of all growth in registered parishioners in Catholic parishes between 2005 and 2010 was from Hispanic or Latino/a Catholics, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. We lose their attendance in our schools and engagement in our neighborhoods. We lose their diversity, one of the most positive traits of these United States.
What do we gain by our federal government’s systematic removal of immigrants — whether they are Temporary Protection Status (TPS) holders or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients or undocumented individuals without authorization to be in this country? What will happen to their U.S. born children? Who will handle the mushrooming backlog of deportation cases when our judicial system already has a shortage of judges? Are we moving toward the inhumane internment camp system in which our country confined Japanese Americans during World War II?
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that she spoke with the president of El Salvador, among other people, before making the decision to end TPS for El Salvador. The press release does not include the El Salvador president’s response. He asked her to extend TPS. Her predecessors similarly ended TPS for Nicaragua and Haiti, again stating that each country is now prepared to handle the influx of expatriates. Do the leaders of those countries agree?
An estimated 200,000 Salvadorans are living in the U.S., some of whom have been here since the 1990s as TPS holders because of extreme violence and poverty that continues in their country. One such family, now seeking help through the Diocese of Davenport’s Immigration Program, has police documentation of the threat against their lives by gangs.
A Haitian TPS holder, a woman who once in the U.S. studied to become a nurse, now supports family members in Haiti with the money she earns. National Public Radio shared her story before the Department of Homeland Security ended TPS for Haiti. This nurse, like many other TPS holders, is thriving in the U.S. She contributes to the well-being of both countries.
On Jan. 10, members of Congress, President Trump and administration officials met to discuss the future of DACA, border security and immigration enforcement. The diverse group agreed to four key items, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa: a solution to the DACA situation, increased border security, ending chain migration and eliminating the outdated Diversity Visa Lottery. “We feel it’s important to recognize that border security is more than just infrastructure. Enforcement authorities must be improved so that federal law officers can protect law abiding American citizens and immigrants. Ultimately, these things must be addressed simultaneously in order to solve the underlying problem from reoccurring in the future,” according to a news release on Sen. Grassley’s website.
Unfortunately, the furor over our president’s reported belittling of several countries with majority dark-skinned populations needlessly scuttled a potential compromise regarding TPS and DACA recipients who are living and flourishing in the United States. Let’s overcome the wounded egos and proceed with the talks to allow law-abiding immigrants to remain in this country. Contact the offices of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley at www.grassley.senate.gov (call 202-224-3744 or fax: 202-224-6020); U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst at www.ernst.senate.gov (call 202-224-3254 or fax: 202-224-9369); or U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack at loebsack.house.gov (call 202-225-6576 or fax 202-226-0757).
Good sources to learn more about TPS and DACA include the Diocese of Davenport’s Immigration Program at www.davenportdiocese.org/after-daca-qa and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. at www.cliniclegal.org/tps. Look for action alerts from the Iowa Catholic Conference at www.iowacatholicconference.org. For a bigger picture on the immigration issue, visit Share the Journey Campaign website at www.sharejourney.org.
Yes, we can agree to protect our borders, but we cannot allow borders, tangible or intangible, to cause us to lose sight of basic human needs. As Pope Francis said during Mass on World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Jan. 14): “In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor