Monday, February 25, 2008

US bishops ask ICE to assist families, communities after immigration raids

Two United States Catholic bishops involved in immigration issues havewritten to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to express theirconcern about the protocols and the increased law enforcement activityof Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).The bishops asked the agency to adopt policies that would assist thefamilies and communities affected by immigration enforcement actions.They also asked that the agency refrain from conducting enforcementactions at or near churches, hospitals, schools, or charitableorganizations.Bishop of Salt Lake City John Wester, Chairman of the U.S. Conference ofCatholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, and Bishop Jaime Soto,coadjutor bishop of Sacramento and Chairman of the Catholic LegalImmigration Network, wrote the letter requesting policy changes toSecretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and his undersecretaryJulie Meyers."Although ICE has recently issued guidance regarding worksiteenforcement operations, we believe that the guidance falls short of whatis necessary," the bishops wrote. Bishops Wester and Soto urged the release of primary caregivers afterimmigration enforcement actions and the improvement of family members'ease in locating detained relatives. Detained individuals should havebetter access to legal counsel, and ICE should avoid transferringdetainees out of their community.Community outreach and education programs should be developed to followenforcement actions, the bishops said, and enforcement should besuspended during natural and man-made disasters.In an additional statement on February 7, Bishop Wester criticized therecent congressional economic stimulus package that prohibitedundocumented immigrants from receiving tax rebates."The decision to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving taxrebates in the stimulus bill highlights the injustice in our immigrationsystem. It proves that these workers pay into the tax system and helpsupport our economy. It also reveals the hypocrisy of our laws. With onehand our government attempts to deport these workers, but with the otherit holds tight the taxes they pay into the system. This perpetuates anunderclass of workers without full rights," Bishop Wester said."We should not accept the fruits of the labor of these workers at thesame time we refuse to provide them the protection of our laws. As ademocratic and free nation protective of human rights, we cannot have itboth ways. Congress must mend a broken system and show the courage toenact comprehensive immigration reform," he continued

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